County voters substantiated that background experience in a governmental seat is truly more vote worthy than a reporter's skill set.
Republican Larry Kiker, the former mayor of Fort Myers Beach, unofficially defeated Charlie Whitehead, who ran with no party affiliation, in the "Battle across the Bay" race for Lee County Board of County Commissioners Dist. 3 seat on Election Day yesterday.
With 125 of the 126 precincts recorded (99.21 percent of the total vote) this morning, Kiker amassed 141,144 votes and gained 63.67 percent of the vote to outgain the San Carlos Island resident and writer, who collected 80,540 votes.
Larry Kiker and wife Paula react after a deciding victory in the Lee County Board of County Commissioners Dist. 3 race.
"I couldn't be any happier. We worked as hard as I think anybody could, and I think that is why we won," Kiker said from Island View Restaurant on top of the Lani Kai Resort, where he held an election party. "There are some great people out there that care about their community, and I've been in a position to meet them now."
Kiker stated his team has had more than 800 separate contributors on the campaign trail. He listed two things to strive for after being inaugurated.
"I'm looking forward to sitting down with the commissioners where we can talk about the vision and policy to frame our decisions based on that," he said. "Secondly, I want to work with all the different mayors and heads of the communities and talk about our priorities as a county as a whole so they can have a major hand in on how priorities are set and tax money spent. Whether I agree with them or disagree with them, our number one job is to represent them."
At age 60, Kiker brings more than 30 years of business experience along with political prowess to the commission. He has been mayor of the Beach for the past six years, but will focus on a "businesslike approach to government" at the county level. By that, he plans to pay close attention to the budget crisis, bring tourism back to basics and help local existing businesses.
"I think we need a shift in paradigm on how we treat our businesses. We need to give tax incentives rather than giving money away," said Kiker. "We need to focus on our future and use our resources on future projects."
Whitehead, who had his election party at Bonita Bill's Waterfront Caf, was disheartened by the low amount of voters but gracious in the defeat.
"I'm disappointed it wasn't a better turnout, but I'm glad that more than 80,000 people thought I was a good idea," he said. "I wish Larry nothing but the best. I expect him to work his butt off and do the very best job he can."
Before the night's final tallies, the first set of results featured early voting and ballots-by-mail numbers. Kiker led that category with 24,737 votes or 57.87 percent of the vote, while Whitehead trailed with 18,102 votes or 42.13 percent.
Kiker slowly pulled away as the votes came in. He posted 61.72 percent of the vote with 31 reporting precincts, 62.19% with 56 precincts and 62.54% with 76 precincts.
In the other three County commission races at the same juncture, Cecil Pendergrass collected 151,102 votes or 67.98 percent of the vote to win in the General Election primary in District 2 over no-party-affiliation candidate John W. Sawyer (70,532 votes) and write-in candidates. Incumbent Frank Mann received 141,977 votes or 62.63 percent of the vote to defeat Independence Party of Florida candidate Matt Miller (84,722 votes) in gaining a third term as commissioner in the Dist. 5 race. And, incumbent John Manning piled up a whopping 191,187 votes or 96.27 percent of the vote to topple write-in candidates for the seat in Dist. 1.
The newly elected officials will be sworn in at the County Commission meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 20.
Fire board race results - local
The three-man race for seat #4 of the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District Board was a very tight race at 99 percent of the vote.
Incumbent John Scanlon tallied 1,392 votes (39.17 percent of vote) to defeat challengers John Pohland (1,155 votes, 32.50%) and Bryan Raymond (1,007, 28.33%) for the right to represent the independent special district.
The early voting results were also close with Scanlon holding 35.27 percent of the vote, Pohland with 33.33 percent and Raymond with 31.40 percent.
In the other open seat, incumbent Betty Goodacre ran unopposed for seat #2.
The newly elected officials are expected to be sworn in at their next scheduled monthly meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 20.
Library board race results - local
The men-versus-women race for three seats on the Fort Myers Beach Public Library District Board of Directors proved to be a woman's show in the independent special district at the 99 percent vote mark.
Incumbent Sally Seabury rolled up 2,202 votes or 61.06 percent of the vote over Peter Reid (1,404 votes) in seat #5, while incumbent Lorrie Wolf gathered 2,306 votes or 62.68 percent of the vote over Jim Stevens (1,373 votes) in seat #6. Mary "Miffie" Greer garnered 2,347 votes or 64.89 percent of the vote over Bruce Butcher (1,270 votes) in seat #7.
In early voting, Seabury captured 59.70 percent of the vote to Reid's 40.30%, Wolf collected 63.33 percent to Steven's 36.67% and Greer pulled in 64.55 percent to Butcher's 35.45%.
The newly elected officials will be sworn in on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
Sheriff race results
Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott, a Republican, gained a third term in office by defeating challengers Lee Bushong, who ran with no party affiliation, and Christian Meister, a write-in candidate.
Scott amassed 165,853 votes or 66.02 percent of the vote in the victory. Bushong collected 84,802 votes and write-in candidates gained 544 votes.
Scott will be sworn into office on Jan. 8.
The certified results will not be available until Nov. 16, to allow federal personnel and overseas servicemen and servicewomen a grace period to vote.
Of the 125 precincts counted, less than 70 percent of the 388,427 registered voters cast ballots.