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New District 6 council member gets to work

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Sep 16, 2021

Keith Long

For Keith Long, learning the ropes as the new District 6 city council member has been akin to cramming for a college exam.

He has had to absorb a large amount of information in a short period of time, with an eye on the ace.

Long, who was sworn in on Sept. 1 after longtime council member Rick Williams resigned for health reasons, has been working hard to get up to speed as quickly as possible.

And, like City Manager Rob Hernandez last year, Long has had to do it during the most important time of the year, budget season.

Long said it is the one thing he has devoted his time to during the first two weeks on the job.

“Coming into the job, there was a lot of pressure to come in and get involved with that right away. Just the enormity of the decisions we’re making, in that light I’m encouraged by the staff and fellow council members. They have been welcoming and it’s a great environment to be in,” Long said.

Long isn’t stressing but the learning curve has been a very short one since his appointments to the vacant seat.

He has had to get a deep perspective of the issues in a very short period of time.

Long has seen the meeting packets Council gets when the agenda comes out and it is a lot to digest.

“It’s mostly because you’re playing catch-up to a degree. The council and staff has been working on the budget for several months,” Long said. “There is a significant amount of crunch time that’s been put in.”

Long is a lifelong Cape Coral resident, whose father also worked for the city for 25 years, eventually becoming COO of the Water Reclamation Division.

Long went to Littleton Elementary, Diplomat Middle and North Fort Myers High schools, graduating in 2008.

Long then attended Edison Community College for two years and Florida Gulf Coast University where he earned a degree in Political Science before going to the University of Miami School of law, earning his Juris Doctorate in 2015.

Long started his own boutique law firm specializing in state and federal alcoholic beverage regulatory matters and land use pertaining to the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. He has appeared before governing bodies throughout the state.

In 2020 Long joined the Planning & Zoning Commission as an alternate, his first role in city government.

He became a Cape Coral council member on Sept. 1, beating out a dozen other applicants to be appointed to fill the remaining 14 months of Williams’ term.

As for having a job while being on council (like several other members), Long said he will be able to manage his time and give his Council job the attention it deserves, as it is essentially a fulltime job.

“I knew coming in that Council would require a lot of time and something I would have to do on the front end, so I prepared myself and my practice to be able to do that and allocate my time,” Long said.

The majority of Long’s time has been taken by the budget, and he said he hasn’t been thinking too much about anything else and probably won’t until the budget is passed at a second public hearing on Sept. 23.

Perhaps the toughest part of the job is the inability to speak with council members on learning the ropes because of Sunshine Laws that prevent government officials from conferring in private.

“The office staff has been great in regards to the procedural issues. Sunshine laws impede a lot of the way of trying to discuss any issues outside of Council. They’re there for a reason and it’s valid, but coming in and having a lot on your plate right away, you’re on your own in a regard,” Long said.

One of the top questions Council asked during the appointment process was whether the applicants planned to run in 2022, as members of Council said they didn’t just want a placeholder to warm the seat for the next year.

Long, at the time, said he planned to run again.

That hasn’t changed.

“Absolutely. That was the reason for taking the seat so I could get a head start in that direction. It was incumbent of anyone that was looking to get the seat that they have a passion to move forward in that slot and not be a placeholder,” Long said. “I hope to win that seat and continue to be an impact here.”

“It’s been quite insightful I really look forward to getting my hands dirty with the information and it’s important for the public to know how much work goes on behind the scenes,” Long said. “Every day there’s a decision that has to be made. It’s not just a Wednesday job.”