May 2022 “Cha-Ching”

We need more Frank Manns.

The late Commissioner embodied all that we seek when we elect people to public office:  Integrity. Honor. Compassion.  Sadly, he was an anomaly here in Lee County – a politician who understood that he reported to the people, that he needed to listen to the people, and that he was time and again elected to voice the concerns of the people.

We in Lee County were fortunate to know him and have him serve on our County Commission for many years.  His recent passing is a great loss for our community.

The contrast between this ‘old-fashioned, aw shucks politico’ and our current crop of Commissioners couldn’t be more stark.  Commissioner Mann did not accept donations from special interests – he understood how difficult it is to build and maintain a firewall between giver and receiver, the challenge it is to keep the people’s interests front and center – and to preserve the people’s trust.  It’s not that Frank Mann was not offered these donations; it was that Frank Mann chose not to accept these donations.

Unfortunately, it is too late for Brian Hamman and Cecil Pendergrass, the County Commissioners running for reelection, to make that choice.  They have collected donations from developers and their cronies – Hamman to the tune of $195,979 and Pendergrass, $213,358 as of May 31 for a total take of $409,337.  These Commissioners have built their war chests from the high dollar donations of special interests – developers, realtors, land use lawyers, and the many others who profit from the continuing sprawl in the county; these donations account for $6 of every $10 contributed.  Yet the Commissioners claim this doesn’t impact their votes when the very same developers/cronies come before them seeking zoning changes.  In fact, the Commissioners recently approved a massive giveaway in the environmentally-sensitive DR/GR that will be developed into a new town of 10,000 residences, strip centers and roadways.  The developer of this property, his relatives and employees together contributed $9000 to Commissioner Pendergrass’s campaign in June, 2021 ( 

Moreover, these Commissioners do not even have opponents in the August 23 primary, so where is all this money going?  And what is it for?

If these Commissioners want to earn the trust of their constituents, they should recuse themselves from casting votes that impact their high dollar donors.  We think they should adopt an ordinance requiring such recusal.  If Cecil Pendergrass is honest in asserting that these donations do not influence his vote, will he support a regulation mandating recusal?  We doubt it, but would like to hear from him on this.

We encourage you to take a good look at the two write-in candidates, Jim Sheets and Karen Watson, running in the November General Election against Hamman and Pendergrass, respectively.  They embody many of the same values we treasured in Frank Mann – both are plainspoken, authentic, and care deeply about the people of Lee County, qualities that are unmatched by any of our incumbent County Commissioners.

As for Commissioner Mann — may he Rest in Peace.  We will miss him.

We want to thank all those who wrote and phoned the Governor’s office urging him to veto SB620, the legislation that would have empowered businesses to sue local governments for loss of profits allegedly resulting from regulations.  The Governor did veto this bill. Let’s hope it does not return in the next legislative session.

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