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Applicants lining up to fill council seat

By Staff | Oct 11, 2019

Applications for the open District 5 Cape Coral City Council seat are due by today, Oct. 11, at 3 p.m., and there is already a long line of applicants throwing their hats in the ring.

After a slow beginning, the applications starting coming in this week. City Clerk Kimberly Bruns said she had received nine applications as of Thursday afternoon.

The candidates have a wide range of backgrounds and experience. Though most have little to no government experience, there are a handful who have served in important positions.

They are business owners, retirees, attorneys, a school teacher and even a pastor.

Once all the applications are in, members of the Cape Coal City Council will conduct one-on-one interviews with all the candidates.

That will be followed by a five-minute presentation by each of the candidates in Council Chambers, explaining why he or she would be the best person for the job, during the Oct. 21 regular meeting during new business.

After that will be when a decision on Stokes’ replacement will be made. The new council member will be sworn in at the end of the meeting and serve his or her first meeting the following week, which is the Committee of the Whole on Oct. 28.

“It will be a nice way to ease the new person in where they can experience a meeting before they have to cast any votes,” Mayor Joe Coviello said.

The city charter states the appointment by City Council has to be made within 30 days of the time of resignation. Otherwise, the special election would have to be held no sooner than 90 days and no later than 120 days, meaning the seat would stay open for the rest of the calendar year.

A special election would cost the city $270,000, Coviello said.

The seat became open when David Stokes suddenly resigned Sept. 23. He became the second District 5 council member to resign since 2017, when Rana Erbrick resigned to run for mayor midway through her second term.

Dan Puleio served the remaining seven weeks of her term before Stokes took over to fill the remainder of Erbrick’s term. On Monday, he expressed his interest in applying for the position again, but had not turned in an application as of press time.

The current applicants are:

* Jerry Michael Price, a retired consultant for a carmaker;

* Philip Stalnaker, a pastor who serves with the Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce;

* Jay Saxena, former public works manager for the city from 2004-11;

* Donna Law, retired, who worked in emergency management in Pennsylvania;

* Lois Welsh, owner of a local printing company;

* Alex Baker, former deputy sheriff and prosecuting attorney in the Detroit area;

* Nevin Reiss, a merchandiser for a marketing firm;

* Martha Hill, an administrative assistant for the 20th Judicial Circuit;

* Tiffany Bucher, a high school teacher at North Fort Myers High School.

Whoever gets the job will hold the position for about 13 months, when the seat comes up again for re-election, and will make a little more than $34,000 a year to do it.

Coviello said he has an idea of who he wants on the dais.

“I’m looking for someone who’s well-rounded and has participated in the community organizations we have. They should have a bachelor’s degree, though it’s not required, someone with business and financial acumen because they’ll have to go through the next budget cycle,” Coviello said, adding that he would also like to see someone interested in running for the position next year and someone who fits in with the current council.