Mayor Marni Sawicki decides against re-election bid

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Cape Coral Mayor Marni Sawicki has announced that she will not be seeking a second term as mayor.

Sawicki made the announcement via Facebook late Monday afternoon shortly before she presided over the council meeting held at city hall.

In her statement, Sawicki said her decision not to seek another four years as the city's political leader stemmed from wanting to concentrate on building her management consulting company, "I am proud of our city’s accomplishments; however, with both of my children now attending college and the amount of hours required as mayor, I am choosing to focus my energies on building my company when my term ends. Therefore, I am making the difficult decision not to seek re-election."

Sawicki was elected in 2013, defeating then incumbent mayor John Sullivan by 121 votes. The victory made Sawicki the first female elected mayor in Cape Coral's history.

Her tenure began with her election victory being challenged by Sullivan and a group of other Cape Coral residents challenging the results of the election.

After months of legal wranglings, the judge in the case found the victory results were valid, and also denied the groups appeal of the decision.

From there Sawicki quickly established herself as one with a strong drive to move Cape Coral forward, reaching out over the borders of the city to build relationships with neighboring cities and municipalities across the state, as well as lawmakers in Tallahassee.

In her statement on Facebook, Sawicki touted a number of successes such as millage reductions for each of the past three years, a new Economic Development Plan, online permitting, and growing the commercial tax base from 8% to 12% during that time. Sawicki also served as a voice in the initiative of Southwest Florida mayors to demand improvements in the quality of water coming from Lake Okeechobee and surrounding watersheds.

Perhaps Sawicki's most noted accomplishment was the reemergence of the Bimini Basin Project, an initiative to create a destination in the South Cape located at Four Freedoms Park and surrounding areas.

While her tenure as mayor had its successes, it was not without controversy, including accusations by fellow council member Richard Leon of ethics violations and turmoil in her personal life that continuously played out in the media much of the later half of 2016. Sawicki also engaged in a heated feud with City of Cape Coral Municipal Charter School Superintendent Nelson Stephenson during that time with both individuals going back and forth on the future of the charter school system.

In her social media statement, Sawicki also implored residents to become more involved and said she was announcing her decision not to seek re-election early in hopes to give plenty of time for those with a like mentality regarding the city's future to consider running for the office of mayor, "Now is not the time for complacency. Strong and caring leaders won’t get elected unless we all take the time to get educated on the issues and most importantly, VOTE – to allow the Cape to continue its forward momentum. I believe it’s critical we elect forward-thinking people who will continue to improve our city and grow it to its full potential."

With Sawicki's decision not to run in the upcoming election it currently leaves Realtors Michael Hallow and Kevin Koch, Fort Myers City employee Sherry Leonard, current council member Rana Erbrick, and former council member Derrick Donnell, as those who are running for the office of Cape Coral mayor. The deadline to file for the upcoming election is July 7.

Hallow says the mayor's decision not to seek re-election will have no effect on his campaign, "My focus is still the same. It doesn't change anything that I am doing or anything we are going to be doing collectively with the city."

For Sawicki, she concluded her social media statement saying she has no intention of letting up for her final months in office and expressed gratitude to Cape Coral citizens for the last three and a half years, "For the remainder of my time in office, I will continue to ask the tough questions. I will do the right thing for our city, regardless of political opinions or the loudest voice and I will finish strong. I want to ensure the best policies, practices, procedures and controls are implemented for the betterment of our city and our residents. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you. It has been an honor"