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Welcome - and thank you
November 9, 2017

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On Nov. 20, Cape Coral residents will see five council members sworn in to serve on the city's elected board.

One, Rick Williams, is a returning member who will begin his second four-year term. Four, Joe Coviello, John Gunter, Jennifer Nelson and Dave Stokes are newcomers, each bringing a business background to the seats to which they were elected on Tuesday.

Added to the current Council makeup - council members John Carioscia, Marilyn Stout and Jessica Cosden - the returning and incoming reps will comprise a council with both serious challenges and tough decisions ahead.

We wish them well and we commend them, newcomers and tenured vets alike, for their willingness to serve.

For public service, especially here in the Cape, can be a daunting, and often thankless, task.

To the newcomers, some advice:

One, we are not among those who demand "full-time council members" for compensation that is part-time - as it should be.

Bring the same dedication to reviewing the issues each of you demonstrated during this storm-impacted election cycle and carve out time to listen to input from supporters and critics alike and you will have a foundation for serving our city well.

Two, for those of you already committed to "full time" service, thank you; we will not criticize either the choice or the dedication.

We will, however, re-offer one favorite cautionary to all: Resist the temptation to become enmeshed in the city's "corporate culture." Incoming Council members with business backgrounds no doubt know exactly what we mean. Still, let us stress this because we firmly believe it is a trap that, while easy to see, it's also oh-so-easy to fall into anyway.

A council member's role is not that of administrative supporter or staff advocate. Those who work for the city have, in fact, appropriately adequate advocacy. That includes the unions to which they pay dues, their supervisory personnel, the city's own employment policies and practices and, if all that fails, the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission.

City Council is not part of that process, at least not in the "team family" sense.

According to the city's own organizational chart "the people" are at the top of its structural hierarchy. Below that is the mayor and the other seven members of the Cape Coral City Council, followed by the top tiers of the city administration, including the city attorney, the city auditor, the city manager, and the various appointed advisory boards. Next are all of the city departments, which report directly to the city manager. Continuing to work back up, the manger reports to Council and Council reports and is answerable to "the people" - the stakeholders who elected them, the stakeholders who work or have businesses here, the stakeholders who own property in the Cape.

Put another way, City Council is a board of directors that reports and is responsible to the stock holders in the multi-million dollar "business" they oversee in terms of policies, planning, expenditures and revenue decisions.

That means hard questions, strict scrutiny and measured decisions to benefit our entire community - not because "there are problems with staff," or because staff recommendations are to be doubted, but because that is Council's job.

Council's only job.

To those who have served and are leaving the elected board, our thanks - our thanks to Mayor Marni Sawicki and Councilmemember Jim Burch, who opted not to seek re-election; our thanks to Councilmember Rana Erbrick, who thought she could better serve our community by resigning her seat and running for mayor; and our thanks to Councilmember Richard Leon, who was not successful in his bid to secure a second term. We thank as well Dan Puleio, appointed to represent District 5 in the weeks since Ms. Erbrick resigned to run.

Our welcome again to the new board.

May your tenure be as successful as your campaigns, may your service for the next two-to-four years be as happy for you as hearing the election results come in Tuesday night, and may our community come together in support of the voter mandate you received.

- Breeze editorial

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