Marco Island celebrated its 20th anniversary as a city on Monday, and hosted a week's worth of events to commemorate its past. Now, however, it's time to look toward the future at where the city will be in another 20 years.
On Aug. 28, 1997, Marco Island became a city by a margin of just 142 votes. Just over 51 percent, or 3,221 of the 6,523 ballots cast, voted yes, while 3,079 were opposed, according to previous reporting.
The almost even vote was perhaps a sign of the countless contentious issues and heated debates the city would endure over the course of the next two decades, from the Septic Tank Replacement Program (STRP) to the more recent city manager resignation and replacement.
City councilor Bob Brown said he hopes two more decades will allow the city to grow up, and that a 40-year-old Marco Island will act its age.
"I hope to see a city that has matured and becomes the true paradise that the pictures represent," he said. "So much divisiveness has been a part of the past that it would be great to see a cohesive community that I'm sure most residents here were and are looking for."
The residents themselves will play a key role in making that cohesiveness happen, City Council Vice-Chair Jared Grifoni said.
“The future of our city will be set far more by the citizens of our community than the city government or City Council,” he said. “Individuals in our community bring so much talent, success, and innovation to our island that we must remember to constantly look to them for guidance as we navigate a positive and successful path to the future.”
Councilor Howard Reed also praised the contributions of those in the community, which he hopes will continue to grow in the coming years.
"I believe that over the next 20 years, our island population will almost double as the residential lots will be completely built out and the vast majority of our citizens will have transitioned from snowbirds to year-round residents," he said. "I believe this will be the ultimate realization of the Mackle Brothers' dream of Marco Island as a thriving community of year round families who consider this their home."
Like Reed, councilor Victor Rios said he believes the island's population will grow, but he hopes it will do so in a controlled manner.
"My hope and expectation is that the growth that comes is orderly, and ... that it still maintains the 'small town spirit, friendliness and look.' As I have stated before at public meetings, I, and I believe the majority of Marco Island taxpayers and citizens, would like to keep our city as the paradise it is," he said.
Chair Larry Honig said he has many hopes for the island's future, including reduced water-sewer utility rates, improved canal water quality and the growth of more diverse business. As for his own future with the city, Honig hinted that he may not have much of one.
"By 2020, I will have had the privilege of serving the community for eight years," he said. "Marco Island doesn't need another old fellow who used to be important hanging around the government."
Councilor Charlette Roman, on the other hand, has no intention of lessening her involvement around the island, both inside and outside the government.
"I could see myself being more active with the Marco Island American Association of University Women, League of Women Voters of Collier County, Gulf Coast Orchid Alliance, East Naples Civic Association, Calusa Garden Club, Stars on the Water, and returning to the MICA Architectural Review Committee," she said. "I’ll also continue to represent Marco Island on the Collier Citizens Council and chair the Growth Management Committee."
Councilor Joe Batte could not be reached for comment.