Citing the hard work of his friends and supporters, State Rep. Matt Caldwell took nearly 90 percent of the vote for reelection to the State House and says he is eagerly looking forward to next March and April when the Florida Legislature goes back to work.
Caldwell, who lives in Lehigh with his wife, Yvonne, and his daughter, Alva, represents the new District 79 which includes Lehigh Acres, Alva, Buckingham and North Fort Myers. Having been a part of the new planning for redistricting, Caldwell says he is happy with the results.
A promise he made during the campaign to open an office in Lehigh Acres will become a reality over the next few months.
"I'm looking at the Homestead Rd. area of Lehigh," Caldwell said. "We want to make it a central location for government access and for the ease of the constituents who need to talk to us for reasons concerning state government," he said.
During his first term as a state representative, Caldwell represented the old District 73 which represented a large part of Fort Myers.
Caldwell, who is 31 years old and lives off of Beth Stacey Blvd. in Lehigh, said he has been active and looks forward to the new development plans county planners and Lehigh residents have been working for a future Lehigh, which among other things, includes three vibrant community centers in the larger downtown area.
"I will be glad to work with Lehigh and the county planners in any way that involves a state perspective. It is all a great idea, but like most things, it comes down to money.
"But I see a great future for Lehigh Acres. With the population now over 80,000 people, large corporations will begin to look at Lehigh for possible development and I see that for Lehigh over the next decade," he said.
Caldwell easily defeated his Republican opponent, Jon Larsen Shudlick, who has said that he believes his loss partly to being a party outsider. There were no Democrats in the race which meant that it was an open primary for all voters to cast their votes.
He outraised and spent more money in his campaign than his opponent. Caldwell raised $121,840 and spent around $58,690. His opponent raised $11,140 and spent about $10,430, according to the Florida Division of Elections.
The salary for the position is $29,687 and Caldwell is eligible for run again in two years. The term limits for state representative in the state is eight years.
When asked why there was no opposition from the Democrats, Caldwell said he would like to believe that he has been fair and open to members of both parties.
"I have made myself available to anyone including independents. I was elected to represent the constituents of the new District 79," he said.
While Caldwell represents nearly all of Lehigh, there is a small slice of voters who are not in his district, but he represents 99 percent of all of Lehigh
"If they have a Fort Myers address, they are not in District 79," Caldwell said.
Looking back as to while he entered politics, Caldwell said he "sort of came as a natural thing."
If he is fortunate to win election until he is termed out, he says he really hasn't thought about any future plans.
"My mind is now working for the people of this great district which stretches from North Fort Myers to Buckingham, Alva and Lehigh Acres," he said.
Caldwell said he has met with Republican Tray Radel, the Fort Myers former television anchor and radio talk show host who won the GOP primary election for the U.S. Congressional seat held by Connie Mack IV. Mack is running against U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in November.
"We talked about the subjects at hand, Medicare and some other things, so to help bring him up to date. He is a very intelligent young man and will do very well in Congress, I think," he said.
Caldwell has served on important committees in Tallahassee. While the Speaker of the House will make appointments when the new legislature meets, Caldwell says he is especially interested in the agriculture committee, where he was vice chairman in the Agricultural and Natural Resources Subcommittee. He also has an interest in serving on the tax and finance committees.
"But that is up to the Speaker, who usually appoints members to committees and subcommittees who have a particular interest in the responsibilities of those committees," he said.
"We have a great district of people in the new redistricted 79. The main thing is that I want the people to know I am always there for them. I want to know their concerns and their problems with state issues. One of the things I will be working on is to focus on tax reform as it affects property taxes for businesses. In a perfect world, there would be no property taxes," he said.
"Right now, I am focused on working for the people who I represent."