Cape Kids — City Leaders: Eric Feichthaler, former Cape Coral mayor, attorney
“Winters treated my father quite bad due to illness, so what kind of motivated us as a child to move was warm weather. We flew to Fort Myers, of course, when I was 15 and looked around. The Realtor thankfully asked if we wanted to go over the river to look as well and we did.
“We built in an area that was completely undeveloped, and today is fully developed. We were literally the only house in a square-mile. Because I was the kind of person really was more interested in fishing and outdoor activities, it was perfect for me. I really, really enjoyed it. Me and my dad did a lot of fishing — we lived on a canal. The biggest culture shock I suppose were the costs. Where we lived (in Pennsylvania) we were in a pretty poor house, but the money we got from selling that house paid for a brand new house in Cape Coral, with a dock, on a canal, and still had money left over which was unbelievable for us — it was kind of like we hit the jackpot when we found the city. We had a house here that was twice as big — yes, we didn’t have any neighbors which was kind of a negative, but we had incredible privacy which was nice, it was very quiet. I personally also like to do a lot of stargazing and so back then with no streetlights or anything out there, there were beautiful stars every night.
“I have a keen interest in weather. I actually really enjoy studying things like hurricanes and wanted to go somewhere where there was a greater likelihood, believe it or not. Though I didn’t want to get hit by a hurricane, I find weather phenomenon intriguing. Southwest Florida was a place for that as well.
“I was really excited at 15 to move down here and do something new.
“I arrived the first year Mariner High School opened, so I was there the first three years, which was great. Being from the Philadelphia area, it was very different and I thought the whole layout at Mariner was like a resort.
“What led me to come back here and want to be involved with public service is the support of the community both in schools and in service groups like Kiwanis and Rotary which gave me scholarships to help me pursue my dreams, which candidly have been realized thanks to the generosity of those Cape Coral groups. It all emanated from those initial three years (at Mariner) but in those three years so many people took me under their wing and gave me the opportunities to realize my potential. Being able to serve the city as mayor was another dream come true that wouldn’t have happened up north, that’s for sure
“In the ’90s, I went to college in Miami and for most of that time kept a job in Cape Coral, driving back every weekend. In the mid to late ’90s, the development wasn’t at the pace when it was when I got back from law school at Georgetown, which was around 2001 — that’s when things really started to heat up.
“We became a much more diverse community, which was great. We had people from all across the country who came to live here once they heard about it. That, of course, gives us better choices and diversity in restaurants, and businesses, which has been nice.
“I think once Tarpon Point and Cape Harbour were done — and of course a lot of people were originally objecting to that– that’s when you realized there’s a real demand to be here and to have that view and the access that we have, are really attractive to just about anyone in this country. The first decade of this century is when the growth absolutely exploded.
“But really, when you look around town and you look at other places in Florida, we don’t have that ‘big city’ feel and I hope we never do. We have a small-town feel where traffic, despite what people may think, is not bad here because of the road network. People really get on the Rosens saying they didn’t plan well, but I disagree — with the roads especially. We have a great road network here. Yes, the canals do cause a bit of an issue, but you can get from point A to point B pretty quickly. We’re probably the only city anywhere near our size that doesn’t have an expressway. Coming here back in the ’80s and looking at it today it’s a really shocking change but for the most part, it’s been pretty gradual other than that crazy period in the early 2000s.
“I always think we’re going to have an interest here because the thing that has never changed, which I’m thankful for, is we have a wonderfully run police department and fire department that have always been innovative and on the cutting edge and respectful of the law and procedure. That ultimately is what people are looking for besides great weather and great opportunities is for their families to be safe, and that has been consistent the entire time I’ve lived here. It’s a big reason why I’m raising my family here, too.
“Looking into the future, the one thing, based on our size and where residents are coming from — I still believe we need to have a major attraction of some type in our city that will put us on the map economically and that thing is Spring Training in my opinion.”
— Compiled by CJ HADDAD