Satisfaction, disappointment — and ultimately — hope abound in days after Marco election

Reactions from voters diverse, but always intense

Tommy Francese gives his thoughts on the City Council election.

Photo by ROGER LALONDE // Buy this photo

Tommy Francese gives his thoughts on the City Council election.

Tommy Francese gives his thoughts on the City Council election.

Photo by ROGER LALONDE // Buy this photo

Tommy Francese gives his thoughts on the City Council election.

Pat Reese gives his take on the Marco City Council election.

Photo by ROGER LALONDE // Buy this photo

Pat Reese gives his take on the Marco City Council election.


The flow of Marco voters to polls was a slow trickle Tuesday afternoon after heavy early voting.

The flow of Marco voters to polls was a slow trickle Tuesday afternoon after heavy early voting. Watch »

Tuesday’s election was a historic one, with 72 percent of Marco’s 12,327 voters turning out to cast ballots in what was possibly the most bitterly divided race in the city’s short history.

Statistics just topped the 1997 incorporation vote, which drew 71 percent of registered voters to polls in the sixth vote on cityhood.

The island is calming back down after the excitement of Tuesday, but residents are still eager to share their impressions of the race and their feelings moving forward. Elation and anger are both on display as the voters face the prospect of five more years of sewer installation.

However, many residents are just relieved that turnout was high and the people had a chance to make their feelings known.

“I think it was good for the city,” said Pat Reese, a full-time resident. “The guys that ran against the winners had their opinion and got their chance to see what voters thought.”

Russ Colombo, president of political action committee Preserve Our Paradise, said he feels that the ultimate opinion that prevailed was misinformed, however.

“My sense is that a misinformed majority happened to prevail in this particular instance,” Colombo said. “I have to underscore the fact that I’m so disappointed that so many people that voted are not aware of where this election’s results will take Marco Island.”

He said he fears the island will lose its residential nature in the future as a result of the election.

But, he added, “I’m always hopeful that things will change. My biggest hope in the world, right this instant, is that the new City Council will prove my fears unfounded.”

Colombo was the driving force behind an unsuccessful attempt in 2007 to place a referendum on the ballot approving or rejecting the performance of the city manager. Had the petition passed, the vote would have decided whether the city manager would retain his or her job.

The City of Marco Island is in the middle of a search to replace former City Manager Bill Moss, who left to take up the same position in Naples at the start of the year. Recruiting for the position begins this month.

Long-time islander Keith Pershing said he believes some of the recent turmoil in the island’s political climate comes from the council not communicating fully with constituents.

“I think [the new council] needs to invite more participation,” he said. “There are ways available to communicate these days that are like no other time in history, and yet we don’t do it.”

Pershing said one smart move by the council would be to de-mystify council agendas by translating them into plain English and then collaborating with the Eagle to publish them each week.

“It would just be a synopsis of the city activities,” he said.

As Pershing sees it, Councilor Ted Forcht is the one councilor who already bridges the communication gap.

“He does an awesome job... he e-mails people with the agenda and his sub-notes, outlines what’s coming up and asks people what they think,” Pershing said.

George Schmidt, a Hideaway resident, said he is satisfied with the results, but hates to see the level of contention that dominated the months-long race for the four open council seats.

“It’s a sore point that they should be fighting so much,” he said. “I’m not happy with seeing all of the fighting that goes on, but I’m hoping these people will be able to make that stop.”

Marco Island Taxpayers Association President Fay Biles called the island “sadly divisive,” and said the new council will have to pull together to bring an end to the divisions.

Many people are hurting from the results of the election, she said, particularly with the knowledge that sewer installation will continue. She said she fears long-time residents will move off the island, particularly now that the property tax amendment allows homesteaded residents to take their tax savings with them.

“I feel bad for them because they’re having a tremendous expense putting in sewers,” she said. “I’m most worried about the widows who just don’t have the money to do it.”

Rancor runs so deep over the results, she said, that some residents are planning on cancelling their subscriptions to the Eagle, because of perceptions that the paper was biased and poorly directed in its endorsements. In a Jan. 11 editorial, the Eagle endorsed winning candidates Jerry Gibson, Frank Recker and Bill Trotter, as well as unsuccessful candidate Joe Batte.

Mario Sanchez, administrator of the high-profile Marco Island Blog, called the win a collaboration between “local special interests along with their allies in the regional and state bureaucracies.”

He said he believes that much of what was circulated in the lead-up to the election was misinformation.

“Democracy is such a great and wonderful thing,” he said. “The people actually get what they voted for. So, get ready.”

In contrast though, many residents are excited about what the future holds as a result of the vote.

“Marco needs to remain a destination island as well,” Thomas said. “Business owners need snowbirds and visitors, and so does the island as a whole.”

He said complaints about traffic congestion have already been eased by the recent roadwork completions, and much like the drive down Collier Boulevard, he sees smooth sailing ahead.

“All of the candidates really deserve credit for putting their issues out there,” said Steve Stefanides, one campaign worker for the four victorious candidates. “People really wanted a referendum on the sewer and number of things, and I think they got it.”

Reese said he thinks some of the unsuccessful candidates might have had a better chance if they had not campaigned arm-in-arm.

“If either side had run as individuals, I think Butch Neylon might have gotten elected,” he said.

Jack Patterson, who had a brief run for council before bowing out during the qualifying period, said he is ultimately happy with the result.

“I didn’t much like the idea of those four (Batte, Guidry, Hall and Neylon) running on one ticket,” he said. “They’re good people, but I’m happy it didn’t turn out that way.”

Both sides in the race essentially campaigned together, stumped together and even appeared on signs together. Some residents reported splitting their votes, while many picked a slate of four and stuck with it.

Long-time resident Tommy Francese said he is just relieved to know sewer installation will be completed.

“I think the island guys that got elected will follow through on finishing the sewer work,” he said. “It would have cost too much money to stop now.”

As for the island’s pre-election divisiveness, Dave Thomas said he’d like to see harmony emerge out of the split.

“People can do it if they try,” he said. “It’s a possibility, even if you just smile and say hello to your neighbor. We learn that in fifth grade, and seem to forget it when we get older.”


Staff writers Roger LaLonde and Quentin Roux contributed to this report.

© 2008 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 14

gl1800 writes:

It is ironic that Russ Colombo considers us as the "misinformed majority". Are we misinformed because we did not share his desire to remove the city manager? Are we misinformed because we wanted to get this sewer issue over with? Were we misinformed because we had enough of the personal attacks against our city leaders? Is it possible that Russ is the one whom is misinformed? Russ please inform us how much money was spent on those obtuse lawsuits that were dismissed by misinformed judges.

MarcoFacts writes:

Disappointing that Sanchez and Columbo insult the electorate. We knew what we were voting for and over 60% of us made it overwhelmingly clear that we have had enough. Sanchez' conspiracy theory that the entire government somehow fixed this election is pure paranoid nonsense.

veridicus writes:

mmmmm, misinformed majority!!!! Now that's an interesting way to describe a landslide election win.

ejburger writes:

Russ, I though you were better than these sour grapes!

What would have been more appropriate is:


Let the facts (election results) speak for themselves.

Richard_Gibke writes:

I am disabled and not on sewer and have watched the council meetings on television for the last several years. I have remained silent but have been shocked and disappointed at the behavior of some of the citizens on this island. Grown adults acting like spoiled children over sewage.

It amazes me how much evidence is available about the need for sewers on Marco Island and certain individuals, a few in my nieghborhood, refuse to accept the facts. I am not happy about the money to connect, I am on a fixed income but I would rather complete this project now then have to pay more later.

As I read the article above I sadly realized that this turmoil is probably not over. There are still people that will not accept reality. We, the voters are not s-----, we are fed up. We are fed up with negative, know it all attitudes. We are fed up with big yellow signs and obnoxious trucks litering our beautiful island. We are fed up with the childish behavior.

To insult the voters by saying they are misinformed is pure rubbish. I knew who and what I voted for. Lets put this behind us, please.

d_a_t_a_m_a_n writes:

Some final analysis of the election by Precinct

Overall 72% of the registered voters (8,916) cast ballots. This was the highest turnout ever (the 1997 city-hood election had a 71% turnout). The average ballot voted for 3.8 candidates.

By Precincts:

Precinct 190 (First Presbyterian) - 66% voted. This area consists of all sewered homes and the recently constructed North Marco sewer district. The pro-sewer candidates received 67% of the vote.

Precinct 191 (St Marks) - 77% voted. This area consists of Hideaway Beach, the recently connected Tigertail sewer district and the 2009 Kendall district. The pro-sewer candidates received 69% of the vote.

Precinct 192 (Mackle Park)- 60% voted. This area consists of about half sewered homes and the 2010 Gulfport and 2011 Goldenrod sewer districts. The pro-sewer candidates received 52% of the vote.

Precinct 193 (United Church) - 72% voted. This area consists of about half sewered or recently constructed sewer homes and the 2012 Estates and 2008 Sheffield sewer districts. The pro-sewer candidates received 52% of the vote.

Precinct 194 (Marco Lutheran) - 76% voted. This area consists of condos and mostly homes in the 2008 Lamplighter and 2011 Copperfield sewer districts. The pro-sewer candidates received 58% of the vote.

Precinct 195 (Jewish Congregation Temple) - 79% voted. This area consists of condos and single family homes with recently constructed sewers. The pro-sewer candidates received 75% of the vote.

Precinct 196 (Mackle Park) - 71% voted. This area consists of about 20% homes on sewer and 80% in the 2010 East Winterberry and 2009 Mackle Park sewer districts. The pro-sewer candidates received 44% of the votes - this is the only district the pro-sewer candidates failed to win.

Leroy writes:

The Eagle states, "Rancor runs so deep over the results, she said, that some residents are planning on cancelling their subscriptions to the Eagle, because of perceptions that the paper was biased and poorly directed in its endorsements."

NEW FLASH!!!!!!!


Go ahead and cancel your "FREE" subscriptions to the Eagle. These people have the nerve to say that the voters are misinformed. It is apparent that the vocal minority is misinformed.

Flowerpower writes:

Mr. Columbo, did it even occur to you for one second that you could be the one that is wrong?

Rachael writes:

And the mud-slinging continues...

conchsoup writes:

The election results show overwhelmingly that more than anything Marco Islanders reject the contentious behavior of those who were constantly bringing lawsuits against our City and who could not disengage from vicious personal attacks on our City Council members and City management with whom they disagreed.

It is apparent that some of them such as Mr. Colombo have only contempt for those who disagree with him. It is disappointing that Dr. Biles continues to foment dissent by refusing to acquiesce with a decisive majority decision.

It will be interesting to watch their behavior in future council meetings. It will be interesting to see whether or not the anti-STRP and MITA folks will get the message from the voters that their obnoxious behavior is what distanced them from the majority as well as a clear understanding that the STRP is desirable.

Fossil writes:

Conchsoup: "Contentious behavior"? What is it exactly that your writing above hopes to achieve? Are you not showing your "contempt" for those whom you disagree with? Are you refusing to acquiesce to the wishes of Coucilmen elect Trotter, Gibson and Waldack (elected by the "majority), who have stated that they intend to work to heal our community? Will your words not make it more difficult for Councilman elect Recter to show us his ablity to "work with anyone"? Are you not yourself exhibiting obnoxious behavior that can only hinder their promised efforts to bring us all under one tent? Where is your respect for the will of the majority?

sailingby writes:

Fossil-There is little concern that the current council wants peace on the island...but do the those who lost? Colombo seems reluctant. It remains to be seen how Neylon and friends will handle themselves. Are you among them? You sound reactive and in a fighting mood.

Fossil writes:

sailingby, I never felt a need to write comments here before this week because I believed that people like conchsoup and others were expressing my opinions for me. However, I am beginning to have my doubts. Do you and Conchsoup and the others who are strutting around these pages really believe you are helping our newly elected officials? Your comments serve only to bring negative attention to our supporters. It's time to grow up and show that you are all Marco Island citizens that really do stand up for progress. Stop acting like children and join our new Councilmen to make our community better.

ejburger writes:

Sadly, Columbo shows his true colors – how many of the over 60% who voted for the positive candidates will enjoy reading that they are “apathetic and misinformed?” They will never side with Columbo again and probably think, what we all know, it is just sour grapes. If Columbo speaks in front of council again he should be asked how voters can be apathetic when a record number of citizens voted!

The one they really need to be mad at is Godfrey Davies since he took what they all thought was a clear victory and lost it with s----- campaign moves like his truck billboard program. They raised very little money and wasted it on signs. Sad but funny; their big shock and awe campaign was Columbos boat in Smoke House Bay with the four signs on the mast. I never laughed so hard in my life!

In addition they failed to see that sewers interested only a small group of voters that they already had in their pocket, they should have tried to re-focus the issues. This is what happens when you have a shallow and self-serving agenda.

The ones that really had no clue on what Marco really wanted are the “Friends of Marco” – sad to see a bunch of old fogies show how out of touch they are! Pistor, Cowan, Peterson, Christy, Donovan, Biles - we have all known for a long time they are not all playing with a full deck, now the public knows and confirmed that their opinions did not carry any weight at all!

History is written by the victors and when Marco history is written this group certainly won’t be the “Fathers” of our City!

I am still thrilled at the voters outcome and the confirmation that the people on Marco are a lot smarter then the opposition gave them credit for!

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