The People’s Mayor
January 31, 2019
Around Naples, he’s known simply as ‘Mayor Bill.’ Approaching three decades as an elected city official, Bill Barnett calls the buildout of his city a job well done.
If there are two things Naples Mayor Bill Barnett knows best, it’s what residents and visitors want his city to be, and how to sell cars. A used car salesman who moved his family to Naples in 1973 from White Plains, N.Y., he owned and operated Southwest Florida’s first Toyota dealership, selling new and used cars from 1975 to 1983.
Ever since, he’s been in politics, serving either as a city councilman or the mayor for all but two years since his first successful campaign in 1984.
Selling used cars as a precursor to entering politics invites any number of amusing anecdotes. Despite the obvious humor that juxtaposition elicits, what is the difference between the two?
Barnett, actually, says they’re fairly closely related.
“People get listened to and they get responded to,” Barnett says of what makes Naples different. “And that (also) sells cars.”
Another similarity? That philosophy buys political support.
“I’m a consensus builder,” the 78-year-old Barnett says. “My slogan is leadership by listening.”