PUNTA GORDA — Charles Counsil announced Friday that he will challenge Nancy Prafke for the City Council seat representing District 5.

The vacancy was created when Mayor Bill Albers said he would not seek re-election in November. District 5 encompasses that portion of the city situated south of Alligator Creek.

Counsil has bachelor’s degrees in economics and history from Marist College in New York, and a master’s degree in business administration from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.

Like Prafke, Counsil is new to politics. But he said that since he moved here in 2005 from New Jersey, he has become involved in the community and regularly attends the City Council meetings.

For the past three years, he has sat on the Code Compliance Board, is an ad hoc member of Land Development Regulations — an advisory committee for the city — and is the city representative for the Landscaping Committee, responsible for upgrading 14 different entrances into Charlotte County.

He also was a member of the city of Punta Gorda’s 125th anniversary committee. For six years, he has been with the Burnt Stores Isles Association — two as its president.

“We must do everything in our power to facilitate the growth of the business community,” he said. “We can accomplish this by fast-tracking, or expediting, the permit process, and having future business owners meet with city planners in the design studio if they have questions, so they don’t run afoul of any of the city codes and ordinances.”

Annexation of the loop, a large parcel of privately owned land between U.S. 41 and the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Jones Loop Road, is an important key for business expansion, Counsil said. By annexing the property, moving it from county jurisdiction to city jurisdiction, Counsil believes it could be targeted for multiuse, both commercial and residential development, and will prove beneficial to the city.

“The owner would have a distinct tax advantage to be in the city,” he explained. “The tax code is simpler, and the 15 percent surcharge they now pay for utilities provided by the city would go away. I will do whatever it takes to bring this to fruition.”

Punta Gorda has weathered tough economic times, according to Counsil. He said the city staff has done a good job balancing the budget and maintaining a favorable bond rating. Despite this, Counsil said staff cannot get “overly optimistic,” and must keep a tight control on spending, expenses and manpower.

“If the city can keep a strong emphasis on these items, it will be in a good position when the economy really turns around,” he said.

Counsil said the city must preserve a “feel-good element” that will have people coming back to Punta Gorda. He said funding for recreational and scenic development may not be at the level of the past, but council members and staff need to be creative and receptive to identify alternate sources of funding from the public and private sector.

“As a council ­member, I would have to wear several hats,” he said, “one of which is a troubadour for the city. We need to keep that prideful community feeling and have people make Punta Gorda their city of destination.”