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From the Breeze archives: ‘A good, clean place to live’

By Staff | Sep 18, 2020

Cape Coral’s first mayor, Paul Fickinger, took office in 1970, only a year after the first talk of incorporating began. He spoke then as city leaders do today.

“Most of us visualize the Cape Coral of the future to be a fairly sizable city,” he said the week he was elected mayor. “I would frankly hope we do not become a jammed-up city that will have all the problems of ghettos and things of that kind — that’s what we want to avoid. By orderly planning, we can make Cape Coral a good, clean place in which to live.”

Today’s politicians can still be heard saying the same things about our young city. Those who came here 25 years ago probably envisioned a land with no political auspices under which to live. As Cape Coral grew, however, so did the need for government.

In 1969 the Cape Coral Committee on Incorporation was formed. The committee studied the pros and cons of incorporation, and eventually turned in its recommendation. Incorporate, it said.

One year later, Cape Coral was a city, and had to act like a city. Its voters, more than 4,000 residents, turned out to vote for the first City Council.

The first council was, of course, comprised of the early residents of the area. Chandler Burton, Gordon Berndt, Casey Jablonski, Cleo Snead, Lyman Moore, Robert South and Fickinger gained council seats out of the 22 candidates who sought the positions. The council then unanimously appointed Fickinger to the political hot seat of mayor.

In its first few weeks of action, the City Council passed a liquor ordinance, a cigarette tax and addressed some important problems.

Gene Whatley, a resident of the city then, a councilman today, asked the council for permission to build a sailboat in his backyard.

According to a news story that appeared the day after the meeting, “Mayor Paul Fickinger, after asking if anyone had any discussion on the subject stated that he felt that it would be a severe mistake for council to approve such an action.

“We as a council are trying to make this a residential community and I cannot see making a shipbuilding yard out of a home. I ask council to deny this application,” Fickinger said.

“Councilman Cleo Snead stated that he had received many calls on this application by residents who were surprised that council would ever consider such an application.

“‘I informed them that as a council, we had to hear all requests. I too would endorse the Mayor’s decision,’ Council agreed to deny the application.”

Believe it or not there were even complaints about Del Prado Boulevard in the first few meetings. Apparently, some stop signs had been taken down on Del Prado at various intersections in order for sewer lines to be put in. When the signs weren’t replaced, the city got its first official taste of complaints.

City government has come a long way in its few years, and the complaints are quite similar to those listened to in the early days. It’s probably still hard for some of those who settled here 25 years ago to believe incorporation was needed. And, for those who came after government was already working away, it is hard to imagine a land without City Hall, and the various city leaders we know today.