Legislature OK’s measure that could make the Lee County Superintendent an elected position
Image via Lee County Schools.

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The matter goes to the Governor now, then voters in November.

The Legislature has voted to put the question of electing a Lee County Superintendent of Schools on the ballot.

The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed legislation (HB 497) as part of a slate of local bills. Sen Ray Rodrigues, an Estero Republican, supported the legislation when it first came before the Lee County Legislative Delegation, and again on the floor.

“The voters should have a say on whether we have an appointed or elected superintendent,” he said. “Lee County voters haven’t weighed in on the question since the 1970s, and our county today looks very different than it did in the 1970s.”

Notably, Rodrigues has not taken any position on the issue itself. “I’m going to withhold public comment until I see data on both sides,” he said. “For now, I’m going to let proponents and opponents wage their campaign.”

No local bill in front of the Senate this year faced opposition. In the upper chamber, Senators must object to legislation if they want it taken out of the calendar and voted on separately.

In the House, there was criticism, but the bill was passed on a 96-21 vote. Critics questioned whether a large school district employing 12,000 people should have an executive chosen through an election.

“It’s a very important job,” said Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil, a Maitland Democrat who voted “no.” “You wouldn’t have a CEO be an elected position in the company that you’re invested in. And this is an investment in our children.”

But Lee County lawmakers have maintained the entire time it should be a decision for area representatives, which is why it went through the local bill process.

Rep. Jenna Mulicka-Persons, a Fort Myers Republican and the bill’s sponsor, said voters deserve a direct say on who serves as Superintendent. But more important, she said it’s important Lee County constituents make the decision on the form of government through a vote in November.

“We know that our constituents in Lee County are smart enough to make a choice between an unqualified candidate and a qualified candidate,” she said. “Because when they go to that ballot box, they know their home, they know their children, and when they vote, they’re putting their children first.”

If the Governor signs the bill, a vote will take place in November. Should it pass, the first vote to select a Superintendent will take place in the 2024 election cycle.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


2 comments

  • Beth

    March 12, 2022 at 12:31 pm

    Another pathetic attempt by Republicans to be able to pour money into electing one of their own racist, radical conservatives to influence our schools, continuing to blur the lines between church and state. If they actually cared at all about school children they would be speaking out about their precious leader appointing Ester Byrd to the Board of Education. Nothing to say about a racist, uneducated, Q Anon conspiracy theorist who believes Jan. 6 was peaceful? This is the type of person they want running our schools, they could not care less about the students. Every republican in our legislature needs to be voted out. They are causing damage to this state that will take years to undo.

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