Guidry seventh to announce Marco City Council candidacy

Editors’ note: This is the seventh in a series of interviews with candidates who are announcing they will run for election to the Marco Island City Council in 2008.

Dr. Andrew Guidry, a 10-year Marco resident and internal medicine specialist, has announced his candidacy for City Council.

He becomes the seventh to join the race, now comprised of eight candidates: Joe Batte, Roger Hall, Butch Neylon, Ken Allen, Frank Recker, Wayne Waldack and most recently, Jerry Gibson.

The eight are vying for four available council seats. Two will be vacated by Council Chair Mike Minozzi and Councilor Glenn Tucker, who cannot run because of term limits. Councilors Terri DiSciullo and Bill Trotter are both eligible for reelection, but have not yet announced a decision to run.

Guidry’s announcement coincides with his release of the results of a two-month-long study examining island residents who say their health has been adversely affected by hydrogen sulfide.

“I feel like something has to change,” he said. “We have to fix this. From a personal nature I’m seeing so many of my own patients being affected by this.”

Dr. Andrew Guidry, the seventh resident to announce his candidacy for Marco City Council, points to mapped locations of residents who have reported illnesses they believe are caused by hydrogen sulfide.

Photo by LESLIE WILLIAMS HALE, Eagle staff

Dr. Andrew Guidry, the seventh resident to announce his candidacy for Marco City Council, points to mapped locations of residents who have reported illnesses they believe are caused by hydrogen sulfide.

He says he is encouraged by the city’s recent steps to treat the gas, which is released during dewatering activities associated with construction, and used heavily in areas undergoing sewer installation.

However, he added, the hydrogen sulfide problem points to a deeper concern he is hearing from residents.

“It is my job to sit down and listen to people,” he said. “And these are the Marco Island citizens, and I know what’s bothering them. They are suffering from feelings of mistrust of the city. They look at the city not as an ally, but a foe.”

Guidry, 44, has lived on the island for 10 years, running a private practice and starting a young family. His wife, Catherine, gave birth to their first child — a girl named Aubrey — just three weeks ago.

Guidry grew up in small- town Opelousas, LA., and joined the Navy straight out of high school. He earned a college degree while on active duty, then attended Oklahoma State University for medical school.

After completing his residency for internal medicine in Tampa, he moved to Marco Island to start his practice.

However, he has had to balance his start as a doctor on Marco with tours of duty with the Florida Army National Guard. His last tour, in Ramadi, Iraq, ended just two years ago.

He served as a brigade surgeon, and says that six out of seven days of the week, he was on the road — the most perilous place to be.

“It was a very difficult duty,” he reminisced. “There was a lot of blood, a lot of death. Sometimes when you face the possibility of dying it gets your attention.”

Now that he is retired from the reserves, he says, he has the time to become a public servant.

“Obviously, it took up a lot of free time,” he explained of the Reserves. “I finally have the time where I feel like I can do a good job and give back to Marco Island. This island has been very, very good to me, personally and professionally.”

Before Guidry made the decision to run, he put out an open call for residents with health problems to come to his office and be examined free of charge. He was interested in investigating a possible link between complaints of respiratory problems and the island-wide sewer construction.

He examined 876 people, in some cases multiple people from the same home. He says 90 percent of those residents with respiratory and other illnesses live in areas experiencing dewatering in the last 12 months, particularly the West Winterberry and North Barfield sewer districts.

He placed a map in his office, pinpointing each home with an ill resident by placing a red sticker at the resident’s address. The result is a map of the island dotted with clusters of red in the areas currently or recently receiving sewers.

“When I first put out the request for data, I had a pretty good barrage, then that tapered down, then some bloggers put out the word,” he said.

He got another upsurge after that.

Most commonly, he found residents with watering eyes, sinus congestion and sore throats.

“Some that bother me the most are nose bleeds and coughing up blood,” he said. “Some people were hospitalized recently with pulmonary problems. I can’t say that’s because of hydrogen sulfide, but it certainly could be.”

Once he hit a point where he felt that he had examined about five percent of the island’s population, he says, that is when he decided to go public with the information. Census information for 2006 lists the city’s population at 16,000.

That’s also the point where he chose to announce his candidacy.

“I chose to announce when I had two months worth of data of the septic tank replacement program study, and I realized the large number of people that are being harmed,” he explained. “I considered bringing it to City Council, but didn’t think that would make much difference. They are taking steps to reduce the levels of hydrogen sulfide, but what if there’s another problem that comes up? What are you going to do, sit back and wait for City Council to solve it? No, you’ve got to take action.”

Guidry says a fellow candidate has called his study a “stunt” to get elected. He countered by stating that only someone “who cares nothing for the sick people of Marco Island would make such an audacious statement.”

Aware that much of the dewatering is necessitated by the Septic Tank Replacement Program, Guidry says the sewering of the island is a major source of distrust among the residents. He points to that issue as the single issue that will decide the election.

“The city has done so little to get the people behind them,” he said. “The first thing the city should have done is get a referendum. If they failed anywhere on city planning, it was on not getting a referendum on (the STRP). If I were asked today what I would do with the sewer, I would immediately snap my fingers and freeze everything and say, ‘Let the people decide.’”

That tenet — of handing decision-making power to the people — is the crux of his campaign. This doctor, who says it is his job to listen to people, says he believes the peoples’ trust can be regained by city leaders going back to a grassroots level of consulting residents before acting.

He is “uniquely qualified” for City Council because of his constant contact with residents, he says.

“City leaders have done things without the consent of the people,” he said. “Stop and ask the people, ‘Do you want this?’” Listen to the people. Be a City Council that not just nods their heads and says ‘yes’ — nod your head, say ‘yes’ and do it.”

Much of this failure, he says, is the shared burden of the City Council and outgoing City Manager Bill Moss.

“The biggest problem that this current City Council has is that they are being guided by the city manager,” he stated. “It should be just the opposite. The City Council should guide the city manager. If (Moss) failed at anything, he failed in the goal of getting the citizens of Marco Island behind his projects. And the City Council failed in not recognizing this and taking action.”

For example, he says, he hears many patients in his office complaining about water utility rates, and pinpoints additions and upgrades to the water treatment plants as an issue that should be reconsidered. He pointed to the need to consult residents affected by these decisions before undertaking a change that causes a rate increase.

He also expresses an interest in continuing to foster programs and initiatives that cater to families and children. Incorporation allowed the city to cultivate a strong sense of community, he says, and he was particularly enchanted by the city’s parks when he first moved to the island.

“The city is very involved in creating green space for family,” he said. “The teen center is a great idea for the younger people of Marco so they can have a safe place to hang. Those are the places where the city can come together.”

But first, he says, trust in city government needs to be restored. And he believes he is the man to help do that.

“If I have any agenda for Marco and for the citizens, it revolves around restoring trust in the City Council and in city government,” he said. “Even the folks that are on sewer, they see what is happening and say they fear what the city will do next to them. I want citizens to be able to look and say, ‘That’s my city. They’re looking out for me.’”

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Comments » 10

Rachael writes:

I know that Guidry is a doctor on the Island, but has he had city management experience? Or for that matter, have any of these potential candidates previously held this type of position? We need someone with experience and a fresh prospective.

Hawke1 writes:

Dr. Guidry, you sound like a sincere caring individual. What you say is true and it mirrors my experiences with our City government. I appreciate your willingness to tell us exactly what you believe is wrong and how you intend to correct it. The thoughts you reflect here must be bringing chills to those who want to continue the devisiveness. Thank you for running. Don't worry about people questioning your qualifications. The folks we have in office right now haven't got any either. At least you have real experience in public health and many in this community see that as a problem right now. Good luck to you.

waterday writes:

Dr. Guidry- Thank you for taking time from your busy life to run for council and make your private life,public. We do need individuals who will listen to the Residents and will address the problems and concerns of the Residents that put them into office. I wish you the best and you have my vote. It takes a special person to invest his time and look at patients (free of charge) with the ills reported from STRP. I was not one of your patients nor do I personally know you, but I have read about your good doing. We need people like you on council Best of Luck to you. If and when you get elected, please remember why you were voted in and always listen to the majority of the residents and the issues on this island and vote accordingly in your seat. Thank you.

YOURMAMMA writes:

Dr. Guidry is not a professional politician!
Therefore he will lead with objectivity,
not political aspirations!

SmokeyJoe writes:

Dr. Guidry, You have my vote and that of my many friends. Best of luck !

Oracle writes:

Dr. Guidry, Thank you for running. The control of this city needs to be restored to the citizens. We need to have people like you and the other 4 procitizen candidates that will restore our trust in our leadership. We are tired of the "establishment" running the city like it was THEIR island and they know more about what is better for us than we do.

I think it is outrageous that our council and the three announced candidates that support them dismiss major health hazzards as stunts by the opposition. They clearly don't care about our fiscal, physical, and mental health. We need you, Batte, Hall, and Neylon to bring back responsive, representative, caring government to Marco Island.

captnjimbo writes:

The Hydrogen Sulfide problem comes from the fact that we live on a filled swamp and we are digging it up...it will go away.

I don't know where he stands all all the issues we face, and that will come out, but he is my physician and he is straight forward, objective and effective and worthy of trust.

I just hate to see him screw up a good medical practice because of only 24 hours in a day.

JohninMarco writes:

Before we say he has our vote, lets hear all the candidates speak on our growing finanical problem. If we can not afford the fire dept. with our current budget we have a big problem.

MarcoMaven writes:

Dr. Guidry would make a terrific city councilor. He has had his finger up my butt on several occasions and might want to do the same to most of our city councilors because it beats what's up there now, their heads.

Oracle writes:

A man of intellect, character, accomplishment and a repect for our citizens. He's got my vote along with Batte, Hall, and Neylon.

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