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Optimism high for new board

November 20, 2013
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Imagine a diverse, independent thinking City Council that can discuss the issues without all the backbiting that has plagued previous incarnations.

That is what people are hoping to see as the new City Council takes its place on the dais for the next two years in a bid to bring the city forward and to give the city a reputation in Lee County for something other than apolitical contentiousness.

Granted, this is the honeymoon period and time will tell whether the board can deliver. But those in the know believe the potential is there.

Former Mayor Joe Mazurkewicz said aside from it being history with the first female mayor and youngest councilmember, this council is perhaps the youngest he's seen since he was in office in the 1980s.

"It may be the youngest council we've had collectively. I was 31 when I was elected mayor and we have a 26-year-old now (Richard Leon). I have great expectations of the city moving forward," Mazurkewicz said. "They'll disagree on some things, but I think they will be more collegial to each other."

Contentiousness is something Mazurkewicz is all too familiar with from his time on council. But he believes this group can rise above it and tackle the tough issues.

"I hope we can create positive action and direction. We still have big decisions and a lot of work to do," Mazurkewicz said.

Moe Beneke, president of the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association, also likes the council members and believes their minds and hearts are with the city.

"They want to take us forward, give us credibility, respectability, and want to reach out across the river for consensus," Beneke said. "We want a good working relationship that isn't antagonistic. We've been mired in the last few years on things that didn't move us forward."

Beneke said just because they aren't antagonistic, at least right now, doesn't mean the council memo ers can't agree to disagree or in lock step with what she believes.

"They are independents. They are not of one mind, and that's good. I'm not looking for everyone to agree with me, I'm just asking they look at things fairly, thoroughly and vote the best way they think," Beneke said. "You can't ask of anything more from a politician."

Former Councilmember Dolores Bertolini was slightly more cautious in her optimism. She said that while it may be what she hopes to see, she said the council has eight people who are independent, but can work together.

"I hope everyone does their homework and comes up with whatever ideas they have and do it at the table without being vindictive and hateful," Bertolini said. "And come together whether it's 5-3 or whatever with viable decisions. That's what I'm looking for, though it may be something we've never really had before."

Bertolini said the biggest hurdle will be the first few weeks as Mayor Marni Sawicki and the others splash their way through the first meetings, but the winter recess is around the corner, and that will provide the familiarization time they need.

"That's a great gift. I went in in April and got thrown into the melting pot. There wasn't a hiatus at the time," Bertolini said. "This way they can gather their thoughts. We have a great opportunity and I hope they take advantage of doing things calmly without attacking first."



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