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Council to fill District 4 seat on Wednesday

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Dec 7, 2023

Cape Coral City Council on Wednesday is expected to fill the District 4 seat left vacant after Patty Cummings was suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The elected board will make its appointment from a pool of 13 District 4 residents who put their name in an applicant pool after Council opted not to hold a special election due to the shortness of the interim appointment and the cost of an election.

Those vying for council appointment include Richard Carr, Theresa Frosoni, Eduardo Jimenez, Robert Luby, William Matthews, Jennifer Nelson, Robert “Bob” O’Connor, David Orlowski, Anthony Rainone, Jesus Rodriguez, Karen Solgard, Robert Sutter and Blair Veloz.

Because there are three years remaining in Cummings’ term, the appointment of an interim District 4 rep will be effective until Cummings is reinstated by the governor or through the General Election in November 2024.

DeSantis suspended Cummings following her arrest on three felony counts alleging she falsified her residency within District 4 when she qualified to run for the seat and was subsequently sworn into office. Cummings has been charged with fraudulent application for driver license and two counts of false swearing in connection with or arising out of voting or elections, allegations she has steadfastly denied.

The deadline to apply closed last Friday at 5 p.m. Council began interviewing those hoping to fill the seat this week, with additional questions to be asked during the elected board’s Dec. 13 meeting.

Applicants will enter council chambers one at a time where they will be allotted 3 minutes to address Council and then will answer a question of council’s choosing. To best assure fairness, applicant cell phones will be collected prior to the meeting as the same question will be presented to each.

At the request of The Breeze, the applicants provided some background.

As provided by the applicant:

Richard Carr

Carr is a 30-year resident of Cape Coral, who is currently a Realtor for Palm Paradise Real Estate. He also has worked for the School District of Lee County as a director for the professional standards department, City of Cape Coral division manager who oversaw code compliance, City of Naples Police Department assistant chief and City of Fort Myers Police Department captain.

“Utilizing my thorough familiarity with the city and background, I am confident in my immediate ability to effectively represent district 4. Upon securing the council’s confidence and support for the appointment, my goal is to hit the ground running and collaborate seamlessly with the council moving forward,” Carr said.

Theresa Frosoni

Frosoni, who has lived in the district for 11 years, is retired after more than 30 years in IT management.

“I served as a councilwoman and council president in NJ for 9 years and believe my background would have me up and running immediately,” she said. “I also have experience in law enforcement and real estate. I am concerned for my city, especially the rapid growth. I am also concerned about election integrity and how many residents feel duped.”

Eduardo Jimenez

Jimenez, a Cuban-American, who moved from Cuba to Miami, settled in Cape Coral in 2006. He worked for the county and owned a trucking business through the financial crisis of 2008. In 2018, he opened his company, Stone Design, to create a promising life for his family now and future generations.

“Coming from a large city, we felt this was going to be a safe place to raise our three sons , ages 9, 2, and 1. The change was not easy,” he said.

Now, as a long-time resident of Cape Coral, he is proud to help the growth of the city.

“Not just projects and solutions, but also to bridge the gap between our growing Latino community and the beautiful city we worked so hard to build a life in,” Jimenez said.

Robert Luby

(A response was not received by press time. It will be added to the online version of this story when received.)

William Matthews

Matthews became a full-time resident of District 4 in 2020 after being a part-time resident of Cape Coral for approximately two decades. He is a finance and accounting director and business owner with experience in real estate, legal, business development and nonprofit work.

“I am driven by a deep commitment to serve and improve the community our family call home,” he said. “As a city council member I will actively contribute to positive collaboration, both with colleagues and members of our community. Those who know me will tell you that I am an active listener, which is one of the most important traits a public servant must have.”

Matthews said he is resilient and continues forward until the job is done.

“District 4 needs a voice that advocates for effective policies and works toward initiatives that enhance the quality of life for everyone,” he said. “Government transparency is the only way forward. We must encourage civic engagement and strive for sustainable development to create a thriving, inclusive and forward-thinking city for current and future generations. That’s the environment I would like to work for in the benefit of my children and all others who also call Cape Coral home.”

If appointed, Matthews said he will approach both the needs and challenges of District 4, as well as the city as a whole with recognition of the immense fiscal responsibility.

“I believe in smart and careful growth and will utilize my financial capabilities to advocate for this every single day that I am in office. I am also a very calm and well-balanced thinker. I understand that this council must work in unison to develop the right approach; not one of us holds all the answers alone,” he said.

Jennifer Nelson

Nelson is the immediate former council member for District 4. She narrowly lost to Cummings in a runoff for the seat last year.

She has a background in not-for-profit management and is a consultant. She has lived in District 4 for 10 years.

Nelson said her “servant leader heart, knowledge, expertise, positive attitude and consistency would be brought to the seat if appointed.”

“I love this city. A city that has been good to me and my family,” she said via email. “After much thought and consideration, I submitted my application. The amount of residents, groups, and colleagues who reached out asking me to submit was touching. I was the only lawful candidate in my race and election integrity is a very important issue facing our city. Many residents have lost trust in our city elections and leaders. My hope would be to help restore their faith. I will be able to jump in and be up to speed quickly should council decide that is important to them. If council decides to go in a different direction, that’s ok too. I’m still going to live my best life in our beautiful city.

“It is truly humbling to have received so many expressions of support and encouragement from many who believe in me,” Nelson said. “I hope to help restore the trust and faith many residents have lost in our city’s elections and leaders. Should council vote to appoint me, my dedication to transparency and accountability along with my skills, passion and commitment will make a positive impact to the City of Cape Coral and our community.”

She also cited experience.

“My knowledge, passion and skills would be an asset to assist mayor and council stay on track and keep moving forward,” she said.

Robert “Bob” O’Connor

O’Connor moved to Cape Coral 49 years ago with the last nine years residing in District 4.

A retired FedEx Corporation employee, he is currently a commercial real estate advisor who has served on city advisory boards.

“Circumstances dictate for this position to be filled. I feel my experience of 5 years on the Cape Coral Planning and Zoning Commission and 1 year on the Cape Coral Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, have given me an insight into the city’s governance, though I am aware there is a lot more to being on city council,” O’Connor said.

If selected to fill the vacancy, he said he will bring representation to the people in District 4 and a willingness to work with council and the mayor in doing what is best for Cape Coral.

“Having lived in Cape Coral for almost 50 years, I have obviously seen tremendous growth and change. I would be honored to serve in a place I call home,” O’Connor said.

David Orlowski

Orlowski, who has been a permanent resident of District 4 since 2007, has had the majority of his career experience in finance, infrastructure, operations, development and human resources.

“The reason I am running for the vacant seat is because I love our city and believe I can add my business leadership experience and recommendations to improve infrastructure, development, operations, finance, as well as human resources,” he said.

As a business consultant, Orlowski said his job has been to help companies that are struggling with growth. That help fell upon streamlining their approach, cutting away excess red tape and improving processes for employees across different lines of business. He said he also worked with other leaders to implement new policies and procedures while ensuring they met all necessary compliance standards on state and federal levels from mid-size to Fortune 500 companies.

“Over the past 20 years I have also been a business partner in the transportation business in the area and have had experience working with leaders in the past making recommendations. Some of these recommendations over time has been implemented making a positive impact,” Orlowski said.

Anthony Rainone

Rainone said he has lived in District 4 for two years after moving from Los Angeles when their son was 3 months old.

“The homeless situation there had gotten too out of hand, and we were sick of having to evacuate because of encampment fires behind our house,” he said.

Rainone is a government and economics teacher, which turned into a stay-at-home dad when his now 2-year-old son became very ill and he left his job to care for him.

“I just want to make sure that my son has a good place to grow up and that the bad policies that caused us to flee California don’t show up here,” he said of why he wants to be considered for the vacant seat. “I’ve also never held a government office before, and I’ve taught government for so long that I figured I might as well see how it is in person.”

Rainone currently is a doctoral candidate with a focus on administration.

“So, I have spent a lot of time working on ways to involve stakeholders in the decision-making process. I think that is something that I can bring to the seat — being an open ear,” he said. “I love it here and I think this is the perfect place to raise a family.”

Jesus Rodriguez

Rodriguez has lived in District 4 since 2008, more than 20 years in Cape Coral. He is an Internal Operations Coordinator and Service Processor Coordinator with CliftonLarsonAllen LLP and is bilingual in Spanish and English.

“I have always been passionate about serving my community and making a positive impact on the lives of its residents. This council seat provides a unique opportunity for me to contribute my skills, experiences, and ideas towards the betterment of our town. I firmly believe that by actively participating in local governance, I can help shape policies that address the needs and concerns of our community members,” Rodriguez said. “Being considered for this council seat would allow me to work collaboratively with other council members, advocating for initiatives that promote sustainable development, enhance public services, and foster a sense of unity among our residents.”

In addition to currently pursuing a degree in business management, he said he has a wealth of experience and expertise that will benefit Cape Coral.

“I have a deep understanding of the challenges our city faces in terms of infrastructure, transportation, and environmental sustainability. My experience working with various stakeholders, including community groups and local businesses, has honed my ability to find practical and inclusive solutions to complex issues. By leveraging my expertise, I am confident that I can make informed decisions that will positively impact our city’s growth and quality of life,” Rodriguez said.

Karen Solgard

Solgard, who moved to Cape Coral in 2011, built their home in District 4 in 2016. She said she will bring three unique perspectives, if appointed.

“On a personal level, we have an adult son with Down Syndrome and autism. He attends the park program at Special Populations and loves it,” she said. “He went to school in the Cape Coral schools and benefited from the caring teachers, aids, and bus drivers. On a recreational level, I kayak the 8 miles in this section — weir to weir — of the freshwater canal system and have cleaned up canals for over a year after Hurricane Ian. I go for walks and bike rides in the neighborhood so know the district intimately.”

In addition, Solgard said she is loan officer and knows what kind income it now takes to purchase a home in Cape Coral.

“I have taught first-time homebuyer classes and guide people through the loan approval process,” she said.

If the Council selects her to fill the District 4 seat, Solgard said she will listen to the people’s concerns and take a problem-solving approach to the balance between budgets and long-range vision.

“When I first moved here, I attended Cape Academy, served on a Lee County board, and took the Florida Friendly Landscaping class. In Minneapolis where I had lived for 30 years, I had served on the neighborhood group and task forces dealing with transportation and housing. I can bring that history to the City Council,” she said.

Robert Sutter

Sutter decided to purchase a home and move into District 4 permanently in 2020 after visiting friends in Cape Coral for several years.

“As a retired Army officer, I believe, it is my duty to make my community a better place to live and what better way than to serve on Cape Coral City Council,” Sutter said. “I believe that the City Council has done a good job over the past few years, and I want to ‘raise the bar’ of excellence.”

If appointed, he said he will bring more than 35 years of management experience to the table.

“I have sound decision-making skills, a firm understanding of fiscal responsibility, and personal/public accountability,” Sutter said. “Understanding the need for change/growth in any community, my questions will always be ‘What is the return on investment and how does this decision better our community.'”

As a disabled veteran, he said he appreciates what Cape Coral has to offer and, if appointed, it would give him the opportunity to make it a better place to live.

Blair Veloz

Veloz, who has lived in Cape Coral 25 years, five of them in District 4, is a mediator, conflict and communication coach and adjunct professor.

“I love my hometown and I want to give back to the community and serve to unite us, bringing us back to loving our neighbors and helping to provide us the things we need for sustainable growth and prosperity,” she said.

If appointed, Veloz said she will bring her diverse background in working with the public in for-profit and not-profit organizations throughout Southwest Florida.

“I know what my neighbors, colleagues, and fellow entrepreneurs need to help us grow well. The future is coming, so focusing on what can be done for a better tomorrow,” she said. “As a lover of people, I understand conflicting ideas and have a passion for uniting others — even in the most difficult situations. Cape Coral is a beautiful melting pot of natives, locals, snowbirds and now newcomers–all with so many ideas of how the city should look and become. We as a council and as a community need to streamline a way to grow with everyone in mind. Most people run from conflict, but my training and passion makes me run toward it.”