Naples News

Sorey is Naples’ next mayor after no opponent files; 4 in running for 3 council seats


November 22, 2011

 — When John Sorey first decided to run for Naples mayor last year, he knew the key to winning — stopping any potential competitors before they even started.

So Sorey, 67, the city’s vice mayor, started a website,, listing the names of nearly 200 supporters. He officially announced his candidacy in April. Throughout the campaign he raised $67,700 in contributions.

“We wanted to make anyone who looked at it think this was a tough race to win,” Sorey said.

Nearly a year of campaigning paid off Tuesday when Sorey became mayor-elect by default when the 5 p.m. filing deadline passed without anyone else jumping in the race. He may be the first person to run unopposed for the job — at least in recent memory — according to several city officials.

Sorey celebrated the win with family in Atlanta where he is spending Thanksgiving.

“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “I’m honored and humbled.”

He kept busy in the final hours before the filing deadline passed playing basketball and football with his twin grandsons, Jack and Carter Ferguson, both 11.

“They’re pretty good athletes,” he said. “They tired me out.”

Now that the pressure is off, Sorey, a Naples resident for 13 years, has until the Feb. 15 swearing-in date to assume his new role.

Current Mayor Bill Barnett said the fact that Sorey ran unopposed is a testament to his widespread support.

“I think the reason he did not have any opposition was the simple fact that he’s earned the citizens’ of Naples respect,” said Barnett, who has served as mayor for 12 years in three nonconsecutive terms.

Barnett has worked with Sorey for eight of those years and hopes to continue doing so. He’s running for one of three open city council positions in the 2012 election.

Sorey supporters said his knowledge of the city’s strengths and challenges have earned him their favor.

Jim Black, 80, of Naples, served on the city’s planning board with Sorey when Sorey first started in Naples politics.

“He was probably one of the most well-prepared people ever on that board or City Council,” Black said. “He keeps his finger on just about everything going on. He’s very honest. He does what he thinks is best for the city.”

Both Black and fellow Naples resident Alan Harris, donated to Sorey’s campaign. Harris has lived in Naples seasonally for 26 years and first met Sorey while serving on a board through the Von Liebig Art Center.

“Many years ago, he brought a city planner down here who said he thought that you ought to try to develop your cultural capabilities,” Harris said. “If you think about what Naples was like a long time ago, (Sorey’s) been instrumental in taking an interest in it. It’s a destination.”

As Mayor, Sorey’s said his priorities will be to protect the Naples brand, stimulate economic development, safe guard the environment and enact efficiencies and effectiveness to city operations.

Four candidates running for the three at-large city council positions still have the Jan. 31 election to work toward. All are familiar names.

Barnett is running alongside current council members Teresa Heitmann and Margaret “Dee” Sulick.

Also in the running is former councilwoman Penny Taylor who took a two-year hiatus after two consecutive terms on council from 2000 to 2008 followed by two years as vice mayor.

Taylor, 62, thinks her time off could be of benefit if she were to serve again.

“Sitting out for two years has given me an opportunity to gain some perspective on the city, to listen, and not be under the tremendous pressure council has with the budget,” she said.

Taylor said she wants to maintain the city’s natural resources department, avoid transformational annexations from the city and make smart financial decisions for the city’s future.

She has lived in Naples for more than 30 years and works as a professional photographer.

Sulick, 63, is finishing her first term on council. She hopes the city will soon turn a corner and begin to recover from the recent economic slump.

“This council, with my work, has done a good job in the community,” she said. “I think most people are still satisfied with services as they are.”

Her goals are to keep the city going in its current direction and enhance it with projects to improve downtown connectivity, making it easier for residents and visitors to walk to key sites.

“This is our home,” said Sulick, a Naples resident for 17 years. “That’s the wonderful thing about Naples; people who are here are here because they chose to be here.”

Sulick chairs the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the county and as well as the Naples Community Redevelopment Agency.

Barnett, 71, hopes his proven leadership as mayor will earn him a continued role in city operations.

“I feel like I’ve been a really good leader, that I’ve built consensus on the board,” he said.

His first priority will be maintaining public safety. He said he understands the budgetary challenges the council will face in coming years having led the city for the last eight years.

“I’m not ready to retire,” said Barnett, a Naples resident for nearly 40 years. “I love what I do. I think anyone who knows me knows that. I’m very involved in this community.”

Heitmann is finishing her first term on city council and hopes to commit to another four years.

“I pride myself on diligent research of the issues that come before council and will continue to challenge the assumptions,” she said in a statement. “Respect for all parties and transparency in city decision-making is vital.”

Heitmann said she will focus on improving infrastructure and focus on fiscal oversight of the city budget.

Heitmann serves as an appointed member of the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council and Juvenile Justice Committee. She serves on various committees within the Florida League of Cities and is an active member of Drug Free Collier.