Two candidates will face off this month for the District 2 seat on the Lee County Commission.
Incumbent Cecil L. Pendergrass and opponent Paige Rausch will go up against each other in the Aug. 26 primary election. Because both represent the Republican Party and there is no other candidate qualified in November, it is a universal primary election, meaning all registered voters in Lee County can cast a ballot in the race, regardless of party affiliation and regardless of the district in which they live.
The top vote-getter wins the seat, as they will have no opposition in the Nov. 4 general election.
Cecil L. Pendergrass (incumbent)
Residence: Fort Myers
Occupation: Lee County Commissioner, District 2
If re-elected, Cecil Pendergrass will continue the work that he has been doing the past two years.
"To bring consensus and leadership to the office and district," he said.
Pendergrass noted that he was unanimously sworn in as chairman of the board at his first meeting.
"We've done a lot the last few years," he said, adding that includes fostering faith between the Lee County Commission and other municipalities and elected officials.
Voting against tax increases and making sure tax dollars are being accounted for are priorities.
"I'm always going to continue to be a steward of the taxpayers' dollars," Pendergrass said.
Continuing to focus on water quality in the area is another top issue. He explained that he has been working with state and local officials over the past year toward such improvements.
"I support the community plans for rural areas," Pendergrass said.
"I supported the term limits brought before the board three months ago," he added.
On the November ballot, voters will decide on whether to term limit Lee County commissioners to three consecutive terms, or 12 years. The board voted unanimously to put the referendum on it.
A supporter of home rule, Pendergrass will continue working alongside local municipalities, while ensuring that each government entity and its citizens make decisions on issues close to home.
Not having to use reserves or 20/20 funds to balance future budgets is a hope of his.
"Obviously, I will continue to reduce the budget, so there's no extra regular fees or taxation to the public," Pendergrass said, citing another priority for him if he retains the District 2 seat.
Residence: Fort Myers
Occupation: Real estate
As a lifelong resident of Lee County, Paige Rausch wants to see the quality of life that she enjoyed while growing up and that she continues to enjoy today preserved for the future generations.
"I just want to make sure we're doing whatever we can to protect that," she said.
Rausch cited the use of Conservation 20/20 funds to supplement the county's budget deficit as one negative impact on quality of life. Last year, the commission reallocated an estimated $26 million from the program to do so. The funds are intended to be used to purchase environmentally sensitive land.
She also pointed to the relationship between the commission and the public.
"I believe that there's a need for respect to be restored to the citizens," Rausch said, adding that residents and businesses should be treated fairly. "I think we've gotten off track a little bit."
She called it short-sighted for commissioners to refuse to listen to public input during a meeting.
"They've taken the time and they want to interact with this government and officials," Rausch said. "Those are the people who are taking the time because they care."
"I want to make sure the people know that the county government works for them and that our government is transparent and open," she said.
Rausch wants to see the county focus more on attracting "clean" businesses, like Algenol.
"Something that will not only provide a use in the here and now, but businesses that will create products or different types of technologies," she said. "Businesses that work with the programs that we have."
Ensuring the budget has checks and balances is another priority for Rausch.
"I wouldn't mind seeing a forensic audit or best management practices," she said. "To help us work better and more efficiently with the funds we do have coming in."
Rausch also noted a need to increase the county's revenue from different sources.