Mandel and Andre to Remain on
Council for Three More Years
It's official – for the first time since the Town incorporated, the two incumbents on Town Council will remain in their seats without an election. This past Friday at noon was the deadline for any would-be candidates to qualify to run, and when the deadline had passed the only two people who'd signed up were incumbent Vice-Mayor Alan Mandel and Councilman Dan Andre – who was appointed by the council to fill an empty seat last year when Larry Kiker resigned to run for the county commission. Mandel and Andre will now keep their seats for the 2013-2016 term, and be sworn in on March 19th - the first council meeting after when the election would have been held on March 12th.
The news came as a bit of a surprise to Mandel and Andre since 11 people applied for the open seat in October. Both say they are pleased with the opportunity to serve island residents and plan to continue the work that the council has been doing on important issues to the Town - including the restoration of the water utility and the upcoming restoration of Estero Boulevard.
"We had lots of qualified people apply for Mr. Kiker's seat, so I certainly appreciate being able to represent the residents for the past three years and I look forward to three more,” Mandel told us. "This council has accomplished a great deal – we've brought in two new attorneys and we have great representation by them. We've been up to Tallahassee to secure grant funding for Town projects. Taxes have been controlled, the first phase of the water utility is about to begin, and we’re working with the county on traffic issues as they plan Estero Boulevard restoration. These are good things to build on as we go forward.”
Mandel told us he is very happy to have just been notified by Senator Bill Nelson's office that the senior Florida senator is going to help the Town in their efforts to work with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to reduce airplane noise on the island.
"We are also going to work on more marketing of the island through the Tourist Development Council – focusing on resources like the Mound House and the Lynx we now have that are mutually beneficial,” he said. "I certainly enjoy working with everyone on Town Council – we may not always agree, but we do have a nice civil discourse.”
Dan Andre said that while he thinks an election would have been great, the fact that he and Mandel get to continue the work they’ve been doing is great for the Town as a whole because it provides for continuity.
"Not to mention the fact that it saves the Town $20,000 in election costs,” he said. "As far as what I would like to see over the next three years, let me first say that my original theory with the visioning workshops is to keep the Town ‘funky’ but we can also clean the lines up a bit.”
Andre agrees with Mandel that he looks forward to seeing the beginning of projects to fix the water utility and Estero Boulevard, adding he’d also like to see more progress done to increase use of Bay Oaks.
"The free membership thing is a start, and it is adding to the amount of people using it, but it is still costing the Town $900,000 a year while only a small amount of islanders use it,” he use it. "Also the Town’s mooring field - perhaps there’s a way to negotiate a new percentage that would allow us to see a higher profit margin.”
Andre told us that he’s committed to working with the Community Resources Advisory Board (CRAB) on improving both the beach and applicable bay accesses, as well as collaborating with the county to mitigate the traffic that grips the island in gridlock for a couple of months a year.
"Then there’s my concern for environmental issues that are very important to this island,” he said. "There’s education - for instance, some people aren’t even aware they can’t ride their Segways down the beach, the releases from Lake Okeechobee that come down the Caloosahatchee into the back bay and changing the scope of the Marine Resources Task Force (MRTF) to become more focused on the environment.”
Dan explained that his desire to change the name of MRTF is in no way meant to be an offense to the late John Mullholland, a former Mayor who created and named the advisory board during his tenure in the latter 1990's, but to create more interest in this vital committee.
"There are currently only two members on MRTF, so they cannot even meet since there is no quorum,” he said. "In the past, this group has helped facilitate some great changes on the island so I’d like to see them busy once again.”
Finally, Andre told us that he intends to work on the issue of dredging Big Carlos Pass, adding that the Matanzas Pass dredging project is now complete.
"Big Carlos is a real issue right now,” he said. "As far as Matanzas Pass, it has been completed due to the fact that emergency funds available have been exhausted but I’ve been told that it is now once again between 12 to 14 feet deep.”
Andre added that attempts to have the sand from that project dumped offshore so that it would drift onshore near Newton Park were ineffective due to permitting issues, so the original offshore site (about a mile off the beach from the Lani Kai) was used for the dump site.
Town Clerk Michelle Mayher confirmed that not having an election will save the Town between $17,000 and $20,000 - money that was budgeted for and will now be returned to the general fund.
Keri Hendry Weeg