Message from the Mayor

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Mayor KeeslingWelcome to the official website for the City of Punta Gorda, Florida. As Mayor, I invite you to explore all our City has  to offer. Although considered a “small” city (population 17,566) by some standards, Punta Gorda is a vibrant waterfront community, unique in character and history and one of the most desirable places to live, work and visit.

Punta Gorda’s catch phrase “It’s Happening on the Harbor” reflects our reputation as festive, waterfront city surrounded by majestic Charlotte Harbor. With multiple points of access, the harbor draws sail boats, cruisers, sport fishermen, as well as kayakers and paddle boarders. Our waterfront amenities include full service marinas, boat launches, fishing piers, and beautiful waterfront parks and trails. We have recently received many accolades including: Marina of the Year, Top 10 Places to Sail and #15 Best Yachting Town. Punta Gorda is also unique in that many of its residential lots are canal front. The City’s canal maintenance districts provide repair and replacement of over 110 miles of seawalls; a valuable benefit to the Punta Gorda community.

Our parks serve as our focal point, hosting more than 75 events featuring music, arts and crafts, food and drink, car shows, sporting activities, fishing tournaments, parades and holiday celebrations. Many local “organic” events take place as well, such as the “Guitar Army” every Thursday evening whereby local musicians gather in scenic Gilchrist Park for an acoustic collaboration. The Punta Gorda Pathways amenity system is approximately 18 miles of Bicycle and Pedestrian Trails and Paths that connect the City's neighborhoods, parks, and commercial areas including unique shops, restaurants, art galleries, and accommodations. A variety of shopping experiences can be found here, including historic Fishermen’s Village, Sullivan Street Shops, Downtown Gallery Walk, along with award winning vendors at our two weekly farmer’s markets. A free bicycle loaner program with pick up locations throughout the City is solely supported by local businesses and community organizations. These bright yellow cruisers are a great way to go sightseeing around town or can be used to grab a bite at one of our local eateries.

Preserving Punta Gorda’s rich history is a top priority. Our roots trace back to the landing of Ponce de Leon and Hernando DeSoto in the early 1500s. Our name comes from the Spanish for “broad point,” referencing the City’s position jutting into Charlotte Harbor. The National Register Historic District Overlay District was established to help protect historic structures and promote public awareness. The City also features History Park, where historic structures are preserved for generations to come. The newly formed Punta Gorda History Center is a long overdue addition to the historic preservation mission and will be dedicated to preserving and providing researchers with access to historical information and archives. Also, Punta Gorda’s past remains alive through historic murals which grace many downtown facades and depict the rich history of our area.

One might ask “Why is Punta Gorda one of the most desirable places to live, work and visit?” The answer is because our City is dedicated to serving its citizens and visitors, and maintaining a high quality of life. This customer service commitment starts at the top and filters down through all of our 265 dedicated employees. Over the last year, the City has achieved these accomplishments:

• Sale of Fishermen's Village land which will result in a $30 million dollar investment
• Securing State grants for the RO Water Treatment Plant and Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall
• Approval and implementation of 1% Local Option Sales Tax Program

The financial condition of our City is sound through retention of current millage rate, enhanced reserve policies and utility rate adjustments.

Punta Gorda’s residents and leaders value our small town, self-sufficient, community-partnerships nature. Many civic functions are carried out by dedicated volunteers that serve our City in a variety of ways. For example, Public Safety volunteers donate their time seven days a week, including major holidays, to provide traffic assistance, marine patrols, records management and other administrative duties. Not-for-profit organizations provide the upkeep for the City’s Nature Park, Welcome Beach and community gardens and offer public educational seminars for citizens. This year alone, these volunteers contributed upwards of 40,000 hours to our community. The City also offers many free, interactive programs to our citizens, including the City of Punta Gorda Citizens’ Academy. This academy is a free, eight session course of interactive classes designed to provide insight into City government and to develop future leaders through well informed and civically engaged residents.

Punta Gorda is a safe place to live, work and visit. We consider our Public Safety Departments to be the keystone to our high quality of life. When compared to municipalities throughout Florida with a population between 15,000 and 20,000, Punta Gorda achieved the 2nd lowest crime rate for the 6th time in the past 7 years. In 2013, the Punta Gorda Police Department attained Excelsior Status through the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation. The Department was also named 2013 Pinnacle Business of the Year by the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce, the only police department in the State of Florida to receive that type of award.

The Punta Gorda Fire Department continues to serve our citizens in many unique ways, including servicing and/or installing more than 900 residential smoke detectors annually. Hundreds of residents have participated in the Department’s free CPR/AED training, and over 400 sharps containers have been processed through the Fire Departments sharps/needle exchange program. In 2013, the City achieved an Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating of Public Protection Classification Class 3, placing it in the top 6% nationally, thereby allowing property owners to realize a savings in insurance premiums.

Punta Gorda is conveniently located near Interstate 75 and Punta Gorda Airport (PGD), and is an easy drive to Fort Myers and the Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW). PGD hosts charter and private air travelers, as well as Allegiant Airlines which flies to more than 25 cities across the country. A newly expanded terminal has just opened and is awaiting your arrival. Many are drawn to Punta Gorda’s year-round sunshine but others come to relax or enjoy the active lifestyle. Whether you choose to live, work or visit in Punta Gorda, we invite you to share in the beauty, charm and excitement of our City.

Rachel Keesling