BY JACK SHORT - Tonya Doherty will probably find the transition to her new job easier than the last, since she’s basically moving up the road.
She was the general manager’s assistant and website administrator at the Boca Grande Club for seven years before becoming the executive director of the Boca Grande Art Alliance in May. Tonya learned about the job through Kathy Parks, president of the BGAA board, who was a member of the Boca Grande Club, where she and Tonya had collaborated on benefits such as the Club’s annual party to benefit the Suncoast Humane Society.
It may have been her extensive involvement in those fundraisers that helped her get her current position.
She moved here from New Orleans with her husband, Sean, who is the sports marketing manager for the Charlotte County Visitor’s bureau.
They both met working for the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation. Tonya worked for the vice president of marketing and sponsorship fulfillment, producing marketing materials.
Though it was a small, nonprofit organization they hosted a lot of high profile events – Super Bowls, the men’s and women’s final four, for example.
“Because it was small and not for profit, you had many jobs and limited resources,” she said.
Though they worked in different departments, Tonya and Sean became friends and grew closer as they attended food festivals and concerts, as well as the events their organization hosted.
Neither of them had been to Boca Grande before.
Tonya’s family is Creole and Cajun, and she keeps that part of her heritage alive and well here, in spite of the rarity of crawfish.
“I remember being with my grandfather, we used to stop by the side of the road with laundry baskets and catch 20 or 30 pounds of crawfish. If I want them here I have to have them shipped in,” she said. She admitted the food here is nothing like New Orleans food, with its mix of French flair, Cuban spiciness and even a little Spanish flavor.
Her family in New Orleans goes back several generations. Her mother’s side came from the country and surrounding bayou towns, and her father’s family lived in the city.
“It’s a nice, close knit community even though it’s a large city,” she said. “There are generations of family names that people know and you feel comfortable with.”
She said that part of Boca Grande and its older families feels a little similar, but that’s just about where the similarities end.
“New Orleans was big,” she said. “Everything’s so fast paced there, and coming here it feels still like I’m on vacation, even when I’m coming to the island for work. People are more patient, not always in a rush.”
Still, things are never too calm.
“I’m a mother of four,” she said. “I have two teenagers and two children at the island school, so it’s never dull. There’s always something fun going on at my house.”
Collin, 18, works in Venice for a construction company while Brooke, 16, is a student at Lemon Bay High School. Savannah and Angelina, 7 and 5, are students at The Island School.
“I’ve been so blessed,” she said. “The Boca Grande Child Care Center and The Island School, they do so much for parents that work here on the island.”
Working for the organization that hosted events such as Super Bowl 36 and a Tiger Woods Nike golf tournament may have done a lot to prepare her for her work on the island.
The facility where she worked in New Orleans was attached to the old Superdome before hurricane Katrina forced them to find new quarters up town.
Though she was lucky enough not to be present for the effects of Katrina, she did not escape completely.
“I lost friends, family, in the storm,” she said.
Her grandmother, Joyce Fonseca, passed away after suffering a stroke in a hospital that did not evacuate early enough. She had to be airlifted from the roof of a three-story hospital after the water had reached the top floor.
Most of her family escaped in time, but returned home to find themselves homeless.
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