‘Thanks for the opportunity to serve’
Cape Coral Mayor Eric Feichthaler’s tenure as mayor will come to a premature end Monday, but he says he doesn’t regret his decision to run for the District 1 seat on the Lee Board of County Commissioners that forced him to resign a year before his term was to conclude.
“Although I regret losing, I don’t regret running,” Feichthaler said. He was edged out in the Republican primary by incumbent Bob Janes.
Feichthaler was forced to resign as part of Florida’s resign-to-run law that requires those holding public office to resign their current post if they want to run for a different office.
His belief that there is a lack of representation for Cape Coral was at the heart of his decision to run.
“I feel we have very little say in Lee County. Very few county commissioners would even take my phone call,” Feichthaler said.
Feichthaler will open up the council meeting Monday, hand out awards to city retiring city employees, then hand the gavel over to the newly appointed Mayor pro tem, Councilmember Derrick Donnell. Council members then will select his replacement.
On his way out, Feichthaler looked back with fondness on his time in office, calling it “the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done in my life,” and pointed to the increase in police and fire protection and his support of charter schools as significant accomplishments.
“The charter schools, I took a stand three years ago when they were on the brink of financial collapse. Today they’re a financial and educational success,” Feichthaler said.
He knows some work, however, has been left undone, and rued some of the missed opportunities the Council could have taken advantage of had he only had more support.
“Getting the president of the Cleveland Indians down here to try and broker a deal (to bring them to Cape Coral), and to have a staff and a council that was completely unsupportive because six or seven people didn’t want to do it because of traffic,” Feichthaler said.
The stalled utilities expansion project is another area where Feichthaler said council members need to work together, not against each other, for the good of the city.
A plan to bring potable water, irrigation, and sewer utilities to the Southwest 6/7 area has started, stopped, started, and stopped again this year. Many residents in 6/7 have spoken out against it because of the average $17,000 in assessments and fees that would come with the project.
While some councilmembers want the project to go ahead no matter how much it costs, some don’t want it no matter how little it costs, Feichthaler said. He thinks the council should find a middle road.
“I know we can do this for less,” said Feichthaler, who has consistently called for a $1,500 reduction in assessments and fees for 6/7 homeowners.
Feichthaler also is chagrined that the vote on his replacement is in the hands of the council, not the people of Cape Coral.
Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington refused to put the issue on the general election ballot.
“(Harrington) has known about this for over a year. I said in June of ’07, ‘I’m going to be leaving,'” Feichthaler said.
Because of the recount in Florida after the 2000 election, Harrington is wary of putting local issues on ballots in even-numbered years, Feichthaler said.
“She doesn’t want to put any city issue on any national ballot,” he said.
In the short-term, Feichthaler will return to practicing law and finishing his training to become a certified mediator. He also will serve on the boards of two nonprofit organizations, and, of course, spend more time with his family.
Feichthaler’s long-term plans include a return to public life, although at what level of government and under what circumstances is still unknown.
“There’s at least two more years before another election,” he said.