The race to be Cape Coral mayor is heating up and it's only January. Election day is still 10 months away, but three candidates have declared their intention to run for the office.
This year, three council seats are up for grabs in addition to the mayor's seat. At Monday's meeting, City Council set the dates for the primary and general elections as well as the early voting period before each. The primary was set for Sept. 12 with five days of early voting on Sept. 5-9. The general election was set for Nov. 7 with six days of early voting on Oct. 30-Nov. 4.
Three candidates have filed the appropriate paperwork with the City Clerk's office including Council Member Rana Erbrick, former council member Derrick Donnell and the newest candidate, Sherry Leonard, who filed with the clerk on Monday. Assuming sitting mayor Marni Sawicki runs for a second term, the field already is four candidates.
"I have not made up my mind yet," said Sawicki. "There were six candidates when I ran (2013), so I expect more will come forward. The increase in the council salaries were designed to possibly draw more interest from people to run."
The salary boost was not a factor in Leonard's decision to run for the office.
"I'm retiring from the city of Fort Myers in March, so I will be able to devote all of my time to making the Cape better," Leonard said. "I'm not running for the money. I'm not rich, but I don't care about the money."
Leonard said she chose to run because she is from Lee County and has watched the Cape grow and ultimately resides in the city.
"I have not served (on any council) and I see that as a positive," Leonard said. "You won't get more of the same with me.
"I have worked the majority of my life for the public. I think I can bring effective change to the city. For 27 years I was on the inside, not setting policy, but in the implementation. I can see what's wrong. I know how to fix it, what works and what doesn't work. I have an idea how to fix it."
Erbrick, who won her second Council term uncontested, also believes more people will run for the mayor's seat.
"The mayor's seat brings out more folks than the other seats do," Erbrick said. "In all honesty, I think more will run. It's only January."
As a sitting council member, Erbrick would have to resign from council 10 days before the qualifying period (July 3-7) to formally seek the seat.
"At that time you are committed and stuck with the decision," said Erbrick.
A possible return to the dais is one place Donnell feels like he never left. He served the maximum two terms as the District 7 council member, leaving at the end of 2015.
"There wasn't just one item that made me decide to run," said Donnell. "There was so much going on with the negotiation with LCEC, the pay structure for city employees, and Bimini Basin before I left it seemed we were in the middle of those. I've been following Council's actions so it's like I've always been back there."
Donnell said he still has the intensity to serve and wants to see those major issues through and finish what was started while he was on council.
"By background and knowledge, there will be no learning curve," Donnell said. "I will hit the ground running from day one and move the city forward from there. To be mayor you have to be a good communicator. My track record is all about honesty. Every issue in the Cape has two sides and I will listen to both and address them. I won't shy away from the hard stuff."
Donnell said he agrees with Council's position against the countywide consolidation of the fire districts, though the plan has merit for the unincorporated areas.