Fifty-two men and women attended the recent meeting of the Democratic Women’s Club of Marco (DWCM). The DWCM was proud to host Marco Island City Councilor Charlette Roman as the guest speaker. Roman spoke on a variety of topics, mostly what currently is before the City Council.
Councilor Roman informed the group about Marco Island’s new interim city manager, voted in at the last city council meeting. David Harden will serve as the city manager until a long-term manager is hired.
Among other public service over the years, Harden served as City Manager of Winter Park, Florida for 12 years (1977 to 1989). He also held the City Manager position in Delray Beach, Florida for 23 years. Additionally, he has won many awards for his service and management of Florida cities.
Councilor Roman talked about the role of the various parts of the City of Marco Island government. City Council is the legislative part; the Chair of the City Council runs meetings and is the ceremonial head of government; everything else is done by the City Manager who runs municipal operations.
After informing the group about the new interim city manager, Councilor Roman spoke about the new endangered species protection legislation the City Council just passed. Some species, like burrowing owl, have been up-listed from species of special concern to threatened. Fifty Marco volunteers monitor the owls and burrows. The ordinance was updated to expand the area around the nests. Ninety-nine percent of Marco’s population obey the ordinance and do not disturb the owls, gopher tortoises, and migrating birds. It is the 1% who ignore the rules. The ordinance upped the fine for those offenders. First-time offenders pay a $150 fine. A second offense costs up to $1,500 in fines. The third offense costs the perpetrator up to $2,000. Jail time was discussed but rejected by the council.
Councilor Roman also informed the group that residential holiday parking relief for the holidays was adopted by ordinance. Of special interest to DWCM is the role of women in Marco politics over the years. Councilor Roman informed the group that when Marco became a city in 1997, 41 people ran for City Council. Nine women were among the 41, but only one won. In 2002, four women ran and three won. Then from 2008 to now were, as she described, “the Dark Ages,” when there were no women on the City Council.
Roman encouraged us to support qualified women who run for the City Council, or to run ourselves. We all need to attend City Council meetings, and make our voices heard. At the last City Council meeting, 30 people showed up to support the Protected Species Ordinance. Roman believes strongly that, “Citizen participation is the cornerstone of effective government.”
Roman welcomed questions from the audience. Five members posed questions. One member asked about owls. “Are they ever friendly?” The answer was a qualified “yes.” Currently, they are being banded by a researcher. Another asked for clarification on the fines and which councilors supported jail time for third offenses.
Another question concerned the stability of our city government. Councilor Roman replied: “It is of primary importance to stabilize the government.” The average Marco City Manager’s tenure has been only 13 months. Staff turnovers sometimes are within six months! And, the Comprehensive Plan for Marco has not been updated in 10 years. The basic framework of our city government needs to be put in place.
The last question posed asked why David Harden is interim city manager and not permanent. Roman said that Mr. Harden’s experienced leadership will help stabilize the government, and he can start fixing issues. This will calm the waters and show we can govern, making it more likely that the Council will be able to attract high quality candidates for our long-term city manager. Mr. Harden’s hiring was made possible with help from the Florida City and County Management Association at no cost to the taxpayers. During the new search for a long-term city manager, council will again be using the professional expertise and guidance of FCCMA’s senior advisor, Mr. Ken Parker, as well as Mr. Harden.
Dawn Rubin urged everyone to sign up for community outreach. Each month we will be donating items for a charity. January and February will be for The Shelter for Abused Women and Children. Vail Fisher from the Shelter will be the keynote speaker February 12. Donations of single-bed sheets, towels, toiletries, toilet paper, etc. are welcomed by the shelter.
Club members then broke into small discussion groups to talk about issues that were important to address this year. Activities suggested by each breakout group included speakers and workshops on the environment and water issues, education on local and state politics, voter registration drives and involvement in community outreach projects.
Meetings in February through May will take place the second Tuesday of the month and will be held at Mackle Park Community Center, 1361 Andalusia Terrace. For more information, visit our website, www.DWCMarco.org or contact us at DWCMarco@gmail.com.