Early Voting began in Lee County and in the rest of Florida this past Saturday and ends this coming Saturday. The General Election is Tuesday, Nov, 6, and Lehigh Acres voters will have two local district races on the ballot in which to choose candidates.
Voters will choose to fill empty seats on both the Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District board and the East County Water Control District (ECWCD).
As Election Day nears, the races for the two local special district boards have been lackluster, and probably the least controversial special districts elections in years. Other than the economic problems of the fire district, few other issues are being addressed by the candidates.
That is true except for one local race on the East County Water Control District in which its chairman Michael Welch claims there has been a smear campaign against him. There have been unacceptable comments made on some local Internet sites against Welch. He also said "robo calls" have been made against him and his integrity.
Welch mailed out thousands of letters last week, he says, to call attention to what he called the "nasty and negative phone calls regarding my character, my morals, my Catholic faith, my friends, my dogs or just about anything."
He said comments were made on one particular local site.
"Disgusted citizens have brought to my attention sick and filthy accusations about me and other elected officials on one particular local (Internet) site," Welch said in his letter.
He said phone calls may distort or outright lie about his record at the ECWCD.
Candidates on both the fire board and the ECWCD board have put out signs along many of the most traveled streets in Lehigh. Those that are on public property have been removed by code enforcement officials almost daily.
Some candidates had not put out signs as of this past weekend and some of the local candidates have not shown up at two candidate forums, one held at Veterans Park and the other held outside at the Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce in the Lehigh Towne Centre last Thursday.
Each of the two boards has one empty seat with the resignations of the Rev. Desmond Barrett from the ECWCD, and one empty seat on the Lehigh Fire Board, due to the death of Kevin Shea.
When the two vacancies occurred, the boards decided to leave them vacant until the Nov. 6 election. In addition, other seats are up for election with some incumbents vying to hold their seats.
The following are the candidates running to fill seats on the two boards.
Lehigh Acres Fire Control, Rescue District
- Seat 1: Robert G. "Bob" Hewitt of 410 Lake Ave, Lehigh, and Cathy Kruse of 738 Arthur Ave.
- Seat 3: Larry Becker, incumbent, 644 Parkdale Blvd., Ronald L. Krome, 932 Oxford Ave. South, William E. Liedtke, 201 Arthur Ave., and Bob Robbins, 1802 Ridgecrest St.
- Seat 4: David Adams, incumbent, 1110 Magnolia Ave., and Brandon C. Morris, 343 Parish Ave.
- Seat 5: Jacqueline Y. Danis, 1814 Lockhaven Court; and Ralph B. Hemingway Jr., 622 Morning Mist Lane.
East County Water Control District
- Seat 1: Neal Horrom, 221 Roosevelt Ave., Dewey A. Tyler, 209 Seaton Ave., Michael J. Welch, incumbent, 1923 Golfside Village Drive.
- Seat 3: Frank T. Larosa, 1147 Navajo Ave., Kenneth K. Thompson, 1150 Lee Blvd., and Joseph L. Whalen, 1402 4th St. East.
- Seat 5: Nathan Stout, incumbent, 403 Joan Ave., and Edward "Edd" Terry Weiner, 20048 Lake Vista Circle.
Much to the surprise of political observers, Jeff Berndt, the chairman of the fire board, did not seek reelection after serving several years in office. That leaves one member - Linda Carter - remaining and not up for election.
On the ECWCD board, not up for election are Mike Bonacolta and David Deetscreek.
Of the candidates who have served on the two different boards in the past and are now seeking election again are Neal Horrom for a seat on the ECWCD, and Ralph Hemmingway Jr., for a seat on the Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District.