New Marco Island City Council to select leadership roles, fill Rios vacancy

Omar Rodríguez Ortiz
Naples Daily News

Marco Island residents elected Becky Irwin, City Council Vice Chairman Jared Grifoni, Joseph Rola and Richard Blonna as council members, preliminary poll results show.

One of the first items on the new council's agenda on Monday is the selection of its chair and vice chair. The chair presides at council meetings, represents the council at community events and can issue emergency declarations.

Grifoni said Wednesday he would be wiling to accept a nomination as chairman or vice chairman.

"If the council wants to support me as chair or vice chair then I will happily accept that," he said.

Grifoni was first elected to City Council in 2016, and has served as chairman and twice as vice chairman.

Chairman Erik Brechnitz did not say whether he would accept a nomination as chairman or vice chairman.

"We'll just cross that bridge Monday," he said.

Marco Island City Council candidates: Becky Irwin, City Councilor Greg Folley, City Council Vice chair Jared Grifoni, Richard Blonna, Phares Heindl and Joseph Rola.

More:Irwin, Grifoni, Rola, Blonna win Marco Island City Council seats

Rola said he would not nominate himself for any of the leadership positions.

"I'm going to be new at City Council, and I think I should learn a little bit more before I think of such a thing," he said.

Rola said he has not made a final decision about which councilors he will vote for to take on the roles.

Blonna also said he would not accept a nomination because he is a newcomer. 

"I think I need a year or two of seasoning on the council to be really comfortable enough to pursue the role of chair," he said.

Irwin said she would like to have a discussion with councilors during the meeting before making any decision about who to nominate or support.

"I don't want to have a preconceived notion going in," she said.

Council members are paid $6,000 per year, while the chairman gets $9,000. 

Another important item on council's agenda is to decide how to fill the vacancy of former councilor Victor Rios' seat. He resigned effective Oct. 30 for personal reasons.

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

Related:Latest election results for Collier County, Naples in Florida

Following the resignation of City Councilor Sam Young in April, the Council published the vacancy online and allowed residents to apply.

The councilors then selected three finalists and made individual interview appointments before making a final decision, selecting Greg Folley.

Grifoni, Rola, Blonna, Irwin and Brechnitz said they want City Council to fill Rios' vacancy similarly to the way it was done to replace Young.

"I think if we run a similar process this time around. Hopefully we will get an equally impressive crop of candidates," Grifoni said.

Election results

Guest attend a watch party for Marco island City Council race,Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, at  Da Vinci Ristorante Italiano on Marco Island.

Irwin led the polls with 7,560 votes, or 23.1%, followed by Grifoni, the only incumbent on the ballot, with 7,422, or 22.7%.

Rola received 6,853 votes, or 21%, and Blonna got 6,739, or 20.6%.

Five candidates ran for four council seats where the top four vote-getters won. Phares Heindl, a fifth candidate, lost after receiving 4,120 votes, or 12.6%.

Irwin is a member of the city's beautification advisory committee and broker associate with Keller Williams Realty. She said she can tell council members will work well together.

"I'm very excited that all the people who are going to be in City Council are smart and dedicated," Irwin said Tuesday night.

Irwin, Grifoni and Blonna celebrated the results together at a watch party at a local restaurant.

Outspending all candidates on the ballot, Grifoni, a lawyer and business owner, spent more than $35,000, according to the most recent campaign financial documents filed with the city. Irwin spent more than $12,000, Blonna more than $11,000, Rola more than $6,000 and Heindl less than $3,000.

"Tonight we are going to celebrate but starting next week it's time to work together in the best interest of the community," Grifoni said.

Rola is a member of the city's planning board and a retired defense contractor.

"I look forward to four years of very hard work to do all the things that I'd like to see done relative to the comprehensive plan and water quality," Rola said.

Blonna is a professor emeritus at William Paterson University in New Jersey and has often participated in council meetings.

Blonna said his goal is to work together with other councilors and help bring the community together.

"We live in paradise. We should pause and reflect on that," Blonna said.

Folley, a lawyer and a retired vice president at Caterpillar Inc., was automatically elected for a two-year term after he ran unopposed, and his name did not appear on the ballot. 

Election Day on Marco Island, Goodland and Isles of Capri

Voters walk towards the entrance of United Church of Marco Island, Precinct 193, on Nov. 3, 2020.

Election Day on Marco Island and surrounding areas had short or no wait lines, voters told the Naples Daily News.

Damian Tschida, 19, said he voted for President Donald Trump at Precinct 193 in United Church of Marco Island because he does not want former Vice President Joe Biden to win.

"Biden wants to take away guns," Tschida said Tuesday.

According to Biden's campaign website, he will institute a program to buy back "assault weapons and high-capacity magazines."

Damien Tschida (left) and Camden Jones, both 19, drove to the United Church of Marco Island, Precinct 193, in a pick-up truck with two Trump flags on the back on Nov. 3, 2020.

Outside of the church, candidates and supporters carried signs and waved at passing vehicles, some honking in return.

David McDonald, 66, said he voted at Precinct 189 in the Goodland Community Center because this is the most important election of his life.

"I feel like the country needs a fundamental change in the direction we are going," he said.

Mary McDonald, who was with David, agreed:

"We need to return to civility, honesty and respect."

Nicole Brotzman, 21, said she voted for Vice President Joe Biden at United Church of Marco Island, Precinct 193, on Nov. 3, 2020.

Nicole Brotzman, 21, said at the United Church she voted to make her voice heard after some family members discouraged her from voting for Biden because Collier County is overwhelmingly Republican.

"If we listen to that, our vote is not going to matter," she said.

Brotzman said she believes in equality.

"Biden is not the perfect choice but he is more inclusive," she said.

Sandy Hurley said she voted for Trump at Precinct 142 in Isles of Capri Community Center because he can unite a divided nation.

"We need to come together as one," she said.

Contact Omar at omar.rodriguezortiz@naplesnews.com, and follow him on Twitter as @Omar_fromPR. Support his work by subscribing to Naples Daily News.