The City of Cape Coral woke up Wednesday morning to the news that their mayor, Joe Coviello, had passed away from a heart attack. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.
This vacuum of power may lead citizens to inquire as to the next steps. Do we not have a mayor? Who replaces him? Is there a Special Election?
The answer really depends on the next few City Council meetings.
As of right now, Councilman John Gunter, who has been serving as Mayor Pro Tempore, is now officially Acting Mayor of Cape Coral.
With no indication of a Special Meeting being called by Acting Mayor Gunter, discussions as to the next steps are certain to comprise next Wednesday’s agenda.
The City Council now has 30 days to appoint a new mayor, who can be any member of city council, or any eligible citizen outside of council. If the appointee is a sitting councilmember, he or she would have to resign the council seat, and a second appointment would be made for that seat to fulfill the remainder of the term.
These actions are not unprecedented. Recently, Councilwoman Lois Welsh was appointed to the seat vacated by Councilman Dave Stokes, who resigned. But the main question will be who the city council will appoint as the mayor.
It is entirely possible that the Wednesday meeting next week may lead to an immediate appointment, though more likely an application and interview process will be called for the sake of transparency and thoroughness.
There are several contenders to watch in the weeks ahead. Acting Mayor John Gunter would be the current frontrunner, especially if he can secure votes of fellow councilmembers quickly. This would mean a second appointment for the District 1 seat would need to be made.
Another possibility is to get someone outside of City Council to avoid multiple appointments, with former mayors or councilmembers possibly being asked to serve without running for reelection. This would ensure a fair and open campaign for what is now an open mayoral seat in 2022.
The City Council may also decide to call a special election, but this is unlikely. Cape Coral would be required to pay the expense for the election, and the mayoral election is already scheduled for next year.
Regardless, it is paramount for the citizens of Cape Coral to pay attention to what your city council does in the coming days. Make sure your voices are heard as to who you think should serve out the remainder of Mayor Coviello’s term.
Rest in peace, Mayor Coviello!