Five candidates line up for the Lee County Commission District 5 race | News, Sports, Jobs
Five candidates — three Republicans, one Democrat and one write-in — qualified to run for the county commissioners seat for District 5 Lee County, which has been vacated by the death of Frank Mann.
The Republican field features former Boston Red Sox hitter Michael Greenwell, former District 5 commissioner John Albion and chiropractor Joseph Gambino.
A primary will be held on Tuesday, August 23 to determine who will win the Republican nomination for the seat, which includes eastern Lee County including Lehigh Acres.
The winner of the closed primary will face Democrat Matthew Wood, a Lehigh Acres resident and co-owner of Powerwash Pros, in the Nov. 8 special.
Wood said he was running for the seat because he believes the Lehigh Acres people were “overlook” in the five-member commission whose members are elected nationwide.
“I want infrastructure, sidewalks” he said adding some lights doesn’t work in community.
Angela Chenaille qualified as a write-in candidate. A self-proclaimed Republican, Chenaille has worked in construction and real estate.
There was a quick turnaround time to register for the race. Due to the tight deadlines, none of the candidates submitted petitions with signatures. The fee to qualify under the party was approximately $5,900 and $3,961.80 for non-party candidates.
Greenwell said he was in Nashville to watch a NASCAR race with Ross Chastain, an Alva Native, when he found qualifying was fast approaching. He left the event and rushed back to Lee County to finish his file.
Greenwell operates an agricultural business, 31 Produce, and Big League Builders, a contractor. He also owns a real estate rental company, Greenwell Investment Properties.
A two-time All-Star who has faced Hall-of-Famer pitchers like Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson in his career and played alongside Hall-of-Famer Wade Boggs in the 1986 World Series, Greenwell said he was more than just a businessman and retired athlete.
He helped form the North Olga Community Panel. Greenwell, who also once competed in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, said the panel worked on planning how to control growth in the community. He said the community board was formed to help restore a historic area.
Greenwell, 58, described himself as “Per Growth” and for “positive growth”.
Drafted in the third round of the 1982 Major League Baseball draft by North Fort Myers High School, Greenwell has lived in Alva for 32 years.
The 1988 American League MVP race runner-up built a home there and raised his two children.
“I want good, managed growth” said Greenwell. “I feel like sometimes we grow so fast that we don’t get the infrastructure we need.”
For Albion, 59, regaining a seat on the Lee County Board of County Commissioners means he must add a residence as his current home is three-quarters of a mile outside the district’s new boundaries.
Although all Lee County voters can cast a vote in each of the county commissioner races, the commissioners must reside in the district they represent.
A real estate agent and director of Cushman and Wakefield, Albion represented District 5 from 1992 to 2006. His family also operates Safe-T-Storage on Pine Ridge Road in Fort Myers Beach.
Albion cited water quality, infrastructure and transportation, and workers’ salaries as its main problems.
“We have underemployment” said Albion. “People aren’t getting paid as well as they should.”
The former executive director of the Fort Myers Beach, Albion Chamber of Commerce said he wants to work closely with Florida Gulf Coast University on economic development.
“It’s a much more challenging time for Lee County. Because of the growth that has occurred, there is less land to solve our problems.” said Albion.
Joseph Gambino, a chiropractor and real estate agent who has an address in Fort Myers in unincorporated Lee County, moved here from Long Island two years ago.
Gambino, 42, still has an address in Freeport, New York, and works one weekend a month at his New York chiropractor office. In Lee County, Gambino owns a mobile chiropractic business and runs the real estate company Major Coinage Holdings.
“I want Lee County to remain a place for fiscal responsibility and low taxes,” said Gambino. “We have to keep growth smart.”
Gambino said he wants to limit commercial development in east Lee County and center it in Fort Myers.
“Alva, Buckingham, these are areas we must preserve. I would be opposed to overdevelopment in these areas.”
Gambino said he was drawn to life in rural east Lee County, having visited family over the years.
“I love the country life” he said.
“As a family man with children, I understand the needs of Lee County.” said Gambino. “They don’t want overpopulation, they don’t want overdevelopment.”
Elaine Sarlo, a Republican political adviser and former aide to US Senator Marco Rubio, withdrew after running for the seat.
Two more seats on the district commission are up for grabs this year and will be decided in November.
District 2 incumbent Cecil Pender-grass, a Republican, faces Karen Watson, who qualified as a candidate.
District 4 incumbent Brian Hamman, a Republican, faces Jim Sheets, who qualified as a run-in candidate.