While the 2012 election may be over and the results finally tabulated, one Cape Coral man is already looking ahead to next year's mayoral race.
U.S. Air Force Reserve Chaplain Vince Cummings formally announced his candidacy Wednesday during a ceremony at the Iwo Jima monument at Ecological Park. He is the first person to formally declare his run for the seat.
Asked about announcing nearly a year out from the election, Cummings explained that he wanted to give the voters time to get to know him.
"I felt compelled and led to file my candidacy first," he said.
Raised in the Cape, Cummings graduated from Cape Coral High School in 1990. He said his family's roots go back 40 years in the community.
"I'm a product of Lee County," Cummings said.
"I truly feel called to this position," he added.
Cummings is a major and is assigned to the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) out of Miami. Earlier this year, he had retired from the Air Force Reserve after almost 23 years of service, which included combat service in Iraq, but was asked to return to traditional service in the Army Reserve.
Single with no children, the 40-year-old explained that his military service requirement is two days per month and 15 days per year. If elected mayor, he does not expect conflict between serving the city and in the Reserves.
According to Cummings, it was the "toxic and divisive" politics in the Cape during the 2007 and 2009 elections that prompted him to run for 2013.
"Neighbor was being pitted against neighbor," he said.
Cummings hopes to bring the factions together on council and in the community, and said he intends to run "a very positive campaign."
He called Mayor John Sullivan an "honorable good man" and his friend, but explained that the Cape needs an individual with the historical understanding and background to bridge the then and now to lead the city into its future.
Cummings added that the mayor is the chairman of the board or head of state, that his role is to serve as a figurehead, not to manage the city.
"This community is truly one community," he said, noting that he wants to hear from the public. "We have an identity that is proud and honorable."
Cummings said he has a master's in public administration from Tennessee State University, a master's in divinity from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a master's in theological studies from Vanderbilt University.
As a youth, he served on the Cape Coral Historical and Cultural Resources Advisory Board - the youngest citizen to chair a municipal advisory panel in the early 1990s. Cummings founded the Republican Club at his high school.
"I was very involved in Cape Coral and Lee County government," he said.
Also as a youth, Cummings served as a legislative messenger for Florida's House of Representatives and a page for the Florida Senate.
More recently, Cummings was a legislative intern for the Tennessee Senate during 2009.
"My plan was to be a city or county manager," he said, referring to the experience and education in government he has accumulated over the years.
Earlier this year, Cummings was appointed to the city's budget review committee, and he has been assisting Fort Myers Beach's town manager.
If elected, Cummings would work to motivate and encourage his peers on council, with a focus on economic development, tourism and a continuation of residential development.
He would also seek to reduce taxes, if possible.
"Our ad valorem rate is excessively high," Cummings said.
He also cited addressing inefficiencies within city government, like excess capital needs, while keeping in mind the "bare bones" operation in place.
Other priorities for Cummings included uplifting local businesses and making the Cape more of a veterans community, with the aim to attract veterans.
"Veterans services deserves a stand alone staff person within the local government," he said.
For more information, visit online at: www.vincecummings.com.