Four Cape Coral residents are vying to become the District 1 council member as the Aug. 23 primary election nears.
Carol Rae Culliton, Jean Pierre Etcheverry Jr., Bill Steinke, Allison “Ally” Wharton are running to become elected officials for the first time. Gloria Tate, the current District 1 council member, is not running for reelection.
District 1 is the only district on the 2022 ballot where an incumbent is not seeking reelection.
Both districts 1 and 4 will narrow their candidates on the primary ballot on Aug. 23 before the top two vote-getters move to the general election Nov. 8. The District 6 and mayor’s races will be decided in the general election because only two candidates are running in each. Cape Coral city elections are nonpartisan.
District 4 election:: Incumbent Jennifer Nelson facing two challengers
District 6 election: Incumbent Keith Long facing newcomer Wayne Hecht
Mayor’s race: John Gunter, Thomas Shadrach vying for job
Many of the key issues in the campaigns have focused on how to prepare Cape Coral for its burgeoning growth rate.
Both mayor and council members serve four-year terms and can serve for no more than two consecutive four-year terms.
Carol Rae Culliton
Culliton has been contributing to the city of Cape Coral for 12 years through her philanthropic efforts.
Founder of the Gunterberg Charitable Foundation and The Brotherhood of Heroes Resource Center & Museum in the city, she’s set her sight on local government issues and sees it as a logical next step.
“This is my chosen home, and I want it to be the best it can be, but I feel at this point with all that I’ve done, I can do even more by getting the city council and the mayor behind me and doing even more things,” Culliton said.
She’s running on keeping the city safe as it grows, growing a stronger economy, and protecting clean water.
As more people move into the city, she worries about growing crime rates, she said.
“I don’t want Cape Coral to turn into Lehigh Acres, that’s my priority,” Culliton said.
She describes the city’s economy as a service industry community with limited housing options so the government needs to attract higher-income jobs and educational opportunities to help struggling workers.
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“If you’re making $10 or $12 an hour, you can’t live like that,” Culliton said. “It’s a nightmare with traffic for people going across the bridge to Fort Myers because that’s where people find better income jobs.”
On water issues, she said she wants to do her part to maintain clean and healthy water.
“I live on a canal, I live right on the water, and you want it to be healthy,” Culliton said. “You don’t want to smell the odor. You don’t want to see the gunk in the canal.”
Culliton also helped sponsor Pride events in the city, and she said she wants the city to become more inclusive.
William ‘Bill’ Steinke
Steinke, 63, is a director of sales and business development at Miloff Aubuchon Realty Group.
Though this will be his first time running for a legislative office, he’s the second-term president of the Royal Palm Coast Realtor Association.
He’s running on a platform of managing Cape Coral’s growth, taking care of the city’s water, and providing more housing opportunities for the average Cape Coral resident.
Cape Coral is a desirable place to live, and the infrastructure needs to match that, he said.
He said he wants to continue maintaining the canal’s water quality and Lake Okeechobee releases.
“We’ve been and served a very active role in finding that, solving that problem, and establishing the reservoirs that we have that will help the water make its way to and through the Everglades like nature, or you know, originally thought it should happen,” Steinke said.
He said he would place a heavy emphasis on helping people afford to live and work in the city.
“We’ve got to find solutions to that so that when we’re looking to employ other people that they can live in the community that they work instead of having to travel long distances to get here to the Cape,” Steinke said.
Still, he said there needs to be a balance when it comes to development to keep residents happy.
“I truly believe that more of the industrial space should be removed from residential areas. Those businesses that serve the residents, the smaller businesses, the hair salons, the doctor’s offices, the grocery stores, those should be in close proximity to the residents so that they don’t have to travel long distances on the roads,” Steinke said.
Jean Pierre Etcheverry Jr.
Etcheverry is an adjunct professor at Florida SouthWestern State College. He teaches fire science and was a Cape Coral firefighter for 10 years.
He’s a first-generation Cuban American, who moved back to the city two years ago to run for a city council position. He previously lived in the city between 2003 and 2009.
“As a first responder, I feel like that team-orientated environment has honed my innate and learned abilities to provide a way to serve not only the community but also the city,” Etcheverry said.
He said he wants to prioritize good water quality and public safety. His goal is to balance a large amount of development and lessen the impact on the environment.
“I will make sure that water is nice, and the ecosystem, and then the preserves,” Etcheverry said.
Etcheverry said the city is making great strides in expanding the number of amenities it has to offer.
He said he will properly communicate and explain to residents when it comes to how development happens.
“There are setbacks, things that happen as the economy, multiple issues could arise, but the main thing is you overcome, adapt, and evolve,” Etcheverry said.
Allison ‘Ally’ Wharton
Wharton, 32, is a two-year resident and senior director of human resources at CloudFit Software.
She chose Cape Coral as a place to settle down with her fiancé and said she chose to run for city council because she loves being involved with the community to make changes she’d like to see.
“I think I represent the real Cape Coral. I think that I have passion and drive and motivation plus the actual skill to make a difference,” Wharton said. “And I think that I am going to be important to the future of Cape Coral.”
“I’m someone who is very passionate about change and who really likes to support where I’m at,” she added.
Her priorities lie in preserving the city’s water quality and protecting the residents. She lives near the water, and her fiancé runs a marine diving company.
“It’s our profitability as a community and our sustainability efforts. My family and everybody else’s family revolve around the water. It is our number one natural resource, and we have to protect it,” Wharton said.
On economic issues, she said she doesn’t want to see taxes increase and wants to focus on protecting residents from soaring rent.
“We should not spend money on silly things, and we should invest. I don’t like Band-Aids on things,” Wharton said.
“There are really wealthy people and there are people who are in a lower socioeconomic status that have very different needs,” Wharton added.
She said the city offers much already but could do a better job of advertising the city’s amenities.
On development, she said she would like to see more investment in projects in the downtown area.
“I’m not spending my money on things that I don’t think would make an impact because I’m marketing-minded,” Wharton said.
Luis Zambrano is a Watchdog/Cape Coral reporter for The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. You can reach Luis at [email protected] or 239-266-5604. Follow him on Twitter @Lz2official.
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Election 2022: Cape Coral city council District 1 candidates
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