In 1997 islanders made the choice to control their own destiny from this side of the bridge and incorporated as the City of Marco Island. While the majority was in favor, some would have been happy to stay under the political control of Collier County. Even today there are those who question the wisdom of making that choice.
As is the case with changes such as this, there were growing pains in our search for our own identity. Sometimes we would fixate on the trivial, while losing focus on the more salient issues to face a fledgling community.
We eventually came through many of our trials and tribulations with only minimal scars. We’ve evolved into a community that is well run and one with which present day residents seem generally pleased.
What we don’t want to lose sight off is the need to maintain transparency and openness within government. As part of that, it is important that government maintain its participatory nature. Allowing the public to be part of an orderly process is extremely important and improves the quality of the decision-making process.
Knowledge is not only distributed from the chairs at the dais, but also found throughout the community. We are especially fortunate to have so many individuals with a wide depth of understanding of a number of issues and challenges facing the community. The collective understanding of the public and the knowledge base found on the dais, along with the professional training and familiarity of the workings of government by our management team, is a recipe for success within any community.
However, it is important to understand that we work under the City Charter which establishes a council-manager form of government. The Charter dictates that the executive powers for managing the affairs of the community lie with the city manager.
Council is charged with setting forward policies from which the manager derives his or her direction in how to proceed in managing the community. One of those major policy–making decisions lies in approving a budget for the fiscal year. It will be important that this new council become a quick study of not only how monies are spent, but how effectively those dollars are used.
Other areas of policy making lie in the passing of ordinances which serve as the standard for our community. They lay out everything from zoning, code enforcement, the approval of site plans and many other standards which help to provide us with a community of which we can all be proud.
One thing the Charter is clear about lies with the potential interference of a councilor with a city employee, which is strictly forbidden. Only two of the city employees may interact with councilors – the city manager and city attorney.
Employees need not have seven different bosses, nor should employees feel obligated to carry out the wishes of a council member or participate in the undermining of the city manager who serves at the pleasure of a majority of the council. Members of council may make inquiry of administrative staff, but only through the city manager’s office.
The missteps of the past are now behind us, as we have begun to move forward in a more stable process of governing. With the hiring of a professional executive, we have been allowed over the past 18 months once again to move the community forward in a positive fashion.
Many challenges that face us as a community will come before the new council. Among those are the realities of who we are as we’ve entered the third decade of cityhood.
Issues dealing with protecting our environment are as important as challenges of protecting our neighborhoods and providing for strong community planning for future generations yet to walk on our beaches.
We as a community have been tasked to meet those challenges and to assist in providing for the necessary solid foundation for future generations to build upon. That responsibility should not be taken lightly, nor should any of us be fooled into thinking it will be easy for, as a good friend once told me, “If it had been a picnic you wouldn’t have been invited.”