Should Marco Island have a mayor? City Council doesn't think so

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle

If the citizens of Marco Island want a mayor, that initiative won’t be kick started by its City Council.

Council elected not to pursue the matter Monday with some members calling it a fancy name change for the council chairperson.

“The disadvantages, in my personal opinion, far outweigh any benefits,” Councilor Victor Rios said.

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The discussion about instituting a mayor was placed on Monday’s agenda by Councilor Larry Honig, who noted that many members of the community had raised the question during previous council meetings and was a topic of discussion during last year’s agenda.

Larry Honig

As part of a paper he wrote, Honig laid out the pros and cons of having a mayor without advocating for one side or another. The city's charter currently does not provide for a mayor, meaning it would require an amendment.

With the City Council still employing a city manager, Honig said that a mayor would simply replace the council chairperson and act as a more public face of the city for four years. There would be no change in authority or responsibility but having one face would lead to less confusion in the government due to changing leaders every year.

On the other side, a mayor could lead to having too much power in one person’s hands.

In 2002, the city did have a referendum for a proposed amendment to the charter, which would have changed the title of chair to mayor.

That referendum was rejected by voters by a margin of 51-49 percent.

“If you elect a bad mayor, you’re stuck,” Honig said. 

If the City Council had wanted to pursue changing the charter to institute a mayor, Honig suggested having the question placed on a countywide ballot, which could save about $40,000 versus a mail-in ballot.

Councilor Howard Reed also questioned what problems the city would be solving by having a mayor.

Reed noted that if the citizens wanted the same chairperson every year, there was nothing that prevented the council from picking that person every time.

Reed also said that conversations by residents about electing a mayor were frequently related to the City Council’s inability to hire a city manager. Unless the city were to change its form of government to where the mayor would either replace the city manager or be the person to directly hire the city manager, it would do little to solve the problems the City Council has faced over the past year.

While the majority of councilors were opposed to moving forward, Council Chairperson Erik Brechnitz said he believed it could be successful. Brechnitz is the only person on council that has previously served as a mayor. 

Brechnitz prefaced his comments by reiterating that he had no visions of becoming mayor as he has committed to only serving one term on the council.

“There are lots of governments that have a mayor and it’s very effective,” Brechnitz said.