With Republican Larry Kiker stunning long-time District 3 Commissioner Ray Judah in the August primary, the big void will have to be filled in November.
The former mayor of Fort Myers Beach and former reporter Charlie Whitehead will go head to head on election day, and both believe their skillset is perfect for the position.
- Larry Kiker
Residence: Fort Myers Beach
Occupation: Former mayor of Fort Myers Beach, businessman
Larry Kiker wasn't always involved with the community, but it became become a passion when he became mayor and now wants to bring that kind of involvement to a countywide constituency.
"With six years of solid experience as an official and six years of success in office, I can help bring substantial change to Lee County," Kiker said.
Kiker said the main priority is to keep Lee County from spending itself into oblivion, and his experience in the private sector can help do just that.
"We have to prioritize and specify what we need to spend on. I've worked with other mayors and we need to get municipalities and unincorporated areas to tell Lee County what they are," Kiker said. "I spent 35 years in large corporations and owning my own business and I know what it's like to balance a budget."
Kiker also wants to prioritize the 47,000 people in Lee County who are unemployed or underemployed and established businesses, where he said 85 percent of job creation comes from.
Kiker said only a person with the right skill set and experience can handle the job, and he's the one.
"I can talk positive about what I bring to bear. This is a $2 billion business. This is not an entry-level position," Kiker said. "It requires someone with the skills and background to sit in that chair and be effective."
- Charlie Whitehead
Residence: San Carlos Island
Charlie Whitehead has 25 years of knowledge regarding Lee County government formulated as a newspaper reporter for several publications, beginning with The Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, then the Bonita Banner and more than 20 years with the Naples Daily News. He said he's seen things "done well and done badly."
"Porter Goss was county commissioner when I started. I've covered every big story. I have a historical perspective," Whitehead said. "I've spent 25 years studying for the job. There's nothing that comes before the commission I haven't researched and written about."
Whitehead's civic and community involvement includes being president of his neighborhood association, Little League president and umpire and serving on the Beach Elementary School advisory committee.
Whitehead agrees the county needs to prioritize spending and find a way to get along.
"I'm running on a platform of consensus building and civility. There's a lack of effort to get along," Whitehead said. "We have to prioritize spending. The commission doesn't tell them what to cut. It's their job to say 'We can afford this, we can't afford that.'"
Whitehead, a Republican running as a No Party Affiliate, believes he's the true conservative and, according to the endorsements he's received, is the right person for the job.
"I've been unanimously endorsed by the Beach Civic Association and have the support of five of the six living mayors of Fort Myers Beach. Those who know Kiker best support me," Whitehead said. "Those who educate themselves on me and Kiker will vote for me in a landslide."