Now that the 2014 elections qualifying period for the Fort Myers Beach Town Council has ended, there are five Beach residents who have filed the proper paperwork to announce candidacy for three open seats on the local municipality board come March.
Former Beach Mayor Anita Cereceda is among the residents who have applied -four reported candidates were interviewed for the Jan. 22 issue- and she has been given the same opportunity by answering the same questions posed to the rest of the field.
The qualifying period for Council elections ran from noon Jan. 17, 2014 to noon Jan. 24, 2014. The general election for the open seats will be held March 11, 2014, and will be conducted on a nonpartisan basis without any designation of political party affiliation.
The three seats (#3, #4 and #5) are currently occupied by Vice Mayor Joe Kosinski and Council members Bob Raymond and Jo List. Of them, only Kosinski is eligible for re-election since both Raymond and List have served the maximum two consecutive full terms. Each Council term is for three years.
Cereceda joins Council candidates (alphabetically by last name) Chuck Bodenhafer, Rexann Hosafros, Joe Kosinski and Summer Stockton.
Below is some of Cereceda's background information as well as reasons for running, platforms and answers to posed questions.
-- Cereceda The successful small businesswoman on Fort Myers Beach and native Southwest Floridian states she was elected as a council member and served as Beach Mayor for three years when the Town first incorporated in 1995. She was a member and Chairwoman of the Metropolitan Planning Organization during that time, volunteered as a member of the Local Planning Agency following her council term and was appointed by the Lee County Commission to the Charter Review Committee for Lee County in 2007. She is a current member of the Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation and The Relay for Life.
"For quite some time, whether at Publix or Topps, at church or walking the beach, someone would stop me to share their concerns about the town," Cereceda said. "Maybe it was something specific, maybe just a feeling that things weren't right, but the conversation would conclude with them saying, 'Gosh I wish you'd run.' So the 'why' to this question is a combination of the obligation and commitment I will always feel for this community, the frustration that I have shared with those with whom I have spoken, and the hope I have that my service as a council member will benefit this community."
Her platform is to "maintain the small town character of Fort Myers Beach by controlling land use and zoning, work to complete the Estero Boulevard Streetscape project and work to see the council operate in unison and gain the confidence of the people we serve."
What do you believe are the most important issues on Fort Myers Beach? Cereceda listed redevelopment, zoning and code enforcement residentially and commercially, completion of major capital improvement projects, pedestrian and bicycle safety and balancing the interests of commercial and residential issues especially in the Times Square corridor.
"I have a keen understanding of our Town's Charter, the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and the Land Development Code," she said. "What I think will serve this community most is the balanced perspective I bring to the table. Understanding the trials and successes of the Town over the last 18 years gives me a unique perspective. I once had a former Mayor of Sanibel tell me 'Pay attention to the past If you don't know where you've been, you'll never know how to get where you're going.' Good advice."
What would you do differently, if any, within your power than the current Council? "The timely example of something I would do differently is make certain that situations like elevated pools don't happen again by reigning in the process of approval of permits. I truly believe this could have been avoided had the proper course been taken and public hearings held for variance requests by the Local Planning Agency and the Town Council.
"I don't think it's prudent to point fingers or to insinuate that I, or any of us, somehow know better or have a crystal ball, but somewhere we got off track. I just offer my service with hope that we can get back on the right path."