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District 1 council member appointed Cape mayor

By Staff | Nov 17, 2008

Jim Burch woke up as a Cape Coral council member Monday, but he went to sleep as mayor.

After several close votes and runoffs, Burch was selected to replace outgoing Mayor Eric Feichthaler.

Feichthaler was forced to resign in order to run for the District 1 Lee County Commission seat. He lost in the Republican primary to incumbent Bob Janes.

Although 21 people who do not serve as a council member applied for the position, only one got a vote from someone on the dais. In the first round of voting, Councilmember Eric Grill voted for planning and zoning board member Walter Fluegel, while Councilmembers Dolores Bertolini, Bill Deile and Burch each received two votes.

Bertolini, Deile and Burch each voted for themselves.

“I stated earlier I didn’t want to support anyone on this dais, but you guys are backing me in a corner,” Grill said after the first round.

Burch and Deile eventually faced each other in a runoff after a series of votes, with Burch prevailing in a 4-3 vote.

Burch was then sworn in and took Feichthaler’s old seat in the center of the dais — but that was not the end of the mayor selection process saga.

City Manager Terry Stewart received an e-mail from Feichthaler stating that he had not officially resigned.

City Attorney Dolores Menendez stated Feichthaler, who gave a speech announcing his resignation after accepting a plaque for his service before the voting began, made his intentions clear.

“Was anyone here in doubt that former Mayor Feichthaler had resigned at that time?” Menendez asked rhetorically.

For good measure, Feichthaler signed a paper retroactively resigning at 5 p.m.

Burch ‘humbled’ by appointment

Burch was a little overwhelmed at being selected as mayor, but said he will focus on the immediate future.

“It hasn’t sunk in I think. It’s very humbling,” Burch said.

He listed fixing the troubled, and currently stopped, utility expansion project as one of his top priorities.

“I don’t think (the UEP) is something that should die,” he said.

Another priority for the council is replacing Burch’s District 1 seat. The city will accept applications for the position and is likely to appoint someone by Dec. 15.

Burch said he does not think any issue will be delayed in order to wait for the position to be filled.

“I don’t know of anything in my mind that would preclude us from going forward,” he said.

Burch will serve out the remaining year of Feichthaler’s term, and said he is not thinking about whether he will run for another term as mayor.

“I work on things on a day-to-day basis when it comes to this job. I’ll make that decision when it comes down the road,” Burch said.

Donnell runs tight ship during meeting

Councilmember Derrick Donnell ran a smooth, orderly council meeting in his first meeting since being named mayor pro tem last week, despite the potential for chaos at certain points throughout the mayor selection process.

The mayor pro tem steps in for the mayor to run meetings when the current mayor is absent.

When one of the applicants, Steve Golub, began haranguing council members for what he saw as their poor performance, Donnell stopped him.

“The majority of our council has robbed and raped us,” said Golub.

Donnell not only stopped him, but also Councilmember Tim Day when he took umbrage at Golub’s rant.

“I wouldn’t hire you for a janitorial job,” Day said.

“You have been disrespectful. I appreciate your sincere comments, but I’m going to have to ask you to take a seat in chambers,” Donnell told Golub.

Feichthaler says bye

In his final words as mayor, Feichthaler stressed the need to work together to find compromise solutions to common problems.

“Bringing parties together to resolve disputes is one of the things I’ve enjoyed the most,” he said.

After his speech, a chamber full of council members, citizens and city employees gave him a standing ovation. Feichthaler said he was touched by the gesture.

“It was very emotional,” Feichthaler said after the meeting. “I hope people know that whether they agreed with me or not that I gave my heart and soul to them.”