Marco Island City Council selects finalists for council seat after Rios' resignation

File: Marco Island City Hall.

*Editor's note: This story has been revised to remove the word "secret" from secret ballots because the city kept the ballots and made the votes public.

Marco Island City Council selected candidates Claire Babrowski, Nanette A. Rivera and Elizabeth E. Stephenson as finalists on Thursday to fill a council seat left after the resignation of Victor Rios in October.

Council members voted twice using ballots rather than using a voice vote, and there was no announcement Thursday of who voted for whom.

On the first round, councilors voted for three candidates each, resulting in a tie on third place between Stephenson and Milind Limaye. To break the tie, each councilor voted in a second round for one of the two candidates.

The Marco Eagle requested copies of the ballots Dec. 7 and received them the next day. They show that, on the second round, only councilor Erik Brechnitz voted for Limaye while councilors Richard Blonna, Becky Irwin, Joseph Rola, Vice Chairman Greg Folley and Chairman Jared Grifoni voted for Stephenson.

There were 10 residents who applied for the seat, five more compared to when Sam Young resigned earlier this year.

"I think we have some powerful female leaders in our community and I'm very pleased to see them step up and volunteer for this very important position," said City Councilor Becky Irwin.

Babrowski is the chairperson of the city's planning board, leading the discussion on topics like the city's comprehensive plan, a document that includes the principles and guidelines for the economic, social, physical, environmental and fiscal development of the city. The plan, required by state law, is updated every 10 years.

She wrote in her application that she has served as executive vice president and chief operating officer for Toys R Us and in other leadership roles at Radio Shack and McDonald's. She has a master's in business from the University of Carolina.

Babrowski said the city has terrific options for its seventh councilor. "Regardless of who gets chosen we will be lucky to be served by that person," she said.

Babrowski said he main focus will continue to be the city's comprehensive plan and its implications for the local infrastructure and land use.

Claire Babrowski speaks during a Marco Island Planning Board meeting on Oct. 4, 2019.

More:10 residents apply for Marco Island City Council seat following Rios' resignation

And:Newly elected Marco Island councilors set priorities: state funds, water quality, development

Rivera wrote she had a 40-year career in the pharmaceutical industry working for companies like Abbott Laboratories and Johnson & Johnson in management positions as well as helping with restructuring and consolidations. Rivera has a bachelor's in Industrial Engineering, and a master's in business with a specialization in finance from the University of Chicago. She is the vice president of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Collier and Lee counties.

Rivera did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Stephenson wrote in an email that she is a guardian ad Litem for the 20th judicial circuit and has ran her husband's chiropractor office since 1993. 

The 20th Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program supports volunteers who advocate for abused, neglected and abandoned children in court, the child welfare system and the community, according to

Stephenson has a business degree from Michigan State University, and she is a member of the Republican Club of South Collier County.

Stephenson said she is very honored to be selected as a finalist. "I'm excited to have an opportunity to interview with each one of the current city councilors," she said.

Stephenson said among her priorities will be water quality and the Tigertail lagoon. Stephenson said she is interested in possibly using clams to remove excess nutrients from city canal waters, an idea recently brought up by Irwin.

Marco Island City Councilor Becky Irwin smiles at the camera after the end of a council meeting on Nov. 19, 2020.

More:Marco Island City Councilor Victor Rios to resign for 'personal reasons'

And:10 residents apply for Marco Island City Council seat following Rios' resignation

The candidates who were not selected as finalists are David J. Knoth, Duane Thomas, Milind Limaye, Brad Brenner, Maria C. Tobin, David J. Romano and Donald P. Dinella. 

The city charter requires City Council to appoint a person to fill Rios' vacancy because the remainder of his unexpired term is less than 28 months. Council must complete this process within 60 days of his resignation.

Starting Nov. 23, councilors will individually and privately interview each candidate.

On Dec. 7, finalists will answer questions from councilors and the public during a council meeting, and councilors will select the winner.

The candidate who is ultimately selected will be sworn in the same day and able to complete Rios' term, which was set to end in November of 2022.

The next Marco Island City Council meeting is at 5:30 p.m., Dec. 7, in the community room.

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