Perspectives on the President

Eight Southwest Florida residents sound off on Donald Trump’s presidency

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They are married and single; black, white and Hispanic; a widowed mother of two teenage girls; and a caretaker son of an ailing father.

There are two Iraq war veterans, two nurses, an undocumented immigrant student, a teacher, a taxidermist, a wealthy retiree, and a security guard.

Combined, they don't just represent America. They represent us, here in Southwest Florida.

These are the eight people from Lee and Collier counties that the Naples Daily News, in collaboration with The News-Press in Fort Myers, chose to profile and follow for the first year Donald J. Trump is the 45th president of the United States.

Some voted for Trump, others did not. Some of them fear him failing. All of them hope he succeeds in uniting the country.

Meet them. Learn about them. And revisit their views as we move forward in 2017.

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Jim Deagle

Retired developer hopeful Trump will live up to his promises

 

By Eric Staats, eric.staats@naplesnews.com

When Jim Deagle walks through the clubhouse at Imperial Golf Club in North Naples, everyone smiles and calls him Mr. Deagle. He jokes with other golfers and says hello to the chef.

The retired developer from Ohio golfs at Imperial three days a week. He does a little fishing, but he spends more time reading books by authors like Vince Flynn and Michael Connelly. He didn't always have free time, raising three children and growing a home construction business into a $30 million enterprise.

Deagle's credit wasn't good enough to borrow the $2,500 he needed to start Columbus-based Candlelite Homes in 1963. A friend signed for the loan, which Deagle paid off in a year, ahead of schedule. For Deagle, 81, it's always been about the challenge.

"What I like most about it is seeing a concept on paper and see it come out of the ground," said Deagle, who moved permanently to North Naples three years ago.

His career spent building things is not all that Deagle and President Donald Trump share.

"I'm glad to see Mr. Obama go, and I'm hopeful Donald Trump can live up to some of the things he talked about during the pre-election period," Deagle said.

Among Deagle's hopes is that Trump will reduce environmental regulations that cost businesses time and money. Deagle said he wants clean water, for example, but he doesn't want regulations that he said do little more than damage businesses.

"I think he'll cut through some of that," Deagle said.

On the other hand, Deagle said, he is not opposed to a welcoming immigration policy as long as the people who come to the U.S. want to be Americans and assimilate into this country's culture.

"I think we need a lot of people in this country," Deagle said.

His concerns about health care costs are rooted in his family's own experience: His youngest son has two autistic sons, 8 and 11, and a 13-year-old daughter and pays $30,000 each year for health care, Deagle said.

He thinks the Affordable Care Act needs to be "sorted out," but that parts of it should be kept in place to make sure people can afford coverage.

"Republicans really need to have some kind of program to substitute (for 'Obamacare')," Deagle said.

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Naples retiree Jim Deagle voted for President-elect Donald Trump in the presidential race over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Luke Franke/Naples Daily News

Jim Deagle

Age: 81

Resides: North Naples, full-time for three years

Family: Married, three children, eight grandchildren, three great-grandchildren

Education: Accounting degree from Ohio State University

Occupation: Retired executive

Political party: Republican

Deborah Clay

Nurse recounts tougher social ladder climb than Trump’s

 

By David Dorsey, ddorsey@gannett.com

Deborah Clay used to make $27.50 a day picking cucumbers and peppers, and grading potatoes on an Immokalee farm as a pregnant 14-year-old.

The Fort Myers native dropped out of Riverdale High School, got her GED and earned a 3.5 grade point average at Edison Community College with an associate in arts degree. She applied there for nursing school in the early 1990s but was told by an academic adviser, "You're not nurse material."

Clay then chose to blow that statement to smithereens. She earned an associate nursing degree from Manatee Community College, a master's degree in nursing from the University of Phoenix, and logged more than 20 years as a nurse

Like many African-Americans, Clay, 46, voted for Hillary Clinton in part because she had some serious concerns about a Donald Trump presidency. Clay said she had much farther to climb on society's ladder than Trump ever did. Rung by rung, she has made that climb, from daughter of a cocaine-addicted mother and absent father to teenage mom to driven nurse and mother of four children. Three of them are grown, and her youngest, Adelia, is 17 and a senior at South Fort Myers High School.

Clay said she hopes Trump will back away from divisive rhetoric and work to earn the trust of all Americans.

"Without trust, he won't be able to accomplish much," Clay said.

She also hopes that Trump does not turn his back on those out of work. She has seen others, including her now-sober mother, abuse welfare and use it to buy drugs. But Clay said she was refused welfare — the only time she asked for it as an adult — when her ex-husband was shot and could no longer work. She was told she had been working too long to receive assistance.

Clay said she relied on her work ethic, not the government, to provide for her family.

"I always want to climb up higher," Clay said.

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Deborah Clay is a nurse and mom of four children who lives in Fort Myers. She is most concerned about healthcare and Trump earning the trust of all Americans. Amanda Inscore/news-press.com

Deborah Clay

Age: 46

Resides: Fort Myers

Family: Four children, three grown and one a senior at South Fort Myers High.

Education: Master's in nursing, University of Phoenix; associates in science (nursing), Manatee Community College, associate in arts, Edison Community College.

Occupation: Registered nurse for Lee Health

Political Party: Democrat

Sonya Stearns

Teacher sees God's hands in Trump's election

 

By Eric Staats, eric.staats@naplesnews.com

As an evangelical Christian, Sonya Stearns faced a dilemma when she voted for Donald Trump.

On the one hand, she saw Trump as a poor example of Christian values and finds the reports of his bad behavior toward women to be concerning. On the other hand, she saw Trump as more closely aligned than Hillary Clinton with her political views about small government and less taxation.

But Stearns sees all things through her faith in God.

"I do think he's going to do things through Trump, though he's had a sordid past, that will benefit Christians," said Stearns, 50, a part-time teacher at First Baptist Academy and an active member of the 9,000-member congregation.

She points to Christian business owners being forced to provide services for gay people planning to be married as an example of government intrusion she hopes Trump will end.

"It's a concern that Christians are being targeted in this day and age," Stearns said.

She also sees the Affordable Care Act as government overreach and blames it for her family's skyrocketing insurance premiums and the loss of their primary care physician in the past year.

"I don't know anyone who wasn't negatively effected (by 'Obamacare')," she said.

On immigration policy, Stearns said it is too easy to get across America's border. She wants Trump to adopt an immigration policy that is compassionate but secures the nation's border.

"We can't remain a strong country without secure borders," Stearns said.

Stearns said she doesn't want to put too much faith in man alone, but she sees God's hands in Trump's election.

"We have to give him a chance," she said. "He's our president."

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Sonya Stearns teaches high school critical thinking and speech class part-time at First Baptist Academy and voted for President Donald Trump. Luke Franke/Naples Daily News

Sonya Stearns

Age: 50

Resides: 10 years in North Naples

Family: Married with two daughters, son

Education: Bachelor's degree in vocal music with minor in Bible from University of Alabama-Mobile

Occupation: Part-time high school speech teacher

Political party: Republican

John McLellan

Iraq War veteran cast vote for Trump, but still wary

 

By David Dorsey, ddorsey@gannett.com

Cape Coral resident John McLellan didn't vote in the 2008 presidential election. He wasn't at home.

"I was deployed at that time," McLellan said. "I had more important things going on. Like trying to stay alive."

McLellan, 30, almost didn't. As a member of the Marines, the former Cape Coral and North Fort Myers High student said he suffered wounds from nine improvised explosive devices, also known as IEDs. The ninth explosion, in Afghanistan, sent him into an 18-hour coma, during which he was declared brain dead.

"I could walk, but I had to relearn," McLellan said. "I knew words, but I had to relearn sentences. My memory is pretty bad."

Since then, McClellan has returned to Cape Coral, where he takes care of his father. John McLellan Sr., 60, has early stage dementia, pre-Alzheimer's disease.

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McClellan also lives with Ruckus, his 5-year-old Belgian Malinois, a service dog who accompanies him just about everywhere.

McClellan voted for Donald Trump, despite having many reservations about him. He said he could not stomach the thought of Hillary Clinton as president

"Biggest fear?" McClellan said of Trump. "You can word this any way you want, but I hope he doesn't piss off the wrong country. It seems like he's already doing this now.

"I hope and pray he's competent enough to be our commander in chief. He has no political background whatsoever. To be honest, when I first heard Trump was running, I laughed."

McClellan's biggest hope for a Trump presidency is for him to overhaul the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

"The V.A. is a sad place," McClellan said. "I hope a lot of that changes."

McLellan shared other thoughts on Trump and his campaign promises, including the construction of a wall across the southern border with Mexico.

"I don't know where you're going to get that money from," McLellan said. "One of the biggest crises here are jobs."

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Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, John McClellan voted for Trump but is skeptical of his abilities as Commander in Chief. Andrew West/news-press.com

John McLellan

Age: 30

Resides: Lives in Cape Coral

Family: Takes care of his father, who has early onset dementia

Education: Attended University of Florida

Occupation: Retired U.S. Marine, attending school to become a barber

Political party: No party affiliation 

Bob Dorta

Taxidermist lacks enthusiasm toward Trump presidency

 

By Eric Staats, eric.staats@naplesnews.com

Bob Dorta uses an airbrush to put the finishing touches on a stuffed wild turkey in the one-man taxidermy shop that shares a wooded lot with his Golden Gate Estates home.

The shop is crowded with Dorta's craft. Animal pelts sit on a shelf. Antlers hang on a cord stretched over two chests of tools. Deer heads hang on the wall next to trophy fish. But it's mostly turkeys that sit around the shop in various stages of completion.

Dorta, the Florida State Taxidermist Association's "Best All Around Taxidermist" in 2014, came to his calling when he saw an ad for taxidermy school in a copy of a National Rifle Association magazine he was reading while serving in Iraq.

The flag that flew over his home during his 2003-04 tour of duty hangs unfurled in a big frame on the wall of his shop, where he keeps his old uniform folded on a shelf with the uniform of one of Saddam Hussein's fighters.

"Make America great again?" Dorta says, referring to President Donald Trump's campaign slogan. "What does that mean?"

Dorta calls himself a constitutional conservative who believes in small government and free markets. A Ted Cruz backer, Dorta voted for neither Trump nor Clinton. He has been disappointed with many of Trump's Cabinet appointees and picks for his inner circle. The Trump administration is looking too much like the "swamp" Trump pledged to drain, Dorta said.

Still, he wants Trump to build up the military and crack down on illegal immigration, which he said hurts the nation socially and economically and risks national security.

"We're not even remotely adhering to our own laws," Dorta said. "You're kind of promoting, to put it nicely, chaos."

For Dorta, his lack of enthusiasm for Trump amounts to a lack of trust.

"I hope he does what he says he'll do, but I don't see it happening," Dorta said.

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Dorta, a registered Republican and Irag war veteran, was an avid supporter of Republican Senator Ted Cruz during the Republican primaries and was frustrated when President-elect Donald Trump took control. Luke Franke/Naples Daily News

Bob Dorta

Age: 48

Resides: Golden Gate Estates, since 1976

Family: Married with a daughter and two stepdaughters

Education: Bachelor's degree in environmental science

Occupation: Taxidermist

Politics: Cruz supporter, voted for neither Trump nor Clinton

Dan Makowski

Bonita Springs security guard ponders Trump dismantling health insurance

 

By David Dorsey, ddorsey@gannett.com

Dan Makowski comes from a family of salesmen.

"My sister, she could sell ice cubes to Eskimos," said Makowski, who grew up in Brockport, New York, near Syacuse. Now 63, he has lived in Cape Coral as a transplanted Buffalo Bills fan since 1980.

Makowski sold cars, first at Bill Branch Chevrolet, then at Sam Galloway Ford in Fort Myers. He specialized in selling trucks. In the mid-2000s, Makowski shifted to working as an account representative for a mortgage company.

And then the housing market collapsed.

"I tried being a mortgage broker, but everything was falling apart hard and fast," he said. "Everything was in upheaval. So on Jan. 18, 2008, I started with Highland Woods in security."

From 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., five days a week, Makowski spends his time in an 8-by-8 guardhouse at Highland Woods, monitoring the comings and goings of the Bonita Springs community.

Makowski said he considered himself a Republican but voted for Barack Obama twice and for Hillary Clinton last year.

While the prospects of a President Donald Trump frighten Makowski, the business acumen of the former real estate mogul intrigues him at the same time.

Makowski said he pays less for Affordable Care Act insurance, also known as "Obamacare," than he used to for a Blue Cross Blue Shield policy. His monthly payments dropped from $325 a month to $131 a month. So he hopes Trump creates a new and improved alternative to the ACA before dismantling it.

"I thought it was the worst selection of candidates I've ever had in my life. Trump is in office. We have to make the best of it," Makowski said.

Makowski, who used to drive to Tampa Bay Bandits games before the U.S. Football League folded, remembered Trump as ruining the league.

"The worst-case scenario, he'll blow up the world," he said. "He'll blow everything to Jupiter."

Makowski remained hopeful, though, that Trump's business connections will help the country.

"If businesses start falling in line, and we have some trickle-down effect, then, if we're all better off, we're better off," Makowski said.

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Dan Makowski lives in Cape Coral and works in Bonita Springs as a security guard. He ponders the fate of his health insurance and life under a Donald Trump administration. Andrea Melendez/news-press.com

Dan Makowski

Age: 63

Resides: Cape Coral

Family: Single. 

Education: Graduated from Genesee Community College in Batavia, New York

Occupation: Security guard

Political party: Republican

Andrea Gamboa

DREAMer worries about her family, what future holds

 

By Eric Staats, eric.staats@naplesnews.com  

When Donald Trump was elected president, Andrea Gamboa thought of her parents and cried.

Her mother brought Gamboa from Argentina to Naples when she was 3. Her father followed later. Now 19, Gamboa and her parents are undocumented, and Gamboa said she is fearful that Trump will follow through on his campaign pledge to deport immigrants like her parents. He has since said he only wants to deport criminals.

Gamboa has amnesty as a so-called DREAMer under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2012. As a DREAMer, Gamboa can get a driver's license, has a Social Security number and pays in-state tuition as a nursing student at Florida Gulf Coast University.

"He was very sure (during the campaign) about DACA and taking it away," Gamboa said. "Then again, his words are never really reliable, so I don't know what he'll do."

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Gamboa voted for the Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and is fearful of what a Donald Trump presidency might look like for herself and other undocumented immigrants. Luke Franke/Naples Daily News

Her parents can't get driver's licenses, so she drives them to the Neighborhood Health Clinic for monthly doctor visits (her father is diabetic) and to the grocery store. If Trump does away with DACA, she won't be able to continue school or drive her parents without risking arrest and facing deportation. She also has a 7-year-old sister, a U.S. citizen without Argentinian citizenship, who would be left alone should Gamboa and her parents be deported.

Gamboa also has health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, commonly called "Obamacare." While she is healthy, she likes having the safety net of insurance in case she falls ill. When she was in high school, and did not have health insurance, her mother made her quit cheerleading for fear she would get injured.

She always was interested in medicine but did not know for sure that she wanted to turn it into a nursing career until she got experience working in a clinic at the Lorenzo Walker Technical Institute. "I loved it," she said.

At FGCU, she and her friends started a club called the FGCU DREAMers to help high school seniors who are undocumented apply for scholarships, complete college applications and prepare for entrance exams.

Besides watching Trump's stances on immigration and health care, Gamboa said she also is concerned he will roll back gains in gay marriage rights and support efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.

"I hope he surprises us and makes sure to be the best president he can be," Gamboa said. "Everyone is watching, and everyone is looking for him to fail. As much as I don't like the result (of the election), I really hope he surprises us."

Andrea Gamboa

Age: 19

Resides: Estero, lived in Naples since she was 3

Family: Married, no kids

Education: FGCU nursing student

Occupation: Full-time student

Political party: Democrat

Tracey Cunningham

Trump voter looks forward to first 100 days

By David Dorsey, ddorsey@gannett.com

Tracey Cunningham, a widowed mother of two teenage daughters and a nurse at a retirement community, voted for Donald Trump because his message of improving jobs and wages resonated with her.

Cunningham also liked his vow to "Make America Great Again."

"I didn't think he was going to win, but I'm very happy that he did," said Cunningham, who moved to Cape Coral from Long Island, New York, almost three years ago.

She has endured the death of her husband more than a year ago, and she has found a resource for her children at Cape Coral Christian Church.

Cunningham also has help from her mother, who relocated to Cape Coral after the death of Cunningham's husband.

"She actually helps me out a lot with the girls," Cunningham said.

Cunningham works three days a week. She pays out of pocket $345 a month for a United Healthcare insurance package she has had since working for the state of New York. She and her daughters will remain covered under her husband's policy until the third anniversary of his death.

"By then, Trump should have better insurance for me and the girls," Cunningham said of 2018.

Cunningham liked Trump's message of promoting jobs in America.

"You go into Wal-Mart," Cunningham said. "I can't stand Wal-Mart. Everything in there is made in China. Shoes, socks, everything that you buy, I'm looking for anything ‘Made in America.' Then you look at the fine print, and it says made in Timbuktu.

"I think that's going to change. I'm certain that's going to change."

When it comes to the economy, Trump will take charge in ways President Barack Obama did not, Cunningham said.

As for any fears of a Trump presidency, Cunningham had trouble thinking of one.

"He's not like trigger-happy like he's going to nuke anybody," she said. "Trump is not going to do that. He's going to shoot from the hip. I don't think we're going to have some nuclear war because he's going to be pushing any buttons."

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Tracey Cunningham discusses her hopes for Donald Trump's first year as President. Cunningham is a mom of two daughters and works as a nurse. Amanda Inscore/news-press.com

Tracey Cunningham

Age: Declined to say

Resides: Cape Coral

Family: Widowed mother of two daughters, Madison, 15, and Morgan, 13

Education: Nursing degree from Wagner College in Staten Island, New York

Occupation: Registered nurse at Shell Point retirement community in Fort Myers

Political party: Republican 

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