Marco Island City Councilor Roman announces she will not run for reelection in November
Editor's note: This story has been updated June 30 to include information mistakenly left out about City Council candidate Phares Heindl.
Marco Island City Councilor Charlette Roman announced Monday via newsletter she will not run for reelection Nov. 3.
Roman said in a phone call June 23 her position as governing board member of the South Florida Water Management District now requires more attention than she anticipated.
"I felt it was best not to shortchange the citizens of Marco Island," she said. "I think it is in their best interest if they have someone who can devote 100% of his or her time."
Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Roman to the board in February 2019. The district is a regional governmental agency that manages the water resources in the southern half of the state, including Everglades restoration.
"In this unique position, I feel I am not only invested in the future of our island, about which I remain passionate, but also the future of the 16 counties that this governing board serves," she wrote in the newsletter.
As of June 24, Roman's announcement left four to six candidates to compete for four four-year seats currently occupied by City Councilors Jared Grifoni, Howard Reed, Larry Honig and herself.
Candidates Becky Irwin, Joseph Rola, Richard Blonna and Grifoni wrote in separate emails June 24 they will run for a seat on the Marco City Council. Candidate Phares Heindl wrote he is leaning towards running for a four-year term seat as well but has not made a final decision.
It is unknown whether Reed, who is completing his first four-year term, will run for reelection. "I have not yet made a commitment to run or not to run," he said June 23.
Honig, who was first elected in 2012 and is currently on his second term, cannot run for reelection. The city's charter only allows councilors to serve two terms of four years each.
A two-year term seat will also be up for a vote, totaling five City Council seats that will be on the ballot. City Council has seven seats.
City Councilor Greg Folley will run for a two-year term, he wrote in an email June 24. He was selected by council on June 1 to occupy the seat of former City Councilor Sam Young following his resignation.
People wanting to run for City Council have until July 29 to qualify, which includes submitting required paperwork and having their petitions verified, according to City Clerk Laura Litzan.
Voters will be asked to vote for no more than four candidates for the four-year term seats on the ballot, according to Litzan. The top four vote-getters will be elected.
In the election for the two-year term seat, voters will be asked to vote for only one candidate, according to Litzan.
Get to know the candidates
Grifoni was elected to City Council in 2016, receiving the highest percentage of votes among all candidates. He is a licensed attorney and leads multiple businesses in Southwest Florida.
Grifoni, a full-time resident of Marco since 2007, wrote in an email he wants to create opportunities that benefit residents today while preserving the island for future generations.
"I wanted to bring my principles of fiscal conservatism, lower taxes, limited government, and protection of citizens’ rights to our City Council and I have fulfilled those pledges over the last four years and hope to do so again over my final term," he wrote.
Grifoni wrote the quality of the island's waterways is also one of his priorities.
"I have formally recommended to City Council that millions of dollars from the Collier County sales tax be allocated to clean up our water going forward and to continue to engage with county and state leadership on this issue to secure additional funding," he wrote.
Grifoni wrote this can be accomplished without raising taxes.
Irwin lived on the island as a child. In 2013 she moved back with her family after earning a bachelor’s degree in classics with minors in archaeology and art history.
Irwin is a broker associate with Keller Williams Realty and a member of the city's beautification advisory board.
She wrote her priorities are keeping taxes low, beaches and waterways clean and residents and visitors safe.
"Our quality of life is paramount and we need to work together to keep it for future generations," she wrote.
Rola, a Marco Island resident for 15 years, has been a member of the city's planning board since 2016.
His professional experience includes two decades working with satellite communications for Raytheon Co. and 15 years as computer system designer, programmer and technical unit manager for RCA.
He wrote that as a planning board member he learned about the city's intricacies, providing him with a detailed understanding of the problems the island faces today.
Rola wrote that among his top priorities are city planning and water quality.
"We have an island home that has a limited footprint of 24 square miles," he wrote. "We are approaching build-out and can only sustain a certain volume of population before we adversely affect the intensity of life on our island.
"This will require careful planning, control and a little public education," he wrote.
Heindl, a Marco Island resident since 2010, holds a bachelor's of science in chemical engineering and has practiced law for over thirty-five years.
In 2013, he was appointed to the city's waterways advisory committee where he served for about six years.
"I am convinced that significant progress on our water quality issues can only take place at City Council level," he wrote.
Blonna, a Marco resident since 2012, worked in New Jersey for more than 10 years educating the public about sexually transmitted diseases. In 1986, he began his career at William Paterson University, retiring in 2014.
Blonna, an avid kayaker, wrote that one of his top priorities is to restore and protect the island's waterways.
"Our current City Council has taken bold steps to start this process," he wrote. "I will continue this momentum and ensure that we finish the job."
Another priority for Blonna is keeping taxes and spending low.
"Prior City Councils have invested in maintaining and upgrading facilities, equipment and infrastructure," he wrote. "They have also leveraged city funding with outside grants and resources.
"I will support these measures and continue to look for new opportunities to save money and keep our taxes and spending low."
Heindl, Rola and Blonna recently nominated themselves to occupy Young's seat following his resignation but City Council ultimately selected Folley.
Folley wrote to the Marco Eagle on May 18 that his 40-plus years experience as an attorney and business executive for Caterpillar Inc. make him the ideal candidate.
"I think my experience in such a variety of areas is highly unusual and will provide a unique perspective in helping the city to successfully address the issues facing it in the years to come," he wrote.
Folley also wrote that one of his priorities is to support "smart growth" while protecting the beaches, waterways and public spaces.
"I want to assure that we deliver maximum value for our citizens," he wrote, adding that expenditures should "drive real benefit" and minimize taxes.
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