Five Estero Island residents who are vying for three seats on the Fort Myers Beach Town Council have been tested twice within a span of four evenings.
Chuck Bodenhafer, Anita Cereceda, Rexann Hosafros, Joe Kosinski and Summer Stockton were invited to forums held at Fish-Tale Marina last Friday and Town Hall on Monday. Unfortunately, Kosinski could not make the marina forum due to an "unavoidable business emergency."
The general election for the open seats will be held March 11, 2014, and will be conducted on a nonpartisan basis without any designation of political party affiliation. Get out and vote!
The marina forum on Friday was tabbed the Fort Myers Beach Candidates Forum, while the town hall forum on Monday was named Fort Myers Beach Area Chamber of Commerce "Commotion by the Ocean" Forum. The marina forum was facilitated by Local Planning Agency Chairman Hank Zuba, marina owner Al Durrett and Dan Parker. The Town Hall forum was emceed by FMB Chamber President Bud Nocera, while selected members of a panel, comprised of Durrett, Steve Lisay of Holiday Court Motel, Nicole Bennett of Bennett Chiropractic and Wellness Center and Alice Dixon of VIP Vacation Rentals, asked prepared questions.
Both forums included candidate introductions with disclosed experience and closing comments that sandwiched the questions. They offered viewpoints, provided answers to issue-related questions and served as a great opportunity to hear what possible representatives have to say on certain Beach matters.
Here is a combined capsule breakdown from the forums:
- Bodenhafer stated he has a degree in Business Administration in Finance and founded his own insurance agency. He is a current Town Local Planning Agency member and served 19 years on the Allen County (Ind.) Board of Zoning Appeals, 14 of those years as Chairman. Concurrently with that appointment, he served 16 years on the Allen County Plan Commission, 12 years as President.
"I have experience in insurance, leadership, planning, business and finance, and want to make this a better place," he said. He listed flood insurance and elevated pools as two of the more important issues.
- Cereceda stated she has two businesses in Time Square. One of the family businesses, Local Color, was named to reflect the best a place has to offer. The Town's inaugural Beach Mayor of three years was also a member and Chairwoman of the Metropolitan Planning Organization as well as a member of the Local Planning Agency following her council term and was appointed by the Lee County Commission to the Charter Review Committee for Lee County in 2007.
"I really see our Town at a crossroads, and I hope that I can be of service to you," she said.
- Hosafros stated she was a high school teacher who then attended law school while working a full-time job and practiced law in various capacities, including being an assistant attorney general for the State of Ohio, worked in the Department of Industrial Relations and legal aids society The Town Public Safety Committee vice chairperson was on the bench in family court where, as a Magistrate, she developed skills in conflict resolution.
"I believe in service to the community and I want to reach solutions for all members of the community," she said.
- Kosinski is the current vice mayor of Fort Myers Beach who is up for re-election after serving on Council for the past three years. An Army veteran, he stated he has 32 years of work experience as a licensed professional engineer and his Council service came after previously serving on the Town Local Planning Agency. He is the coordinator for the annual FMB Spirit of '45 event and remains an active member of VFW Post 10097, Veterans Club of America Post 1, American Legion and Moose Lodge.
"I bring a new perspective to old ideas and a innovative approach to new ones," he said.
- Stockton stated she graduated Summa Cum Laude from Florida Gulf Coast University with a Bachelor of Science degree and possesses a great business acumen with the start of her business in 2006. By living on both ends of the Beach, she believes she has a good understanding and knowledge of the island as a whole. The youngest of the candidates says she has a fresh outlook with fresh ideas and passion and energy to do good things for the Beach.
"I have invested my life and future here, and I truly care about the future of our Town," she said.
Marina forum: Question on how to address traffic given Seafarer's site redevelopment and Estero Boulevard improvements
- Cereceda - "Our Comp Plan mandates that we diminish density when possible. I think this is an opportunity that we should not squander, and the Town Council should be an integral part of every discussion with any development or redevelopment that takes place there."
- Hosafros - "There are only two solutions: the people have to go over the cars or the cars over the people. It would makes sense to me as we develop that parcel (Seafarers) to make this a destination point of our Town, but keep the people above the traffic."
- Stockton - "I would like to create an ad-hoc committee designed specifically for Seafarer's. This way that group of people can work towards whatever it is our community wants there. I think it would be wise to use it to alleviate traffic."
- Bodenhafer - "You can only do so much with 50 feet of right-of-way. We have to get the right-of-way to be expanded so that we can do something to help with traffic flow. Seafarer's could be part of it, but there is no definite guarantee."
Marina forum: Question on land development code standing
- Hosafros "I think we need to do a complete review to make sure we do not have problems such as the one that has recently arisen."
- Bodenhafer - "It is my opinion that the LDC is very clear, and a big mistake was made in the interpretation of it. It is a duty of the Town Council alone to interpret the LDC and make decisions regarding it."
- Cereceda - "The Town has changed, and we have changed as a community. Those documents need to change with us. There have been another red flags that maybe we need to take another look."
Marina forum: Question on how to make it easier for residents and business owners to get Town permits
- Stockton - "I hear from business owners that it's all about who you know. That needs to stop right away. Another thing I hear is that there is no common sense and businesses keep getting fined. It would certainly be nice to run our government based on business principles."
- Hosafros - "I would like to see us eliminate a lot of red tape in many areas -building codes, businesses, etc."
- Cereceda - "The Town incorporated under the idea of 'Government Lite.' We are not so light anymore. I think a layer of government that everyone feared at the beginning has created all this red tape. I hope our staff will minimize the procedures for someone walking in to get service."
- Bodenhafer - "(In past job,) we had a online computer program where any point in time you could find out where your permit was in process, whose desk it was on and when they got it and when it left their desk. That puts a burden on the person to make sure they timely work on things. We will work with (interim Town Manager) Don Stilwell to make sure he imposes this kind of feeling on his employees."
Marina forum: One-word description to distinguish yourself from other candidates
- Cereceda - "Passionate."
- Hosafros - "Tenacious."
- Stockton - "Hard-working."
- Bodenhafer - "Experience."
Hall forum: Question on remedy to allow voice of business owners equal that of voice of homeowners
- Kosinski "Though they cannot vote if they are not registered on the island, I can say that when similar issues have been brought to Council, we take a very pro-active (approach). I am the voice of reason and, if (anyone) has problems or situations and are unsure if their voice is heard, contact us or show up (to meetings)."
Hall forum: Question on position on voiced complaints from residents who live in central business overlay district and desire amplified music to end at 8 p.m.
- Stockton "We must create an enforceable noise ordinance first and, once that is done, we can treat each situation on a case-by-case basis."
Hall forum: Question on what are most important issues facing the Beach in next four years and how to solve them
- Cereceda "I think the thing that is facing the Town right now is lack of confidence in the Town. No matter what issue comes up, if you really believe that your people are looking out for you, then there is nothing insurmountable in my opinion. There have been too many things that have happened in the last few years that have disgruntled and disillusioned people. "
Hall forum: Question on position of transfer of development rights from outer islands to Beach
- Hosafros "I thought it was a good idea when I first heard about it. But, with the more questions Council asked, it turned out that some of the information was not so accurate. So, if I were on Council, I would have to take a whole new look at this."
Hall forum: Question on what would be budget priorities for Beach in next fiscal year
- Bodenhafer Estero Boulevard first, but we can't lose track of the potable water that we are fixing as we speak, and we haven't yet done our funding for the storm water. We need to do that, but we do not want to do that too quick because the quicker you finance it, the more the cost of the project. So, you need to time it with the start of the project."
- Bodenhafer Because of all my background and experience, I can help the Town immediately. Because I have a background in planning, I've dealt with issues we are involved with right now. I will listen to people in a balance between individuals and businesses and try to serve you the best way that I can."
- Cereceda "I am here to listen and be your voice on the Town Council. Progress to me is when this Town really makes its vision visible to this community. So, I'm asking for your vote and I hope you feel confident to represent you."
- Hosafros "Since I have gone door to door during this campaign, I hope that if given an opportunity to serve, you feel comfortable to give me a call or email me. I enjoy getting to know the people of Fort Myers Beach. It's been a wonderful experience being involved in this campaign."
- Stockton - "I am a unique candidate for a unique town unparalleled by any other of the candidates running. I am young and a home-grown leader. If you want to keep (the Beach) the jewel of Florida, vote for me."
- Kosinski - "There is momentum on the Beach. There has been more progress on the Beach in the past six years than there has been since we incorporated: the look of North Estero (Boulevard), Estero Boulevard is getting ready to be under shovel, addressing the water utility and storm water management. I'm an engineer, so who would you like representing you."