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Dist. 3 commission/ Sheriff hopefuls square off

July 31, 2012
By BOB PETCHER, , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Three candidates each for Lee County Commission Dist. 3 and Lee County Sheriff were among roughly 60 confirmed political hopefuls to move one step closer to the Aug. 14 primary election and the Nov. 6 general election at "The Candidates' Forum at Harborside" presented by Lee County Bar Association.

Regarded as the county's largest political forum this year, the forum provided the public an opportunity to speak one-on-one with potential representatives, hear positions on issues and make crucial decisions on races that are still undecided.

Lee County Commissioner District 3 candidates Ray Judah (incumbent), Larry Kiker and Charlie Whitehead answered two questions apiece from Florida Gov. Jeff Kottkamp. Lee County Sheriff candidates Lee Bushong, Christian Meister and Mike Scott (incumbent) responded to the same general questions from the moderator.

Article Photos

The three candidates for Lee County Commission District 3 —Judah, Kiker and Whitehead— wait their turn to speak.

Judah has served 24 years as commissioner, while Kiker amassed many years in the private sector before becoming Beach mayor for the past five years, and Whitehead covered County politics for more than 25 years.

Sheriff Scott has performed his duties for eight years, while Bushong moved up through the ranks from patrolman to lieutenant, and Meister (a write-in candidate) has managed litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the Eleventh Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court in his capacity as a Pro Se litigant from 20062010.

Here is a look at the questions and responses from each of the six candidates:

(BOLD) Lee County Commission Dist. 3

(ITALICS) What inspired you to seek this position, and what do you believe makes you best qualified to serve?

n Judah 'There is no question of the need to provide responsible stewardship of our land and water resources and to diversify the economy. I will continue to fight relentlessly to protect and restore the Caloosahatchee River and our coastal back bays and estuaries as the lifeblood of our community. In regards to diversifying our economy, we need to get beyond tourism, construction and agriculture. To that end, I have been a champion in bringing in and recruiting companies like Algenol and Arthrex to provide for public/private partnerships to bring in and expand companies like NeoGenomics, TZ Insurance, Chico's, Gartner and Lee Saw."

n Kiker "We are spending more money than we have. We need to start managing our opportunities by not just looking at just the advantages of them, but we have to start looking at the burden that they may bring to bear. There is a thing in the private sector we call a return on investment. I bring to you common sense, and I bring to you a business approach. I propose that we have three things: a prioritized budgeting process that lets you decide; a Grow at Home plan where we provide the resources for existing businesses; and back-to-basic tourism. I have an MBA, six years in government, and I served in the private sector for 30-plus years. I believe I am in touch with the people -the people you live next door to- and I believe I am in touch with the people that you and I do business with."

n Whitehead "What inspired me to seek this job was the polarization that you see not just nationally but locally. Our elected representatives are not working together or collaborating with each other with our best interests in mind. I think that is what they should be doing. I think that is what we deserve."

(ITALICS) How do you differentiate yourself and your platform from the other candidates for this office?

n Judah "With 29 years of experience as a principal environmental planner and as a County commissioner, I have always demonstrated a sense of purpose, strong work ethic and courage of my convictions. In providing leadership to this community, I was challenged in probably two of the most difficult years in the history of Lee County when I was chairman of the board in 2008 and 2009 in the deepest recession. We came out of it with the standpoint that we actually grew jobs and worked out partnerships with companies that I just named previously. In fact, a total of 2,OOO committed jobs with over a $700 million impact to be able to provide employment opportunities. Beyond that, with baseball using tourist tax revenue, it generates $25 million annually and provides thousands of jobs in the tourism industry. Over 30 years, that's $750 million conservatively. We need to continue to go beyond the tourism, construction and agriculture and truly diversify our economy."

n Kiker "I believe our goal is to make Lee County number one and make it a great place to work with the other commissioners to what would be at stake with the other communities. My approach in government is through stability to professionalism and to respect the individual. I believe that whenever you come to the County and do business with other folks, you put your reputation on the line. I pledge to you that as a County commissioner every time that you come forward and every time that we do business together, I will put my reputation on the line. I also pledge to you that it's time that people get a fair shake in government. I believe in less government. I am in favor of supporting local existing businesses. I am in favor of actually balancing the budget."

n Whitehead "One way is that I am way more relaxed, because I am on the November ballot and the other two folks have to see each other in August. I've been a working man my whole life. I've wielded a pen, and I've wielded a hammer. When I was wielding a pen, I had what I thought was a deserved reputation for honesty, straightforwardness and balance. That's what you get with me. That's what I am. When I used my hammer, I hit what I swing at every time."

(BOLD) Lee County Sheriff

(ITALICS) What inspired you to seek this position, and what do you believe makes you best qualified to serve?

n Bushong "I have another concept of law enforcement that might be a little bit new to the area. That is one that is not based on politics but in the true and pure spirit of law enforcement. Like our traditional candidates that we heard from earlier, I believe that the office of the sheriff should be unaffected by partisan politics, and we should be more focused on the people of Lee County. In that sprit, I decided to run as a No Party Affiliate candidate and focus on bringing principal back to the Lee County Sheriff's Office as opposed to remaining popular. So, in that regard, as we look for things, we are starting to make the cuts that are best for all 350,000 residents of Lee County and not just a select portion of those."

n Meister "I am different than the other candidates, because I understand the importance of the law of the land. This is the United States Constitution, and I understand what happens in our courts. As a sheriff, I have to swear an oath to protect the Constitution, a law that consists of articles and amendments that need to be enforced. I've seen in the courts that our judges are refusing to give our homeowners due process rights. I've seen our politicians in Washington that make laws that are not favoring the people but corporations. And, they take bribes from these corporations."

n Scott "I am passionate about Lee County. I'm a third generation native here so I have a lot of skin in the game, so to speak. I am concerned about public safety and it's not political record when I say I care about traffic, safety on our roadways, our drugs and our school situation the way it is these days. We went to work by cleaning up grow houses in Lehigh Acres, and since then we have never stopped. I'm infinitely more qualified than my opponents up here. I'm an FBI National Academy graduate. Less than one percent of the law enforcement officers in the world ever get invited to go there. I graduated the top of my class."

(ITALICS) How do you differentiate yourself and your platform from the other candidates for this office?

n Bushong "My education and my background are different than my two opponents. First of all, I was a lieutenant with the sheriff's office. I moved up through the ranks in that I was a patrolman, a detective, a homicide detective, a sergeant, a control sergeant and a narcotics commander. As we move forward into the future of law enforcement, we have to understand that there is a tie between not only our narcotics but are violent crimes of which we now have 29 homicides this year, 14 of which that have occurred in unincorporated Lee County. We need to focus on the violent crime aspects and the narcotic crime aspects of this and bring in some different forms of educations and different perspectives."

n Meister "I am very qualified for this position. I was a veteran in the U.S. military. I am the author of two books that cover procedural violations in our courts of law. I have mitigation experience. I was a family case manager, giving advice and recommendations in our courts for children. I will train my officers to learn what it means to enforce the Constitution. Currently, only 100 sheriffs in America out of 3,000 are doing that."

n Scott "I certainly have a proven track record. We are in trying times with the economy. Now is not a good time for on-the job training. I've been the sheriff for eight years. I wake up every single morning and put this uniform on and drive a Crown Victoria around town. I've patrolled every street in this County on every shift. I've been the first guy to respond to anything from a loud music call to a murder/suicide and everything in between. I've navigated seven consecutive budgets through the county commissioners and government. We are a fine sheriff's office with a good product on the ground. I am proud of the men and women that I serve with, and I am looking forward to another four years."



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