Cape Coral Civic Assoc. elects new president, looks for return to prominence

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After spending the past few years in the background, an organization deep rooted in Cape Coral tradition is preparing to make a comeback, just in time for the upcoming election season.

The Cape Coral Civic Association has announced that long-time Cape Coral resident Paul Prince will serve as the organization's new president.

Prince comes into the position with civic leadership pedigree. His father, Ed, served as the Civic Association president from 2013 to 2014 before he was forced to step down after being diagnosed with cancer.

With the announcement of Prince as its new leader, the organization says it is ready to jump back into the fray as a leading voice of Cape Coral citizens in matters concerning local government.

Founded in 1962,  the Civic Association boasted hundreds of members in its heyday and carried a voice of impact here locally. Over the years, the organization led a successful campaign to incorporate Cape Coral into its own city, was heavily involved in the city's Utilities Expansion Project (UEP), the creation of Cape Coral’s Fire District, and the building of both the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge and Cape Coral Bridge.

However, in recent years, the Civic Association, like many organizations, have felt the sting of a new era that has seen depleted memberships, and a drastic fall off in local involvement. Instead of attending meetings, many now take to the internet and voice their concerns and issues through such websites as Facebook, "There are so many groups through social media that has been created in recent years. People feel they get all the information they need through those resources and don't need to be inconvenienced with actually going out and attending meetings during the evening," explains Prince.

To accommodate that new mindset, departing Civic Association president Graham Morris said the organization had to take a step back, "It was like trying to change the tires on a car with the car still traveling down the road. We had to pull the car over and change the tires."

Morris, who served as the Civic Association president from 2014 until just recently, says part of that process was a rewrite of the organization's by-laws to meet the needs of today's world, "It was something that hadn't been done since 2008. And, a lot has changed in the past decade especially with technology."

Part of the new plan for the Civic Association will be instead of competing with technology, they will encompass it in their plans moving forward, "We are going to have more of an online presence particularly on Facebook. We want to be fluid in our approach. We want to bring people together and provide accurate and researched information both in person and online," says Prince.

Another significant change for the organization will be the departure from the Cape Coral Yacht Club, where the Civic Association has maintained their home base for over 50 years, "We felt it was time for a change. We want to become more centrally located," says Prince. "We want to have more venues throughout the city. Our goal is for us to come to the neighborhoods rather than trying to make the neighborhoods come to us."

While the methods of recruiting members and getting their message out to the public may be changing, the goal of the 55-year-old organization remains the same, "Being involved in the issues facing the community and handling those issues in a professional and respectful manner has always been our core mission. That is something that will remain steadfastly intact as we move forward," says Prince.

The public will get its first glimpse at the new look Civic Association when the organization hosts its popular Primary Election Candidates Debate in the coming months. The debate has long been a popular event on the local campaign trail, typically kicking off the Cape Coral election season. Prince says the organization is currently working on a date and venue for the event and expect to announce details of the debate in the near future.

Prince also says he hopes to use the event as a way to attract new members to the Civic Association. One way the organization hopes to attract new members is making it affordable to join, "We want to bring in as many people as possible to create the numbers. To do that we are decreasing annual membership fees to just $5 a person. We want to make it a no-brainer and hope to get a large number to join and become involved as we rebuild the Civic Association. We also want to bring in a new generation. People who are outside the box thinkers, who can help us master today's technology and approach."

With nearly everything in place, Morris says the infrastructure is there for the Civic Association to move into the future and become the voice of the local community once again, "We have spent the last couple of years laying the tracks. Now it is up to the new board to move the locomotive."

For Prince, while the opportunity to rebuild the organization will be challenging, he remains confident that in the future the Civic Association will once again be an impact player on the local government scene, "We are at a crucial point in the club's history. We are at the rebuilding stage. We have been working to rebuild the infrastructure. Now it is time to put it back together."

To learn more about the Cape Coral Civic Association, click here, or email CapeCivic@outlook.com.