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Commission candidates Dreikorn, Ruane address GPICA

March 11, 2020
By PAULETTE LeBLANC ( , Pine Island Eagle

After the call to order and Pledge of allegiance of the Greater Pine Island Civic Association meeting, an announcement of elected officers, from the Feb. 18 directors' meeting, was made naming Scott Wilkinson, president; Nadine Slimak, vice president; Shari Perkins, treasurer; and Tim Heitz, recording secretary. The floor was then opened to Karl Dreikorn and Kevin Ruane, who are running head to head for the Lee County Commissioners Seat in District 1.

Opening statements began with Dreikorn. He talked about having been on the island for 16 years. After everything he owned was destroyed by Hurricane Charley, Dreikorn said he was most impressed with the helpful attitude of the other islanders, noting their resiliency. This, he said, is what initially piqued his interest in giving back to the island.

Shortly after, he joined the Bokeelia Civic Association, where he said he had a part in projects such as finishing the sidewalk on Stringfellow Road and fixing the Bokeelia Boat Ramp. Dreikorn talked about serving the district as the fire commissioner, and how his background in business qualified him to resolve issues, that were present before his election. He emphasized his position on water quality advocacy, saying that it begins at a local level, by becoming a part of the solution. He reminded everyone that, as an islander, he has a birds-eye view of the problems present here, such as the roads and water, and also that he has a deep concern for the community, in which he lives.

Ruane opened by saying that in addition to leading the city of Sanibel as mayor, he's also been on the City Council for 13 years.

After going to school for accounting and taxation, and working his way up the corporate ladder, he pointed out that he started as an accountant and became C.F.O. of the subsidiary of a Fortune 100 company, where he oversaw $2.2 dollars. Ruane arrived shortly before Hurricane Charley, and got involved immediately on the safety structure team, whose job was to ensure the structural integrity of various buildings by making sure there were no leaks or breaks.

Ruane said he began calling Southwest Florida home after four days of seeing people come together in a way he had never experienced until then. In 2007 he was appointed to the Sanibel City Council. He gave a brief history of the debt ratio when he arrived, pointing out that there was a $60 million budget and a $100 million debt. Ruane said the knee-jerk reaction of a conservative in this situation would be to raise taxes, but since the city was already being taxed at an all-time high, he did not opt to do this. He said that today the city's debt is down from the original $100 million to $20 million. The taxes, he said, were cut by .25 the pension system was restored to 93.3 and the reserves, which were at $400,000 are now at $12 million. He credited his upbringing for a keen sense of responsible spending.

Ruane took a question about what he planned to do in Pine Island as far as a septic system. He pointed out that the first thing you have to do is identify breaches and leeches, saying he would certainly look at and address any issues, noting that the nitrogen and phosphates would have to be removed before going into the waterways. He also emphasized the fact that when he took over in Sanibel, they already had a city plan and he was a small part of implementing that plan.

Dreikorn addressed the same question, saying that Lee County's septic is a major contributing factor to the nutrients entering into the estuary. He recommends establishing priorities throughout Lee County to make a transition from septic to a city sewer system. He pointed out that he is on the board of directors for the Pine Island Water Association, where the overall water issues are discussed. Dreikorn said he is in favor of seeking grants for this project, as it is costly, and one of the biggest unfunded liabilities for the island. He also pointed out that the vision for the county would be to not contribute to the nutrients in our ecology as a result of our own footprint.

Ruane underlined the responsibility of running for this seat, saying that he would have to tender his resignation as mayor, win or lose, but if he wins, he would then employ the same skills he used as mayor, such as dealing with an upside-down budget.

Dreikorn reminded everyone that currently Lee County provides the infrastructure, saying that will change if Pine Island incorporates. He emphasized that he will continue to represent the unincorporated cities whether he is elected or not, adding that it is a civic duty for everyone and that he feels the same pain as all islanders in this. Because of this, he promised to reman a staunch advocate of the island.

Ruane addresses the issue of incorporation, stating that there are two ways to incorporate: government-light or government-full. He said it comes down to whether or not the taxpayer decides to be a light corporation or a full corporation. Ruane pointed out that the county commissioner is for all parts of un-incorporated Lee County. He said that he is here as a representative of the people, not of himself. He promised to abide by whatever plan the community sets forth, stating that it only matters what the people want.

Dreikorn stated that he will always fight for the Lee Plan, making sure everyone in the community is given a voice, such as the case in a town hall meeting, rather than discussing important issues behind closed doors.

Ruane thanked everyone, including Dreikorn, for the opportunity to speak on his run for the seat, and closed by saying that he is an accountant by trade, and brings a unique skill set and history of reducing taxes and debt and utilizing the proper resources. He closed by asking everyone for their vote and support.

Dreikorn expressed his appreciation to everyone coming out, reminding them that it is a civic duty. He maintains that he will continue to focus on the community. He said he has the gift of discernment and promises he will never let the people of the community down or lie to them.

After the candidates for District 1 made their closing statements, GPICA Board President Scott Wilkinson asked that the previous meeting's minutes be accepted. There was an update on the development of Publix. Wilkinson said the size of the sign remains the biggest issue to date. A letter has been written to the developers and the matter is still pending. The issue of incorporation was raised, to which, Wilkinson said, they are still awaiting new numbers from the feasibility update.

After some discussion, the meeting was adjourned.



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