MARCO ISLAND — In a game of musical chairs, four of the seven seats on the Marco Island City Council are coming vacant this fall. With a Presidential selection at the top of the ballot, turnout should be high. In addition to all the other races, Marco Island voters will elect four city council members from a pool of nine candidates.
The nine, including three incumbents, all qualified by submitting 126 valid petitions, representing one percent of the vote tally in the last general election, in addition to a 10 cent per signature verification charge, and a $60 filing fee to the Supervisor of Elections, making the cost to run for the Marco Island City Council a minimum of $72.60.
Each winning candidate will serve a four-year term, with elections staggered so four or five seats are open every two years. After two terms, councilors are term-limited; Dr. Bill Trotter, an incumbent, is not able to run again, so his seat is open in November.
The Marco Eagle is spotlighting each of the candidates with a brief bio, plus why, in their words, they want to be on the council and why the voters should want them there. Each candidate was asked, via email, the same list of questions, to ensure a level playing field. In previous issues, we highlighted Larry Sacher, Frank Recker, Ken Honecker, Larry Honig, Wayne Waldack, and Amadeo Petricca. Today, we present the final three profiles.
"All of the parents of children who move here should be proud," said candidate Paul Meyer. "They taught us that Marco Island is a great place to live."
Family is important to Meyer. "I am married to Mary, your Publix pharmacist on Barfield, and have 3 daughters – Megan 10, Molly 8, and Madeline, 6, who all go to Tommie Barfield," he said.
After spending the last 10 years as a "stay at home dad" until his youngest began school, he opened an air conditioning contracting business on the island in 2011. He had done the same in Milwaukee, running it for 13 years before selling the company and "retiring" – the first time. His business and family experience will help him be a better councilor, he said.
"I believe Marco Island needs to move in a better direction for the people. During the petition signing, it was very disheartening to me to hear the negative comments about the city and the way it is run," said Meyer."
As major upcoming issues facing Marco Island and the City Council, Meyer said, "the issue up front is the people of Marco Island need to be heard. Density and density credits, public parking and debt also need to be considered."
Meyer serves as chairperson for the Marco Island Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, as well as a volunteer at Tommie Barfield, Marco Island Academy, Mackle Park, Marco Island Racquet Center and Winterberry Park for the 12-week men's senior softball league.
Why should Marco voters elect Paul Meyer to City Council?
"I have no other agenda other than seeing Marco Island flourish and be here for the future of my kids and yours," he said.
Jerry Gibson has a record, and he is running on it. He has served on the Marco City Council for the last four years, including being elected chairman by his fellow councilors last year. Originally from suburban Philadelphia, Gibson moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1971, and has lived on Marco Island for 26 years.
A major accomplishment, said Gibson, who sits on the council's budget sub-committee, is having "zero tax increase for 2012, and no increase in millage for 2013," in the face of "the worst economic downturn we've seen in this country. We have seen improvement in our bond rating, when many cities have seen bankruptcy or their bond ratings plummeting."
"For years, transparency, or the lack of it, was cited as a major problem." He pointed to the audio-video system that transmits meetings, both council and other city boards, as an answer to that concern.
His professional career has been in sales and marketing administration and management, in the hospitality, mortgage and real estate industries. Gibson is a member of Marco Island's Sunrise Rotary, and has held positions in the club at both the local and district level. In addition to his work on the City Council, he serves on the board of Christmas Island Style, and was a charter member of the Marco Police Foundation. He has one son, three grandchildren, and shares his life with his beloved Sicilian mastiff, Fiora.
"We need to face growth while controlling density," he said. "We must continue to protect our beaches and waterways. His mission, he said, is incomplete.
"Electing me means staying positive," said Gibson. "I'll get input from all residents of the island, on all sides of the issues."
Duane Thomas is best known to Marco Islanders as the head of Duane Thomas Marine Construction, LLC, one of the businesses he owns, in addition to Duane Thomas Demolition & Concrete, and Thom's Tiki Tan. He is a 25-year resident of Marco Island, who lived in Fort Myers and Scarborough, Maine before coming here.
His business experience is key to his qualifications, he said.
"I worked my way from the ground up in several businesses managing budgets, schedules and people. For the last 20 plus years I have been involved in the construction business on Marco Island building seawalls, docks, and doing demolitions." Seawalls have been a hot topic recently, seeing Thomas speaking to the council and code enforcement board on the subject.
Important issues for the island include utility rates, keeping taxes and spending to minimum levels, minimizing costs to homeowners for seawall replacement, and density reduction, he said.
"Everyone has the right to be heard and have their voices, comments heard without criticism or fear of reprisal," said Thomas. "Any significant changes made to the midtown area or any area of Marco needs to insure full community support and a balance which benefits the entire community," not just a few people.
Thomas is a member of Marco Island Property Owners. He is single, and lives with his two cats.
Why should Marco voters elect Duane Thomas to City Council?
"As a long time resident and business owner, I think I understand what the island's residents wants and needs are, and I feel I can provide the right decisions by listening and applying just some real common sense," he said.