Brechnitz, Young and Rios win Marco City Council seats

Lance Shearer

Erik Brechnitz, Sam Young and Victor Rios are the top vote getters for Marco Island City Council.

Out of 23,677 votes cast …

  • Erik Brechnitz received 24.86 percent (5,886 votes)
  • Sam Young, 21.65 percent (5,108 votes)
  • Victor Rios, 18.71 percent (4,431 votes)
  • Jerry Swiacki, 17.68 percent of the votes (4,185 votes) and
  • Jim Richards, 17.10 percent (4,048).

Marco Island’s voters have spoken and made their choices for the next City Council. The winners and new city councilors will be Erik Brechnitz and Sam Young, along with one returning name, that of Victor Rios.

Sitting councilor Rios was the lone incumbent up for re-election. He was joined by Young, who Rios appointed to the city’s Waterways Advisory Committee and Brechnitz, the current chair of the city’s planning board and a former mayor and city councilor in Illinois.

Brechnitz won the non-partisan contest by a wide margin, taking 5,886 votes or 24.86 percent of the total. Young polled second, with 5,108 votes for 21.65 percent. Rios took third, with 4,431 or 18.71 percent. Each voter was able to make three selections.

The race for third was tight, with just one percent separating third, fourth and fifth place in the polling. Brechnitz, Young and Rios all named finding a city manager as their first priority, with safeguarding the island’s water quality a close second.

“I said if I win, I’m going to demand a recount,” quipped Brechnitz.

Victor Rios cuts a cake at Stonewalls Tavern to celebrate his re-election. Marco Island voters elected Erik Bredhnitz and Sam Young along with re-electing incumbent Victor Rios for four year temrs on the Marco Island City Council Tuesday evening.

“All the things I promised – waterways, city manager, fiscal responsibility, open and accountable government,” said Young when asked his priorities.

Rios said his emphasis was “to finish what I started,” noting that as an incumbent, “all the arguments – I get blamed.”

A number of Brechnitz supporters bounced from his watch party at Hideaway Beach Club to Rios’ get together at Stonewalls Tavern, including Young, who appeared at both venues.

The two remaining and unsuccessful candidates, Dr. Jerry Swiacki and Jim Richards, ran their campaigns in tandem to some degree, and were considered a “slate” by many, with their yard signs typically appearing side by side on the island’s streets. Swiacki, a retired surgeon, served as chair of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and the Our Cities, Our Ambulance committee that campaigned unsuccessfully for independent ambulance service for Marco Island.

“The voters of Marco Island have spoken and chosen the council they want. I hope it does a good job for them,” said Swiacki after the results were posted. Richards said, “of course, I wish I would have won. I think I could have been a big help. Hopefully the city made the right choices.”

He is a political newcomer but known for philanthropic and volunteer activities on the island for groups including the American Cancer Society and the Marco Island Center for the Arts. He served as an executive in the healthcare financial sector.

Turnout was at record levels for a midterm election, with high-profile statewide races spilling over to a spirited contest for the Marco Island City Council. A council race marked by controversy delivered council seats to the top three vote-getters, out of five candidates in the race.

Winner Erik Brechnitz celebrates his victory with his wife Nancy. Marco Island voters elected Erik Bredhnitz and Sam Young along with re-electing incumbent Victor Rios for four year temrs on the Marco Island City Council Tuesday evening.

Marco’s city council has been divided and ridiculed for their long-running inability to hire and keep a permanent city manager, and this was at the top of many of the candidates’ lists of the first issue they would move to tackle if elected.

Incumbent city councilor Joe Batte is term-limited, and councilors Larry Honig, Charlette Roman, Howard Reed and Chairman Jared Grifoni are not up for re-election. Councilor Bob Brown was up for re-election but chose not to run again.

Election season proved rancorous on Marco Island, with charges of campaign finance violations leveled against Swiacki and Richards, and a website that had been leveling harsh anonymous criticisms against council members and others revealed to be owned by Honig, although he denied authorship of the critical screeds. 

Unsuccessful candidate Jerry Swiacki, right, looks at election returns with Bill McMullan. Marco Island voters elected Erik Bredhnitz and Sam Young along with re-electing incumbent Victor Rios for four year temrs on the Marco Island City Council Tuesday evening.

The Naples Daily News editorial board gave its endorsement to Rios, Brechnitz and Swiacki.

With a total of 12,815 registered voters (of the countywide total of 214,924), bright-red Marco Island has 8,150 registered Republicans versus 2,050 Democrats, a nearly 4-to-1 margin. Another 2,555 island voters are registered with no party affiliation.

Marco Islanders cast 3,855 mail ballots and 4,348 in-person early votes for a total of 8,183 this cycle, bringing the island to nearly a 64 percent turnout, and topping the overall Collier County 2014 mid-term general election turnout performance, before Election Day voting began.

Along with hiring and keeping a city manager, a poll conducted by the Florida Citizens’ Alliance among Marco Island residents found islanders’ top concerns were water quality, growth and density, and keeping Veterans Community Park open.

For more election results, visit