Allers, Atterholt & Veach
Periodically, The Island Sand Paper asks a community leader “6 Questions.” This edition features Council members-elect Dan Allers, Jim Atterholt and Bill Veach, who were elected to the three council seats on the March 17 ballot out of seven candidates and take office on Monday, April 6.
Q1: Why did you seek a Town Council seat – was it an overarching feeling or was there one moment or issue that made you say, “I am going for it!”?
Allers: Actually, a couple of people approached me a few years ago about running because up to then, I had never really thought about it! I moved here in 2012 and they got to know me over those years and thought I had a solid background for Council because I really got involved with the community and they knew I listen well and relate to a lot of people. I was soon on the Bay Oaks Recreational Center Advisory Board (BORCAB) to get my feet wet and enjoyed that, then moved up to the Local Planning Agency (LPA).
Of course, I ran for Council last year and felt I had an excellent chance to win one of those two seats, but finished about 100 or so votes shy of Vice Mayor Ray Murphy and Council member Rexann Hosafros, so initially I was unsure about another run for this year. I took a few months away from it, married my wife Megan last June, and took solace in the fact that both Ray and Rexann were previously on Council, so perhaps people already felt comfortable with them, so I decided to run again this year.
Atterholt: My wife and I are blessed to live on the beach and we got to experience the 2018 Red Tide and Blue-Green Algae disasters first-hand and we saw how those set this island back, not only environmentally but economically, and because I have a great deal of experience working in State and Federal governments, I felt I could help keep the pressure up on those governments to find long-term solutions to our water issues. They are doing a pretty good job with water now, but once this election year is over, we need to keep the pressure up to fund creative solutions and I plan to do just that.
Veach: I was on the fence about running, but am passionate about water quality and our community needs all the strong voices for clean water we can have, so that was the overarching issue in my decision.
Q2: When you were campaigning, what issue or issues did you hear about most and did ANYONE ask you about the coronavirus?
Allers: I will answer the second part first – not one single person spoke to me about the coronavirus! On the campaign trial, it depended on what part of the island I was on. At the northern end and overall, the #1 question was what could I do to help speed up the Margaritaville FMB project. At the south end, it was that as well, but #1 was a tie between Estero Boulevard streetlights and construction, and the Beach Dune Walkover.
Atterholt: My wife Brenda and I knocked on a lot of doors and what we found was an incredible sense of optimism in our community! We will basically have a brand new main road running the length of our island, with a renovated Times Square, and people are really excited about Margaritaville FMB, with a new traffic design at the north end and new bridge coming to the south end and exciting prospects for mid-island, so what they want out of Council is to stay focused and manage those projects successfully to maintain that optimism, so they want us to stick to our knitting to get those jobs done.
As for coronavirus, it really did not peak into the public consciousness until the last week before the election and because of that, we cancelled the door-to-door aspect of our campaign, so it did not really come up. I am happy Lee County and Florida did not postpone our election, as with our current developments, who knows when we would be able to hold it.
Veach: No one asked me about the coronavirus, but once it started to break in the headlines, we stopped canvasing and I did not have volunteers at poling locations out of an abundance of caution. What was far and away #1 was water and it was just that simple. Returning to coronavirus, my wife Randa is a nurse, so we were watching it for some time before most people, and it is interesting that places like Singapore and Korea that dealt with large SARS outbreaks were really well-prepared, while SARS hardly affected the United States, so maybe that is why the USA was so late to the game. It will get uglier before it gets better and we need to speed up testing.
Q3: What about your campaign resonated with the voters?
Allers: I spent most of the past two years campaigning for Council, so that allowed people plenty of time to get to meet and know and understand me and what I am all about, and they chose to believe all of those positives rather than reading the negatives some anonymous groups sent to their mailboxes. We have a lot of great people on this island, but many do not feel comfortable putting themselves out there and speaking in public, so if I can be their voice, I am happy to do that!
Atterholt: We stuck to the issues and kept everything positive and I am really proud that Fort Myers Beach voters rejected the negative elements and attacks that showed up in their mailboxes. Our citizens did not choose to reward that negative path and focused on the issues and I find that very encouraging!
Veach: I think it was my position as a person who not only has a long history with working with people in this community, but also my reputation as someone who fights for the environment that resonated with the voters. There was my work with the Marine Resources Task Force, I wrote a newspaper article on environmental issues for a long time, and spoke often and forcefully before Town Council on many occasions, and all those reinforced that image of me to the community.
Q4: What attributes do you hope to bring to Council and what do you want to say to the FMB community, to those who voted for you and maybe more importantly to those who did not?
Allers: My #1 thing about being on Council is the ability to compromise and understand that no one ever gets everything they want. As long as we make our decisions in open forums, in the right way, with civil debate and communication between Council members and our constituents, we can come up with decisions that most people can live with, as it is impossible to please everyone all the time. To those who voted for me, Thank You for taking the time to listen to me and ask questions, to get to know me rather than the things someone shoved into your mailbox about me. To those who did not, I will work just as hard for you every day to earn your trust, so we can all move forward together in the same direction.
Atterholt: I plan to work for everyone and I am happy to be your voice and speak for you, as well as being available to listen to your concerns. I am relatively new to the island and as a result am not part of any one faction and that is a good thing, as it will hopefully allow me to bring more people together for the greater good of our community. I believe in servant-leadership and that I work for you and not the other way around, and that our citizens loan me the power to take care of the people of Fort Myers Beach.
Veach: I am very proactive in a creative way, to solve problems and think outside the box and that will be important once we seat the new Council. There are many simple solutions out there that are outside the mainstream and we must be open to those. I urge people to reach out to me once I have my Town email with their questions and concerns. A democracy works great, especially in small communities like ours, but remember that democracy is all about having your say but not always getting your way!
Q5: It is hard to imagine any previous Council members in the Town’s nearly 24-year history coming into office at a more trying time. Your thoughts on that?
Allers: This is what we signed up for! Council is never an easy job and you need to know right up front that it requires making tough decisions, and if you don’t believe me, look what our current Council has had to do over the past two weeks. I believe the current Council is doing an amazing job, and the incoming Council will follow their lead in doing what is for the absolute best for Fort Myers Beach, no matter how difficult, and that is true whether you are here as a resident or visitor. I believe that Jim, Bill and I are all looking forward to getting to work on April 6!
Atterholt: One of the first actions the new Council will do is elect a Mayor and Vice Mayor, and I expect them to be leaders in more than just titles. Fortunately, we have two excellent and skilled incumbents who I expect will assume those roles, and my two new colleagues and myself will encourage and support them to move this Town forward through these now challenging times. We will not always agree but for this Town to be effective, we must work together to pursue that purpose.
Veach: This is a very difficult time and one of the first decisions this new Council will need to do is how to reopen the local economy, because if we are the first community to do that, we will get slammed again with people desperate to return to the beach, so how do we reopen everything to ensure a healthy environment with a sense of normalcy and help all of our citizens and businesses pick up the pace in an orderly manner. An example is metered parking and how we reopen those. Perhaps we do that just for restaurant meal pickups first, with signs along Estero Boulevard that includes restaurant telephone numbers so people can call them to place their orders. We will need new and creative ways to function in this new paradigm.
Q6: Let’s end on a personal note – how did you meet your wife and was it love at first sight!
Allers: I met Megan at the Shamrock Irish Pub and if it was love at first sight, that depends on who you ask, but I still remember exactly what she wore and what she ordered and how her hair looked and immediately thinking, “I want to get to know her!” She, however, may call that “Hogwash!” That is where we met, our first date was at The Whale listening to “Soapy Tuna” and we married last June!
Atterholt: Brenda is my high school buddy’s younger sister. I was already attending the University of Wisconsin when she decided to go there as well, so when she got to Madison, I offered to help her register and the rest is history! I invited her to one of our fraternity parties so that was probably the moment of love at first sight for me, as it was all good. We started dating that first week and stayed together forever since then. We dated for the next four years and have been married for 32!
Veach: Oh, Boy! The short version is I was hitchhiking across Australia after I was in New Zealand to return home. Several of us were all in a youth hostel in Townsville on our way to Great Keppel Island, while Randa was with a friend who was another nurse, and she was leaving to go study at Cairns and was out of money, so she was looking for a hitchhiking partner. There were two of us going, me and another guy named Richard, and she couldn’t make up her mind because I was the fun one while he practical, so she tossed a coin and I won. For the record, I never saw the coin!