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Mayor proposes plan to select successor

By Staff | Sep 6, 2008

Cape Coral Mayor Eric Feichthaler may have had to resign his position to run for county commission, but he likely will have a say in naming his successor.

Feichthaler narrowly lost to incumbent Bob Janes in his bid for the County Commission District 1 seat during the Aug. 26 Republican primary.

In a memo to city councilmembers this week, Feichthaler stated that while he would prefer to hold a special election to replace him, he would favor a process involving “significant public input and participation” should councilmembers opt to appoint the new mayor. Whoever fills the position would only be guaranteed one year on the job because Feichthaler’s term expires in November 2009.

Whether Feichthaler is allowed to vote on his replacement, however, is open to interpretation. A memo from Assistant City Attorney Marilyn Miller to councilmembers dated July 7, states “there is no clear answer to the question of whether he is permitted to vote for his replacement.” The memo also says there is no Florida case dealing with this issue, and Feichthaler’s involvement in the replacement process would only become problematic if a court decided he was not a “remaining member” of the Council, and his vote made a difference in the outcome.

The memo points out that County Commissioner Tammy Hall voted on her replacement when leaving the Fort Myers City Council.

Councilmember Tim Day said he doesn’t think Feichthaler’s involvement will be an issue.

“I don’t see a problem with it. If the City Attorney doesn’t have a problem with it, I don’t have a problem with it,” he said.

Under Feichthaler’s plan, those with aspirations for the mayoral seat would fill out a standard application form, but also submit a written statement of 1,000 words or less explaining why they want to be mayor, outlining their qualifications, and stating whether they intend to run for a full term as mayor in November 2009.

Day said he supports the proposal.

“A lot of it seemed like it was common sense,” Day said. “It gives a chance for the person to express themselves,” he said of the requirement of a written statement.

Under Feichthaler’s plan, applications and statements would be due by Oct. 14, and the Council would review them on Oct. 20, selecting five finalists to be interviewed at a public hearing Nov. 3. Feichthaler would then hand the gavel over to the Council’s choice after opening the Nov. 17 meeting.

“The timeline is good because we’ll have a seamless transition,” Day said.

Councilmember Dolores Bertolini, however, said the mayor’s proposal may be moot if the Council decides to appoint someone from the dais as Feichthaler’s successor.

“The first thing we have to do is decide which method we are going to use, if we’re going to nominate one of the Council,” Bertolini said. She added that she prefers to see one of the current councilmembers named as mayor.

“Should it be someone that would have a little continuity? Yes. It would be very, very difficult for somebody to come in with this learning curve,” Bertolini said.

The Council will discuss the process of replacing Feichthaler during its Sept. 22 meeting.

Regardless of the selection process, the new mayor faces a challenging year ahead. Although this year’s budget was difficult to create after taxable property values dropped 26 percent from last year, many have said next year will be even more challenging as foreclosures increase and home values continue to plummet.