In an election that inspired 57.7% of registered Island voters to participate, council newcomer Tracey Gore and former council member Dennis Boback won seats on the Fort Myers Beach Town Council Tuesday.
Gore won her seat with 1,318 votes or 27% of the vote, while Boback won with 858 votes or 17.6%. Other candidates totals: Jack Green – 790 votes (16.2%); Dan Andre (incumbent) – 650 votes (13.4%); Suzanne Katt – 606 votes (12.5%); Bruce Butcher – 594 votes (12.2%) and Ber Stevenson – 51 votes (1%).
The two new council members will be sworn into office at the next Town Council meeting, March 21st at 6:30pm in Council Chambers at Town Hall, 2525 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach.
More voters in all three Fort Myers Beach precincts chose to vote early or by mail than chose to appear at the voting booth on Election Day. On Tuesday, 1314 voters went to the polls, while 1413 mailed in their ballot and 171 voted early. The overall turnout was well ahead of any recent election in Fort Myers Beach history.
Most voters weighed in on the 21 Charter Referendum questions also, though the number of votes dropped off on the last 5-10 questions. 2700 voters weighed in on #1 while only 2530 weighted in on #21.
Eighteen of the changes to the Town Charter were approved while three were not. Failing were the question of lowering the required percentage of signatures for a resident initiative from 25% to 15%; changing council member terms from three to four years and eliminating term limits.
Gaining approval was the removal of the restriction on the Town’s ability to take on debt lasting longer than three years, though it was fairly close with just a 101 vote difference between yes and no.
Voters approved the requirement that council needs 3 affirmative votes to take any official action, established when the mayor and vice-mayor will be selected and set council members salaries and a method to adjust those in the future.
Over 92% of voters approved the parameters of meeting attendance and residency for council members. Council members will be subject to recall if they interfere with Town Staff as approved by 78.5% of voters in Referendum #12.
Voters approved a change from 24-hour notice to “reasonable” notice for all meetings, though it was the closest vote on the ballot with just 35 votes making the difference between passage and failure.
Another close vote was the question on removing the referendum requirement for road and bridge tolls. Even though the Town does not own any toll-able bridges or roads, 1258 voters chose to reject this change, just 57 less than the 1315 that voted to approve it.
The mood was bittersweet at the home of Dan and Tree Andre on Tuesday night, where a number of friends and supporters had gathered to watch the results come in once the polls closed at 7pm.
“Well, it was a good run and I want to thank everyone for letting me serve as long as I did,” Andre said. “I’m proud of the things I worked on, especially working with the Marine Resources Task Force. I’d like to think I made an impact – especially concerning the preservation of our natural resources.”
Tracey Gore told us that she is excited about working for the Town and thanked everyone who turned out to vote for her.
“I am looking forward to getting the community back to where they feel like they can trust the town again,” she said. “I also want to get all committees going and the members to feel like they’re appreciated – our town runs on volunteers. And I want to look into what’s happening at Bay Oaks. There are so many rumors – some of them pretty bad – and I want to make sure that facility keeps going as it is so important to this town.”
Dennis Boback thanked everyone who voted – whether they voted for him or not – and all the people who worked so hard on his campaign.
“There’s so much to work on!” he said. “But I’d have to say the biggest thing is stormwater – look at the size of the town and find a way to streamline it to save people money. I also think we need to take a good hard look at the way the town operates. As far as the new development (Grand Resorts) people keep asking me about that but there’s nothing to say because we haven’t seen an application yet.”
The Council seats held by Anita Cereceda, Rexann Hosafros and Summer Stockton will be up for election in March 2017. Seats on the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District, Fort Myers Beach Library and Fort Myers Beach Mosquito Control District will be on the November 2016 ballot.