Ahmed El-Gendy wants to be the honorary mayor of Lehigh Acres again for the coming year. He is the first to announce his bid to run again and "buy votes" from the public to help him keep his title.
The Honorary Mayor of Lehigh Competition is put on by the Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce, and its interim president and CEO, says it is a good way to raise money for not only the chamber, but for a favorite charity in town.
It works like this, Baker said.
"You come up with a $50 fee and fill in an application that is on the chamber's website (LehighAcresChamger.org). The honorary mayor contest has been going on for a couple of decades.
Because Lehigh Acres is not an incorporated community, local leaders years ago thought it would be a good idea to have an honorary mayor who could attend ceremonial events. And it would be a great way to raise money for local charities.
Honorary Mayor Ahmed El-Gendy is head of technology for his family's medical practice, Florida Lung and Sleep Associates at 2625 Lee Blvd. Dr. Alla El-Gendy is his father.
The search for the new 2013 honorary or is underway beginning this week and Inke Baker said people who are interested should not wait to get an application. She said they need to start raising money now because the winner will be announced at the Lehigh Spring Festival in March. The new honorary mayor will be given a sash and flowers before a crowd of hundreds on the outside stage.
Nobody knows how much money a contestant has raised because it is put into a special account by Inke Baker, the chamber director.
"I'm good at keeping secrets," she laughed. "But nobody will know until the official announcement at the Spring Festival. The presentation will be made on Thursday, March 21, according to Baker.
Then the honorary mayor gets his or own convertible and is given a good spot in the final day Lehigh Spring Festival Parade which winds its way down Homestead Rd. with thousands of visitors on the sidewalks.
Baker said the contest is a good one because it gives people an opportunity to help their charities of choice.
"Half of the money goes to their favorite charity and the rest comes to the Chamber as a fundraising event. It is one of our major fundraising fun events of the year," she said.
Last year, El-Gendy raised $2,680. Half of what he received went to the Chest Institute, a local foundation in Lehigh Acres that helps people with costs of medical treatment for lung and other chest disorders.
The person who raises the second highest amount becomes the deputy honorary mayor and that person stands in for the honorary mayor if he or she cannot attend functions. A third runner-up becomes the honorary "clerk of the court."
The honorary mayor can be seen at all types of events from grand openings and ribbon cuttings to chamber events where he or she is recognized.
"It's fun to ask for votes," El-Gendy said. "I guess you can say we are buying the election. But this way is legal."
Baker reminded those who are interested that they should not wait too long because March "is just around the corner."
"By getting that application in, they can start having fundraising events or asking for money right away," Baker said.
Over the years, those seeking the title have done a lot of things to raise money. Some have sponsored golf tourneys while others have sold food to raise money. Many have planned musical events for the public with a cost to get in. And many contestants just plain ask for donations.
"All that money goes to being the honorary mayor," El-Gendy said.
The Greater Lehigh Chamber of Commerce took over the long standing event last year. Prior to then, it was sponsored by Lehigh Community Services.
"I'll be the first this week to get my $50 in and get my application. So get ready Lehigh, I'll be looking for you to buy votes to get me 'reselected,'" El-Gendy laughed.
"It's like it's the early bird that catches the worm," El-Gendy said. The sooner one starts raising money, the more he or she are likely to collect.
In years' past, the honorary mayor was announced at the beginning of the Spring Festival.
"But now they moved it to the end of the festival so that applicants can raise money at the festival activities," El Gendy said. "It's just a lot of fun I'm ready for a lot of competition," he laughed.