On Tuesday, he filed with the City of Marco Island to run in January’s City Council elections, becoming the sixth candidate to announce.
He joins candidates Joe Batte, Roger Hall, Butch Neylon, Ken Allen, Frank Recker, and most recently, Andrew Guidry, who announced his decision to run Wednesday.
That brings the tally to seven candidates, all vying for four council seats. Two will become vacant after the terms of Chair Mike Minozzi and Councilor Glenn Tucker expire, with another two, held by councilors Terri DiSciullo and Bill Trotter up for re-election. DiSciullo and Trotter have both said they are still mulling over the decision to run.
Waldack, 68, has one grown daughter, Theresa, and six grandchildren. His first wife, Phyllis, passed away in 1981, as did his son, Robert, in 2005. He is currently unmarried.
Waldack’s first forays onto Marco were during the 1960s, when his parents bought a lot and built a house here, moving in permanently in 1972. He moved to the island full-time in 1995 to care for his elderly mother.
On the island, Waldack is heavily involved in the Knights of Columbus and San Marco Catholic Church as an usher and Eucharistic minister.
He majored in Aeronautical Engineering at Lewis College in Lockport, Ill., but chose to go into building maintenance when companies in need of aeronautical engineers began laying off employees in 1959. A decade later, he went into real estate in Illinois, working in customer relations and eventually opening his own firm in Hinsdale, Ill.
Waldack said the decision to run for Marco Island City Council was not an easy one, but that he looked at the remarks made by “anti-city candidates” and was compelled to run in defense of “what has been accomplished in the short ten years of city-hood.”
“We elected (City Council) to do a job,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of people who’ve been very unprofessional in the way they’ve attacked them. Some of it is really unjust. I don’t like that kind of action. I’m not going to be the knight in shining armor — but I’m going to try to do anything I can to bring people together.”
He says the single biggest issue on the island —and the issue he is focusing on— is the question of whether the Septic Tank Replacement Program should or will continue. While he says he wishes that issue was not the most obtrusive in the upcoming election, he feels that it is the one thing that has driven a wedge between the island’s citizens.
“As much as I would like to not make that an issue, we have to look at where we’re at today,” Waldack said. “We should build on it, not tear it down and start over.”
He points to the cost of the sewers, blaming it as the source of the conflict.
“If we were to take money out of the equation, and let’s say sewers were free, I don’t think the sewers would really be an issue,” he added. “In reality, it’s been the money, and we should have spent more time on solving money issues.”
He said he believes the city is too far gone on the new sewer system to cancel the remaining years of construction, especially at the expense of canceled contracts totaling a reported $30 million.
Waldack blames the division on sewers for leading to a City Council that seems aloof. He says the current structure of dialogue forces council members to go on the defensive every time a speaker attacks them “in ways that are not professional.”
“When we get people coming up and attacking City Council, the first thing they do is go like this,” he said crossing his arms and reclining in his chair. “They don’t discuss things in front of the public, and I think the public objects to that. And we have to break down that barrier.”
On outgoing City Manager Bill Moss, Waldack said he feels that Moss was pushed out by promises from the four “anti- city candidates” to get rid of Moss if elected.
“Every (City Council) has given him high praise for his professionalism,” he said. “For four people to get up there and say, ‘We’re going to fire him,’ prior to another election, I think it was really a disservice to the community at large and the next City Council, whether I’m on it or not.”
Waldack said that while Moss has not done his job perfectly, neither has the City Council, and there is something to be said for Moss earning consistently positive reviews from a slate of seven bosses.
“But,” he continued, “it’s not about Bill Moss anymore. It’s about where we’re going and what we’re going to do.”
Among other issues on Waldack’s platform, he says he is particularly concerned about density — either the reduction of it or efforts to hold it steady and refuse to rezone parcels for additional units.
“My recommendation is that all of the properties that are zoned, their zoning should not change unless it’s going to be for a lesser use,” he said.
He also says he would like to restrict complexes from placing parking areas across the street from the actual buildings. He says it would not only limit the density of those buildings, but also prevent a “hazard” with patrons crossing the street from parking areas.
Waldack says he would also like to see a teen center finally established, calling it “overdue,” and says the city should work closer with the YMCA to see that together, the two entities can continue to provide quality services without overlapping one another.
Additionally, he advocates responsible spending within the city’s 3 percent spending cap, but concedes that the city will likely run into funding problems if the state continues on its current track of property tax cuts.
“We should live within the cap, but it may become an issue down the road if we have further depreciation of property values or tax cuts by the governor,” he said. “I don’t think the cap should be a hindrance, but I think it should be really observed.”
The same principle should apply to the questions of how to fund bridge repairs and a possible special fire assessment, he added.
“I think it has to be kept in the budget, but being able to raise the extra moneys, and still keep it in the spending cap,” he said of the fire assessment issue. “Now that’s a tricky situation.”
He says he does think property values will experience an upswing soon, though it will take the completion of major projects like North Collier Boulevard and the sewer installation to reverse the downhill trend.
He said the construction has been a necessary pain that will improve the quality of life and property values for people island-wide.
“I would rather see all of these projects done today so we can get it over with,” he said.
“Remodeling a house is a major inconvenience. Doing it on an island, it’s a bigger inconvenience. But we’ve had thirty years of neglect by the county to deal with.”
With a background in real estate, Waldack says he is certain that property values across the island will be improved by eliminating septic tanks.
He says he knows the issues on the island are contentious, but that the island can only be returned to the paradise everyone knows it to be after the factions here can come to a consensus.
“It’s about getting the two sides together,” he said.
Not an easy task, he admits.
“I think what we have to do is let down our guard,” he added.
“We’re gonna have to develop a dialogue of some sort, whether it’s through an open forum, or over coffee.”
“We have to develop one set of ideas that’s good for the community. We both have to give. I don’t want to say 50-50, because I don’t want to give my position away,” he said with a laugh.
“But you have to be negotiable.”