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Attorney’s expertise gave rise to CRA’s ‘freedom to dream’

By Staff | Nov 21, 2009

It was just a day after the death of renowned land use attorney David Cardwell, that CRA Executive Director John Jacobsen said Cardwell’s work in the redevelopment industry gave the CRA board the opportunity to think outside the box, to explore their most ambitious ideas.
“He gave them the freedom to dream,” Jacobsen said Wednesday.
It was Cardwell’s long years of expertise, his encyclopedic mind, and a low-key approach to his work that gave Cape Coral’s Community Redevelopment Agency and CRAs around the state — the confidence to move in positive directions.
CRA Vice-chairman Don Heisler said that Cardwell would undoubtedly be missed, echoing Jacobsen’s sentiments of confidence along the way.
“When I think of David, I think of him as the grandfather of CRA activities statewide,” Heisler said. “He literally gave birth to the statutes and legislations that govern us. He helped steward us through the process … and helped to make the CRA into a successful product.”
Known as much for his love of baseball as his work in redevelopment and land use, Cardwell served as the executive director of the Grapefruit League Association.
Also an author, Cardwell wrote a book on ethics and elections, which catapulted to to become one of the state’s foremost experts on the subject.
CNN used Cardwell’s talents during the 2000 general election, when Florida was embroiled in a voting controversy surrounding the the George w. Bush / Al Gore battle.
It was his eclectic background and expertise in several fields that made Cardwell an All-Star, so to speak, on Cape Coral’s CRA team.
But it was also his humble attitude that endeared him to the board, and to CRA board across the state.
“He didn’t wear his notoriety and accomplishment on his sleeve. He did a tremendous amount of things in her life,” Heisler said. “Unless someone brought those things up, he simply spoke about the knowledge he had, and particular situation he was dealing with.”
Even though he didn’t have the chance to work with him, for new CRA liaison and District 1 Councilmember Marty McClain, the legend of David Cardwell looms large over the CRA board, which has grown in the new councilman’s eyes.
“I never had the privilege of meeting the man personally … but from the input I’m getting, he is going to be very difficult to replace,” McClain said. “They’re still going to need legal council of course, but as far as I’m concerned, the CRA board is more competent today then it was a year ago.”
Filling the immense void left by Cardwell will be CRA consultant Frank Schnidman.
Schnidman and Cardwell had worked together for more than 20 years, with Cardwell having brought Schnidman into the CRA fold to offer consultation.
He said that Cardwell truly cared for the Cape, making the drive from Orlando regularly to attend meetings and offer advice.
“He had a vision,” Schnidman said of Cardwell. “David was the one who convinced me that I should make the effort to help the Cape.”