In the end, it was a choice of recent experience coupled with current knowledge of the Town Charter and related documents and a need for fresh independent thinking that won out.
On Monday evening, the Fort Myers Beach Town Council appointed Local Planning Agency's Dan Andre to immediately fill the interim Council position created by the resignation of former Beach Mayor Larry Kiker. Town Attorney Marilyn Miller swore him into office directly after three of the four council members chose him.
Andre, who was one of 11 islanders who applied for the position, was selected during a Town Charter majority voting process and will thus occupy Kiker's vacated seat and fill out the remainder of his term until March 2013. He was among highly qualified community members seeking appointment, including former Mayor Dan Hughes, former Councilman Tom Babcock, current LPA Chair Joanne Shamp and current LPA member Jane Plummer, who received the other vote.
"Thank you very much," Andre simply said when asked for comment. He currently is a board member of the Friends of Matanzas Pass Preserve, a member of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, co-owner/innkeeper of Mango Street Inn and a former vice chairman of the Marine Resources Task Force
"My interest in this position is based on the direction this council has taken and my belief in the need for continuity and consistency at this level for the benefit of this island community," he wrote in his letter of intent.
Council members were impressed with the qualifications of the applicants and excited to see the interest for the position from a large contingency of Beach residents who possessed diversified backgrounds.
"You blew my mind with your resumes, character, passion and enthusiasm you each brought to the table this morning," said Councilwoman Jo List. "I wanted to vote for all of you."
"The resumes of everybody are just fantastic. I hope everybody gets involved and stays involved," said Councilman Joe Kosinski. "There are no losers her on this island. It shows the enthusiasm of 11 great people who stepped up for this."
During the Monday morning work session, nine of the 11 prospective Council candidates had the opportunity to list qualifications and offer reasons for applying for the interim position. The other two members were absent due to being out of town.
Stating their qualifications and making their cases were Babcock; Community Resources Advisory Board member Karen Haengel; Beach Arts Cooperative Treasurer Elizabeth D'Onofrio Halladay; former Family Court Magistrate Rexann Hosafros; Hughes; Plummer; Shamp; and Thomas Van Oyen, Jr., a former construction engineer. Public Safety Task Force member Bruce Butcher and Town Audit Committee member James Steele were not present.
After vacationing in Southwest Florida for years, Andre and his wife, Tree, moved to Fort Myers Beach nearly five years ago.
"It was always our dream to live on the Beach and run a bed & breakfast. We jumped into the community with the same passion and commitment that we put into the development of our business," said Andre at the work session. "I am logical, fair and open-minded. I'm always well prepared, and I do not base my decisions on emotions."
Andre, who listed fiscal responsibility, conservation and integrity as strong suits, was instrumental in MRTF's Adopt-A Beach program and placing recycling bins at beach accesses.
"We reduced the solid waste stream by over 40 percent," he said.
Come March 12, there will be a general election where the voting public will decide who will fill the same position on a regular term basis.
Andre announced he plans on running for election in March. There are hopes that many if not all the candidates for the interim position will stay on or join the Town advisory committees and apply for a permanent term on Council as well.
"I hope (you) will join some of our committees that we have and contribute to the Town one way or another, " said Raymond, who was running his first meeting as Beach mayor along with Vice Mayor Alan Mandel.
"I sincerely hope that all of you will give some thought about the election coming up in March," said List. "I would be so proud to serve with any one of you."
Council approved appointments to six Town advisory committees. Some still have vacancies.
Bob Beasley and Katherine Light have been reappointed to the Anchorage Advisory Committee, leaving two seats vacant. Becky Bodnar and Betty Simpson have been reappointed to the Bay Oaks Recreational Campus Advisory Board, while Bryan Raymond has been appointed for the only empty seat. Miffie Greer and Keri Hendry have been reappointed to the Community Resources Advisory Board, leaving one vacancy. Barbara Hill, Betty Simpson, Cherie Smith and Ceel Spuhler have been reappointed to the Cultural & Environmental Learning Center Advisory Board, while Becky Werner has been appointed for the only empty seat. Al Durrett, Joanne Shamp and Hank Zuba have been reappointed to the Local Planning Agency, while Andre's seat is now vacant.
The newly formed Public Safety Committee is in need of at least one other member due to the appointment of Bruce Butcher, Barbara Mezeske, Tom Myers and Toni Scolaro. The committee can contain up to seven members but no less than five members.
For more information, contact Town Hall at 765-0202.