While he didn't have the traditional day at the beach by sitting on a beach chair, going for a swim, reading a book or walking to the pier and back, Lee County Commissioner Larry Kiker did get a view of the sand and Gulf when he took a break from his assigned desk inside the Newton Home at Newton Park last Thursday.
The Beach resident/commission chairman met with members of the island public and public officials during an open house from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the 4650 Estero Blvd. location. Along with Beach Mayor Anita Cereceda, he conducted individual meetings and informal group meetings and discussed topics of concerns, raised issues and whatever else came up regarding County and Town of Fort Myers Beach politics.
"It was great and my thanks to the mayor and staff for all their efforts. It was like coming home again, talking with everyone about what is happening on the island," said Kiker. "Newton Park has always been one of my favorite visits on the beach. There was a lot of positive energy all day long, people are happy and looking forward."
During an informal group meeting, Commissioner Larry Kiker answers a question from Mound House volunteers about Conservation 20/20. Beach Mayor Anita Cereceda listens to a concern from Bruce Butcher. Kiker has a one-on-one meeting in one of Newton Home's offices.
Two of his meeting appointments were from new council members.
"Of course it was fun to catch up with folks that have been involved in the town over the years and getting to know the new council was great," he said. "Rexanne has a refreshing perspective and Summer has a lot of energy and ideas. This town better get ready for this new council. I know that Dan and Alan continue their past efforts and all of us in Fort Myers Beach should be proud of their continued efforts. The Mayor has a good team to work with."
While some Beach residents and Council members made appointments, some just dropped by. The informal setting allowed face-to-face meetings during a one-on-one format. The Town of Fort Myers Beach-hosted event was successful in terms of productivity.
"There are several suggestions that were mentioned that will be shared with the county concerning the airport, Estero Boulevard and some unique suggestions about parks and recreation.There are many budget issues in the county this year that are being addressed, so plans for future improvements are timely for the coming years," said Kiker. "It's nice to be able to serve the community but most of all this is my home. Paula and I thank everyone for their support over the years and look forward to more."
Meeting topics included Lover's Key State Park, island aircraft over-flights, Algenol, Conservation 20/20, county budget, Estero Boulevard, Seafarer's property, traffic, charter review and Beach parking.
"We've changed the players in that group that have been doing it for 17 years," Kiker said about the issue with Conservation 20/20 properties. "We're sending in a consultant to work with the new group to find out what needs to be done. We need to redefine the 20/20 program to include water quality and things like that."
On the budget, he said: "We have a lot of money, we just need to be careful how to spend it."
On Seafarer's property: "For the most part, it's the way that property was purchased. This year, the County bought the property off TDC, so now we can do something with it."
On the impact of future boulevard construction: "It's the price of progress."
Cereceda complimented Kiker on moving boulevard improvements to the forefront.
"Bottom line is that 20 years ago the Town did a master plan of what the boulevard could be. The idea has sat and sat and sat," she said. "Commissioner Kiker has moved it to not only No. 1 in the county, but with every agency. Ultimately, it is so important for safety, function and traffic flow."
Kiker deflected credit to council members over the years that have worked to the project's fruition.
"The advantage that this Town has had is all the people that have worked on the Council," he said. "We've been passing on the baton and the information."
On the charter review, Cereceda said: "It's an important process at a critical time on Fort Myers Beach. It'll be interesting to see what the review committee comes up with. The criteria for the charter review is very strict, and there are very clear guidelines for what the committee is charged with. It'll be really interesting to see what the review committee comes up with."
Kiker commented to the informal group that County officials are doing things differently.
"What I am trying to get people to do is look at things in terms of policy decisions," he said. "The County staff use to run things because (commissioners) didn't give them any direction. We have changed the way we are doing business."
Kiker has stated in the past that he would like to run government like a business, but admitted defeat to that notion.
"The answer is you cannot," he said. "But, that doesn't keep you from making business-like decisions."