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Cape Council expected to fill District 1 vacancy Wednesday

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Feb 16, 2021

Cape Coral City Council is expected to fill the District 1 vacancy Wednesday,choosing from among the 11 residents who applied for the seat.

The position opened following the death of Mayor Joe Coviello and the appointment of now-former District 1 council member John Gunter, which pushed the vacancy to the District 1 seat.

Council will hear a three-minute opening statement from each applicant, followed by a question by those on the dais, with two minutes for each candidate to respond.

Once completed, Council will decide on who they would like to see in the chair and will poll each council member until a majority is reached. The appointee will be sworn in immediately and be appointed as liaison to city boards and committees. He or she will serve for approximately 20 months, the term remaining for the District 1 vacancy.

The appointment must take place Wednesday because, if Council fails to appoint within a 30-day window, a special election must be held to fill the vacancy.

Cost estimates for a special election, with a primary and a run-off, have come in at $500,000.

District 1 residents seeking the appointment to represent the district in which they live are:

* Carol Rae Culliton: President and chairperson of the Gunterberg Charitable Foundation and president of the Brotherhood of Heroes Museum.

* Barry Elswick: A real estate agent who has worked as a lobbyist, consultant and business recruiter in the oil refining industry in numerous states.

* David F. Kalish: Served part-time as a police officer for 32 years and 29 years for a utility company in New Jersey.

* Edward Keller: A retired CEO and general manager of a high-end furniture store before retirement; involved in the big box furniture and department store industry for more than 45 years.

* Iris Landefeld: Life coach and consultant with her own company, has served as president of the Gulf Coast Symphony Board of Directors since 2011 and chaired Taste of the Cape since 2014.

* Steven J. Larsen: Has taught and has been an athletic director in the Lee County School District since 1992.

* Graham Madison Morris: A consultant and musician, Morris has run for the District 1 seat twice and served on local boards such as Planning & Zoning and the Charter Review Commission.

* Sean M. Russ: A firefighter and paramedic for the Pine Island Fire Department since 2007. Currently works for Priority Business Solutions.

* Thomas Wayne Shadrach: Worked for Boeing in management for 36 years. Owner of Rachman Industries.

* Gloria J. Tate: Realtor, business woman; served as council person from 1996-2005, 2009-10; one of the original residents of Cape Coral.

* Charles Gery Treichler: Retired principal who has served on the city’s charter review board and the Lee County Board of Elections.

Biographical information is as provided by the applicants.

A 12th applicant, Alexander Tiahnybok, has withdrawn his application.

For members of the city council, it likely will be a difficult decision, though some have an idea of what they want to see in the candidates.

“I want someone who is knowledgeable of what’s going on. They don’t need past experience but followed council meetings and knows where we’re heading,” Councilmember Dan Sheppard said. “I have three people who I thought would be in good position. But I don’t think anyone can guess who it’s going to be.”

“I have a top four I’m interested to talk to the Council about. I hope when we get to discuss it that they’re on the same page with me,” said Councilmember Robert Welsh. “There were a few who have experience and who would fit well with us.”

Both said they have opened their doors to all the candidates who wanted to speak with them. Most applicants took them up on their offer, they said.

The Council vacancy won’t be the only appointment to happen at Wednesday’s meeting. Council also is expected to appoint a chair and vice chair for the Community Redevelopment Agency, fill a vacancy for the Health Facilities Authority and four vacancies (two members and two alternates) in the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Chairperson Stacy Lomonaco resigned from the CRA Board, necessitating council to appoint a chair and vice-chair for the rest of the 2021 term. The CRA board recommended Linda Biondi become the chair and Janis Keim as vice chair.

For P&Z, six have applied for the four positions. Anthony Bennie and Jeffrey Slapper are seeking re-appointment, while Williams Gilbert and Keith Long are current alternates. Newcomers James Humphrey and Barbara Safranek have also applied.

At their Feb. 3 meeting, the P&Z Commission voted 7-0 to recommend re-appointment of Bennie and Slapper as regular members. They also recommended reappointment of Gilbert and Long as alternates.

Council will meet at 4:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1015 Cultural Park Blvd. Meetings are open to the public.