Victor Rios has never been known as one to walk quietly amongst his peers. If he feels something needs to be said, he is the first to speak out about it and does not mince words. Rios stunned his City Council counterparts on Monday, October 5, when he announced that October 19 will be his final council meeting, just short of completing 2 years of his second 4-year term. Rios said he and his wife would be leaving the island for “personal reasons.”
Victor Rios’s harrowing story begins 58 years ago, when he was a 20-year-old “guest” of one of Fidel Castro’s infamous detention facilities for political prisoners, struggling for survival while being tortured and beaten daily. His parents managed to find a friend within the Castro regime to have Rios freed and create the paperwork for him to flee the county.
Eventually, all his family—his mother, father, two sisters and an older brother—escaped the tyranny of the dictator. The good deed done by the family friend sadly resulted in his execution at the hands of those loyal to Castro. Rios has those days, and the flight from his homeland, indelibly etched in his being, as well as his love for his adopted country, the United States of America, and the democratic principles that are our hallmark.
Rios was still 20 when he arrived in the States, first living in New Jersey, and then moving for a short while to live with an uncle in Endicott, NY. He had received degrees in Electrical Engineering and Math from the University of Havana prior to the Cuban Revolution. Rios also holds a Master’s Degree in Business.
He joined the United States Army and spent 2 years’ in active duty and then 6 years in the reserves. When you ask Rios what he did in the service, he reacts with a laugh and a wide smile as he says, “I was a grunt.”
Rios eventually put his education to work in the computer and software business for a couple of notable corporations, but would eventually climb the corporate ladder in the aerospace/defense industry for a major corporation. He managed a significant component of that company, overseeing a business turnaround and being promoted to the position of division president. He eventually retired around 2004 when he and his wife Joan moved to Marco Island.
When first running for a Marco Island City Council position in 2014, Rios walked door to door over several months to introduce himself to residents, listening to their concerns and promising to work on their behalf.
He was elected as a staunch fiscal conservative, and upon taking office, he quickly embroiled himself in several controversies. He mistakenly opposed the hiring of a Tallahassee lobbyist suggested by then-City Manager Roger Hernstadt. That lobbyist has since brought back millions of state funds to support various city projects, and continually has found support from initially skeptical councilors across the board. Rios served as Vice-Chairman of the City Council from November of 2018 to November of 2019.
During his tenure on the council, Rios has opposed the “construction manager at risk” (CMAR) style of managing large capital projects, such as the build-out of Veterans Community Park and the replacement of Fire Station 50. This process entails a commitment by the Construction Manager to deliver the project at a Guaranteed Maximum Price. Rios has been an outspoken critic of that process.
Rios also has been an advocate for better beach management practices, serving on the Marco Island Beach Advisory Commission for 3 years, and the County’s Coastal Advisory Commission for 8 years. He also has encouraged the return of a fairer share of Tourist Development Council (TDC) Funding to Marco Island, while being criticized for off-the-cuff remarks made during TDC meetings critical of increased spending to attract more tourists to Collier County, citing increased pressures on roadways.
According to the City Charter, the Council will need to appoint someone to fill Rios’s vacancy because the remainder of his unexpired term is less than 28 months. This is the same procedure the City Council faced this past spring when appointing Gregory Folley to replace Councilor Sam Young, who resigned his position due to a move off the island.