By ANDREA GALABINSKI
The North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce and The North Fort Myers Civic Association will joint host a 2012 Meet The Candidate Forum. The public is invited to meet many of the local political candidates on Thursday, Aug. 2, at Grace Community Center.
The forum was organized by the Community Affairs Committee of the North Fort Myers Chamber and the Civic Association.
The doors will open at 6 p.m. to allow 45 minutes for a "meet and greet" with the candidates running for office, and allow individuals to pick up election materials. This is a chance to become informed and talk about the issues one-on-one with the candidates, officials said.
Also, officials from the Lee County Elections Office will be on hand with information about voting and voter registration.
If You Go:
Who: The North Fort Myers Chamber
of Commerce and The North Fort Myers
What: 2012 Meet The Candidate Forum
When: Thursday, Aug. 2; Meet and Greet;
6 p.m., Candidates speak at 7 p.m.
The candidates will take the stage at 7 p.m.
"Our first Meet The Candidates Forum was for the primary in 2006," said Gregg Makepeace, president of the The North Fort Myers Civic Association. "This will be our seventh forum. Hopefully, citizens will come and meet who they are voting for."
The event is also for the candidates to meet the public, he said.
"At the very beginning, there is about a 40 to 45 minute time frame for a meet and greet with the candidates you want to talk to in the Community Center. The public will have a chance to ask questions and talk to those who are running," Makepeace said.
"This is one of the major projects of the year for the election years for The Civic Association. We want to make sure this type of program exists forever."
Those who come like the opportunity, he said, even the candidates.
Al Giacalone of Sun Country Realty and Homes is the chairman of the Chamber's Community Affairs Committee and the honorary mayor of North Fort Myers.
"This is an excellent event," he said. "It's a great chance for the public to meet people who want to be in an elected position."
He said the response from candidates has been tremendous.
"They are 100 percent ecstatic and very happy we are doing something like this. Unfortunately there are so many of these types of events being held, some candidates have committed to another event and won't make it."
At press time, 33 candidates had committed to the event. That includes five candidates for seats on the Lee County Board of County Commissioners.
Two State Representative candidates, Matt Caldwell and Jon Larsen Shudlick, have also committed. There will be candidates running for Lee County Clerk of the Circuit Court, Lee County School Board, Lee Memorial Health System Board, United States Representative and Twentieth Judicial Circuit Judge.
"I would like to thank all the candidates who have agreed to attend and to the North Fort Myers Civic Association for helping organize the event," said Giacalone. "It also goes without saying our thanks go to Grace Community Center for providing the venue."
"This is a great opportunity for our community and for the citizens of Lee County," said Christopher O. Jackson, executive director of the North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce. "Not only will this event bring people together at the Grace Community Center, but citizens will have the opportunity to hear the candidates' positions and make an informed decision when they go to the polls in August and November.
"Part of our mission is to provide leadership to our community and we felt it was important to offer a platform for the candidates to talk about the issues affecting Lee County now and in the future. While we are obviously concerned about the challenges facing our business community, this forum will also address wider community issues. We also believe it is critical to have community representatives that are engaged with the residents and who are willing to listen to all opinions and concerns.
"We appreciate the participation of the candidates and look forward to a great forum."
The Primary Election is Aug. 14 and the General Election is Nov. 6.
Grace Community Center is on Hancock Bridge Parkway, right on the border of Cape Coral and North Fort Myers.
For more information, call the North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce at 997-9111 or go to nfmchamber.com.