On The Spot: Estero Mayor Nick Batos

BY October 28, 2015

Nick batos didn’t set out to help found a city. He just was worried about how a proposed overpass would increase traffic in The Brooks, the Estero community complex where he lives. The actions he took in 2000, starting the Brooks Concerned Citizens and joining the Estero Council of Community Leaders, became a few of the building blocks that led to the creation this year of Lee County’s newest incorporated village.

Residents of Estero voted overwhelmingly to incorporate in November. And on Jan. 1, it became an official city (or village, in this case). But it was still three more months before the city council was elected and seated. So Batos and his fellow council members have had little time to get their feet under them.

Gulfshore Life sat down with Batos on a steamy July morning, only a few months after he took office as Estero’s first mayor. With no infrastructure to call their own, the village leaders are using space opened up to them by Estero Fire Rescue.

Why Incorporate?

“The main reason wasn’t a fear of what we would lose (from Bonita Springs annexing property in what was then unincorporated Estero), but that we would lose control of what would be built and how it would be done because of the higher standards that we have created over the last 10 years. Look at the Walmart (being constructed in Estero). It doesn’t look like any Walmart I’ve ever seen. Or look at the Lowe’s. Does that look like a normal Lowe’s?”

Growing Pains

“I had no idea what it was going to be like. … It’s like starting up a business with 40,000 customers on the first day. It’s a rather large task. We’re fortunate to have the county working with us. But we’ve set up a city government, a stable foundation on which we can move forward. That’s my whole purpose.”

Changing the Way You Do Business

“We’re learning to work within the (state Sunshine Law, which requires all business be conducted in the open). It’s a slower process. I think anyone who is used to being in business would have a hard time adjusting to it. When we were just the Estero Council of Community Leaders, we could have discussions and continue things later. Now it has to be properly advertised, and we can’t talk about things outside of the meetings. We’ve been doing two meetings a week, a workshop and then a regular meeting, since we started. There’s just so much to get done.”

A City with Means

“When we started this process back in 2013, we had to do a feasibility study for the state. When we did the study, we asked that it be conservative. Well, since then, economic conditions have improved, home values and tax revenues have gone up. There are lots of new buildings in Estero since then. The surplus we thought we would have—well, it’s even more now. But that doesn’t mean we have to spend it. My feeling is that we are stewards of the people’s money. And we really want to think before we spend anything. We don’t ever want to have to ask for more.”

On Working with Former Rival Bonita Springs

“It’s like a family, I think. Do you always agree with your family? No. But I think we can work together, be supportive of each other.”

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