Editor’s Note: This is the ninth in a series of interviews with candidates who are announcing they will run for election to the Marco Island City Council in 2008.
City Councilor Bill Trotter announced Wednesday his intent to run for re-election to Marco Island’s City Council, making him the only incumbent seeking one of four spots on the council.
That makes him the ninth candidate to enter the race, joining Joe Batte, Roger Hall, Butch Neylon, Ken Allen, Frank Recker, Wayne Waldack, Andrew Guidry and Jerry Gibson.
The nine will compete for two spots vacated by Chair Mike Minozzi and Councilor Glenn Tucker when their terms expire, as well as seats held by Trotter and Councilor Terri DiSciullo. DiSciullo announced at Monday night’s council meeting that she will not seek re-election in January.
Trotter, 64, has served on the council for nearly four years. When he was elected, he was one of eight candidates competing for four seats, all of which were held by incumbent candidates.
Trotter was the only newcomer elected to the council, joining re-elected councilors Terri DiSciullo, Mike Minozzi and Glenn Tucker.
Trotter and his wife, Beverly, have lived on the island six-and-a-half years. They hailed from New Jersey, where their two grown daughters and two grandchildren still live. He is active with the Marco Island Civic Association.
With a resume that includes management and consulting work for large companies such as AT&T, Trotter comes from a business background he says makes him well-suited to deal with the new financial challenges posed to the city by property tax rollbacks.
He says he joined the council four years ago to help guide the young city through some of the complexities of building up the island, particularly after the purchase of the water treatment utility.
“I wanted to help preserve the island and help it progress forward, particularly in terms of infrastructure,” he said. “My business background, particularly in high-level planning, made me want to bring a business perspective to the government. I thought I could bring a lot of experience to the city.”
That desire has not lessened over the last for years. Far from it, he says — he is running again to finish the job he started.
“It takes time to institute change when you’re only one of seven councilors,” he said. “You have to work over time to influence the council to make them aware of certain improvements that could be made, and that’s what I hope to continue in the second term.”
Trotter spent a while on the fence about whether to run again. His announcement came just two days after DiSciullo said she would not seek re-election.
“The reason I ran the first time largely was because it’s such a wonderful place, I wanted to contribute to making it better,” said Trotter. “This time I wanted to sit back and see what the range of candidates would be. I didn’t think there were enough candidates for the four seats who really had a positive change approach and a positive progress approach.”
With Trotter’s announcement, the field is now split between five candidates who have expressed a desire to halt the city’s Septic Tank Replacement Program and four candidates who have said it should continue forward. Trotter falls into the latter category. During his tenure, he has consistently voted in support of the program.
That issue is contentious, without question, he agrees. However, he says, many people in the community are too focused on that one issue, contributing to tunnel vision that edges out the many other important things facing the community.
“My concern is that people get focused on this one issue,” he added. “We’re not making it as palatable to the population as we can. But, the worst thing we can do is overlook the progress we’ve made in our short time as a city.”
He points to Collier Boulevard, the city’s soon-to-be-finished refurbished thoroughfare. He also mentions the city’s consistently reduced property taxes. But, he says, there is more to be done.
“We still don’t have a master park plan for the island, and I’ve been asking for that for years,” he said.
He expands upon his example, stating that the city needs to form a clear picture for its undeveloped park lands, particularly the Glon property, the site designated as Veterans’ Memorial Park.
Part of Trotter’s platform in 2004 involved advocating for more specific goals within city departments. While he says City Hall has come a long way since then, parks are just one area that could use some more diligent planning for the future.
This also leads him back to the issue of planning the city’s finances. He says he worries that during this year’s budget workshop, too many unnecessary expenditures took the place of more urgent projects, such as bridge repair.
“Part of the problem is I think we have to spend more time on prioritizing programs from the ‘need to have’ to the ‘nice to have,’” he said. “We need to make the hard decisions in a more informed way. This is going to be much more critical going forward.”
Becoming more informed, he says, has a lot to do with citizen input. He says that drawing out the city’s budgeting process could go a long way toward gaining better input from residents, thus helping the city develop a clearer picture of what programs have widespread support and deserve funding.
He suggests hosting more workshops throughout the year so the city can dialogue with residents and build a more complete picture of what the public wants.
“We have to have a process where we can get more review — get citizen input,” he said. “One of the difficulties in the last couple of years that I think we need to address in the next couple of years is we need to create a more constructive atmosphere.”
He mentions lack of respect between residents at council meetings as a major roadblock to gaining the citizen input he believes is integral to the planning process.
“I think it’s just important for us to not only address the issues, but for the new council to address the community and get a broader base of the community involved,” he commented. “The rudeness of many people that attend the council meetings makes it so that many people just don’t feel comfortable in that adversarial of an environment.”
With better citizen input, Trotter says, residents will also be able to develop a better understanding of how their government works. And, according to him, once residents become more active, the whole process can be more efficient, with councilors operating under a better understanding of what the people want.
“If there’s good news here in the budgetary tax reform, it’s that we’ll do more rigorous planning,” he said. “We’ll have to focus on better budgeting, better dialogue with our citizens.”
Another concern of Trotter’s is density reduction. City Council scaled back density reduction plans several months ago, but Trotter says the city should continue forward with the effort to cut down on the number of residential units allowed when a developer is granted a variance for mixed-use construction.
He called council’s move to instead designate city lands and parks as zero density areas “voodoo density reduction,” and stated that the city could and should do more.
“A lot of my concern about the mixed-use area is it’s not an entitled or permitted use,” Trotter said. “It’s intended to be commercial, and through a variance you can get some residential use out of it. To me a ‘conditional use’ or ‘non-committed use’ is the only area where we can affect controlling growth. My frustration is we haven’t been addressing it, and that was the only real density issue we could address.”
Market studies, designed around determining the necessity of new commercial space, would be beneficial to deciding where the city should grant conditional permits for mixed-use space. It would not only cut down on vacant commercial units, but also help the city make more informed decision son when to grant the permits.
Just another facet, he says, of moving the city in a positive direction. And after all, that’s why he says he felt compelled to run again.
“I think it’s important for us to focus on all of the important issues the city has to address,” he said. “Including the financial challenges we are going to have in the future and to create an environment that looks positively at the need for progress and building on our accomplishments as a city, and to have the council and the citizens pull together to make that a reality in going forward.”