By Noelle H. Lowery
On June 17, Marco Island City Councilor Bob Brown sent a letter to the Coastal Breeze News offices. The content of the letter: He intends to run for City Council during the November 2014 election.
Marco Islanders will remember that Brown took over the City Council seat vacated by Larry Magel on Aug. 14, 2013. Magel had 14 months remaining on his term, and during the Aug. 18 regular City Council meeting, councilors voted 4-2 in favor of Brown, who was sworn in on Sept. 3.
Since then, Brown and his fellow councilors have handled a laundry of difficult agenda items, including the 2014 city budget, utility bond refinancing and rate hikes, the search for and eventual hiring of a new city manager, the Mackle Park Community Center referendum and ballot language, the approval of the reconstruction of the Smokehouse Bay Bridge and most recently the approval of the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort’s $150 million renovation project.
In his letter, Brown wrote: “(T)he time has come to decide whether to continue the challenges presented. After much consideration, I would like to announce it is my intention to seek an elected seat on council during the November 2014 election.
“This decision to seek a full four-year term is done with the knowledge our community still seeks a number of difficult challenges ahead of us. It would be my desire to continue to bring a common sense approach to those issues, and I am hoping the residents of our wonderful city find it in their hearts to support me.”
He pledged to continue to work “to bring our residents closer together. Since cityhood, we have suffered from many growing pains and have certainly had to deal with our share of divisive issues. My involvement in city issues began with the STRP project back in 2005/2006. While never wanting to enter the political world, I soon came to the realization that if you care about the community you live in and its residents, it is imperative that you get involved.”
CBN sat down with Brown to find out more about his decision and what his vision is for Marco Island’s future.
Q: What do you think you have brought to this council that was missing or that enhances the decision-making process?
A:While I’ve only had an abbreviated time on council, I feel in general I’ve brought a new and slightly different perspective to the decision-making process. As we have seen in the past and certainly with recent decisions made by council, so many of our major issues have a tendency to divide our community. I feel that by researching and bringing all sides of an issue to the public, it helps us make what we hope is a decision that is best for the majority of Marco Island. It is important that we don’t move our personal preferences in front of what the people want, and I hope to continue that and listen to all of the people. Again my goal is to bring our community together and not drive them apart. Easy to say, but certainly a huge challenge for all of us.
Q: How has your business background impacted your decisions?
A:As someone who headed up operations in a mid-size company, it was always a challenge to get the people focused and moving in the same direction. I did manage to do that in business and had the respect of the majority of my employees. I try to use some of the same logic in making decisions with and for our residents.
Q: With the Marriott and Smokehouse Bay Bridge decisions made, what challenges now top the charts for the city?
A:We have many challenges facing us at the city over the next several years. Certainly density transfers are a hot topic; a PUD for the Island Plaza is in the works; Marriott Crystal Shores is continuing their project; continuing to address our massive utility debt; water/sewer rates; parking; and the list goes on. We have a huge job facing us, and certainly being familiar with all of these issues is very important.
Q: With regard to the referendum on the Mackle Park Community Center, what impact do you think the referendum will have on City Council’s next move on the issue?
A:Hopefully City Council will get a good feel for the pulse of the people on the island. We all recognize that Mackle Park is in disrepair and has been squeezed due to the size constraints of the existing structure, but our residents need to decide whether they want to commit to another sizable investment at the same time we are dealing with our other projects. Of course, the other side to this is if the community strongly supports the City Manager’s capital improvement plan, which would help make the decision easier.
Q: Where do you personally stand on the Mackle Park Community Center issue?
A:I am clear that the existing facility is not adequate and needs substantial funds just to make it usable. My initial reaction is that we would be throwing good money after bad by trying to update the current facility. That being said I will support the will of the people on this issue. The Parks and Recreation Committee have worked hard to educate the community as to why the new facility is needed, and hopefully, the residents will answer them with a positive vote in the referendum.
Q: How do you characterize the new development or redevelopment on Marco Island? Are you concerned this development will adversely impact the “small town, tropical island” character of Marco Island, and if not, how do you respond to those who believe it will? If you are concerned, how do you believe those adverse impacts can be mitigated?
A:I don’t really see us veering off course from the original Deltona concept. The Marriott needed an upgrade to remain competitive, and I’m sure all Marco Islanders would agree the that the Marriott is the “gem” of the community. I believe we must be sensitive to the people on the island and be sure that we hold large expansions in check. Those that have invested in Marco (both in business and personal) need to be comfortable that the community and government will help them keep their properties viable and lucrative.
Again, our biggest concern needs to be the expansion north and east of 951 because as those communities grow the obvious direction that they will head is Marco Island. That is where our real “growth” problem lies.
Q: Have you received any preliminary support from any groups on the island? If so, from whom?
A:I have received a tremendous amount of support from so many people. Many are associated with many of the groups on Marco Island, and I feel very good that folks have been so positive when pushing me to run for this position. I have not solicited nor received any direct support from any groups on the island.