With Lee County Manager Karen Hawes under fire for controversies surrounding Medstar helicopter service, retiring Clerk of Court Charlie Green said Friday he’d be open to stepping in as county manager, whether as an interim post or something more permanent.
“If Karen was gone and they asked me, I’d probably take it,” said Green, who’ll soon turn over the reins in the clerk’s office to Linda Doggett, elected as his replacement, after a 28-year tenure. “If it happens, I’d be interested. But it’s not something I’m going to push.”
The question of timing, however, is open: Two commissioners, Brian Bigelow and Ray Judah, won’t go off the board until their replacements take office in mid-November.
“I’d think the sitting board members might want the new members involved in any action they may take, but that’s all up to them. I don’t know what kind of time line they might be looking at,” said Green, 65, who also said it’s too early to talk about serving as an interim or in a more permanent way.
Regardless of Medstar, Green and others have said, a shakeup at the top administrative level could be expected after a shakeup on the board.
After the primary, Green said, “I woke up and thought Lee County has a great opportunity to open the door and move forward; that we were changing for the good. … That means somebody’s got to take a new leadership role in the administration.”
He said he likes Hawes and believes “she’s a really good person. But right now we have a prime opportunity for change.” If something along the manager’s job worked out for him, Green said, “that would be great. And if it doesn’t, that’s OK too. I have some other irons in the fire.”
With both presidential campaigns in full swing post-convention, Lee County’s Republican workers turned out for the party’s “Super Saturday” voter outreach.
Volunteers with Mitt Romney’s campaign knocked on 2,518 doors and made 7,033 phone calls, all in one day, said Cindy Lignelli, a county co-chairwoman for Romney, along with Marilyn Stout and Shirley Gerstenberger.
“Statewide, we’ve already had more voter contact at this point than the 2008 (Republican) campaign had for the entire season,” Lignelli said. “We’re much more organized this time.”
The Romney campaign, in alliance with the state Republican Party and the Republican National Committee, has offices off U.S. 41 near Alico Road that provide a base for professional staff and the 700 volunteers Lignelli said work 12 hours a day, six days a week, and nine hours on Sundays.
That office has been open since May; Lee County’s Republican Executive Committee opened its campaign office this week in Cape Coral. Lignelli said their group has had heard little from county REC leaders, but the Romney office is focused on Romney, while local GOP candidates turned out for Wednesday’s opening of the new county headquarters.
Lee County’s newly elected Republican state committeewoman, Nancy McGovern, said improved relations between the REC and other party groups, such as the women’s clubs and Young Republicans, and GOP campaigns is something she wants to stress after she takes office in December.
“I think the REC has not been as inclusive as it should be,” McGovern said. The state committeewoman and committeeman, elected by all GOP voters in the primary, are to act as liaisons between the state and local parties.
McGovern defeated former committeewoman Brenda Skupny 62-38 percent; state committeeman Charles Dauray did not have opposition.
McGovern said she’s had congratulatory calls from Dauray, Gov. Rick Scott and state party Chairman Lenny Curry, but has not heard from REC Cairman Gary Lee, an ally of Skupny.
“Charles has been very cordial,” McGovern said, noting Dauray may become REC chairman if Lee decides not to seek re-election in December. Dauray could not be reached for comment Friday, but has said he’d be interested if Lee steps down.
He and McGovern share many of the same ideas about greater cooperation among Republican groups, she said.
“After all, we’re all working, or should be, for the same thing, which is to get more Republicans elected,” McGovern said. “That seems to work better if you have everyone involved and don’t play favorites.”
Among some of the more interesting local races remaining on the November ballot is the Lee County cmmission District 3 contest between Republican Larry Kiker and no-party-afiliated candidate Charlie Whitehead, a registered Republican and former news reporter.
Kiker defeated Commissioner Ray Judah in the primary, but Whitehead doesn’t expect the big soft money that went toward defeating Judah to be such a factor this time.
Judah angered many during his years on the board, Whitehead told BUPAC members this week, and most of the pre-primary mail was anti-Judah.
“It’s my belief that soft money was spent to get rid of Ray regardless of who was in the primary,” Whitehead said. “I expect things will be very different in that respect” in the current race.
He does not expect to raise or spend as much as Kiker, who’s active in real estate and serves as mayor of Fort Myers Beach.
“But if you learn about me, and you learn about Larry and his record, I believe things will play in my favor,” Whitehead said.
After covering Lee County government for more than 20 years as a reporter, Whitehead said, he has knowledge of county issues and operations, and he’s skilled in gathering data and listening to all sides of an issue.
“I believe I am the most qualified candidate,” he said, noting he finds it difficult to ask for donations.
Regarding county issues, Whitehead’s comments included:
• Emergency medical services should probably be something government provides. “It’s a public safety service, and public safety should be the top priority of government.”
• He’s supportive of buying environmentally valuable land, but said the county has paid too much for some Conservation 20/20 purchases and some policies need revamping. One change he suggested is the county could collect less than the half-mill it now levies to fund purchases.
• Casino gambling in Lee County would mean changes in the community’s quality of life and tourism. “That’s a fundamental question about how the community should grow, and I’d be good with putting that to a referendum.”
Trey Radel, Republican nominee for a congressional seat, may face a November election against Democrat Jim Roach, but he’s talking like a winner.
To stay in touch with constituents, Radel said he’s planning monthly meetings via telephone, a technique used by several candidates during the campaign. It works something like an extended conference call: Just press a button, and the participant can join hundreds of others in a live talk.
“I’d like to do that at least monthly,” said Radel, who also assured the Lee Republican Women that Fort Myers is home and that’s where he and his family plan to stay.
Radel also plans to do something unsuccessful candidate Gary Aubuchon talked about during the campaign: Sign on to legislation that eliminates pensions for House members.
“That’s part of the elitism pervading Washington now,” he said.