Single-member districts, government consolidations on agenda for Lee County lawmakers
Reps. Adam Botana, Mike Giallombardo.

Botana-Giallombardo
Adam Botana and Mike Giallombardo have local bills that would put governance on the ballot in Lee County.

Lee County lawmakers will vote early Thursday on local bills asking voters to consider remaking local government.

At what may be a contentious Lee County Legislative Delegation meeting, Rep. Mike Giallombardo, a Cape Coral Republican, will present two bills that respectively could switch Lee County Commission districts to single-member elections and install a countywide elected strong Mayor.

Meanwhile, Rep. Adam Botana, a Bonita Springs Republican, has filed bills that could merge some less prominent agencies together. One bill would fold the Fort Myers Beach and Lee County mosquito control districts together. Another would combine the Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Springs fire control and rescue districts.

Botana on Wednesday signaled he may withdraw the fire district bill, based on conversations with officials in both existing entities. He believes there could instead be a feasibility study on merging responsibilities of the Fort Myers Beach and Iona districts instead.

“They have to come up with a plan here,” Botana said.

He said the push to consolidate agencies follows up on directives from Tallahassee to eliminate government redundancy and reduce unnecessary bureaucracy.

Botana noted that Broward County, a county with more than 1.9 million residents, has the same number of fire districts, 17, as Lee County, which has a population of less than 800,000 people.

Similarly, he said consolidating mosquito control boards with overlapping jurisdictions will reduce duplication of services and ease the burden on taxpayers.

Giallombardo, meanwhile, is focused on the structure of the government. He already has raised some attention for a push for a Mayor. Right now, Lee County has a hired county administrator who reports to the elected County Commission.

But he’s also pushing to change the make-up of the board. He said as Lee County’s population climbs toward 1 million people, it’s time for Florida’s 8th largest county to re-examine whether electing commissioners at-large is in the best interest of constituents. Commissioners must live in their district, but campaign countywide.

“We have islands and beaches. We have farmers. We have suburban communities. We have a city,” Giallombardo said. “There are different responsibilities for all those communities. It’s really important that each County Commissioner represents their district. They need to be voted on by those people in those districts.”

His proposal would expand the board to seven members, and still have two members elected at large. But each of five district members would only be elected by voters within their district.

Giallombardo said the current system has also allowed commissioners in the past to win elections even while losing the vote within their own districts. That shouldn’t happen, he said.

“It’s no different than the House, the Senate or Congress,” he said. “All of us represent single-member districts.”

The wholesale change has generated agitation in the delegation, an all-Republican group that typically has been unified on local issues.

Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, a Fort Myers Republican, said county government isn’t broken and there’s no need to fix it.

“The county has been doing an incredible job both pre-Hurricane Ian and post-Hurricane Ian, and we still have a long way to go in recovery,” she said. “I don’t think this is the right time to bring up a complete change in the form of government.”

The Lee County Commission, albeit a divided one, also formally opposed any such discussions, and have said such changes if they are considered at all should be taken up through the county’s appointed Charter Review Commission.

Both Botana and Giallombardo stressed their local bills, even if passed and signed into law, would only prompt ballot measures. Ultimately, Lee County voters will need to approve changes for them to go into effect.

“I find the controversy surprising,” Botana said. “These are all referendums.”

The Lee County Legislative Delegation meets Thursday from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Florida SouthWestern State College.

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

  • Larry Gillis, Libertarian (Cape Coral)

    December 4, 2023 at 6:39 pm

    LIBERTARIAN BLASTS “COUNTY MAYOR” PROPOSAL

    The incumbent State Representative from Cape Coral has proposed an elected “County Mayor” form of government (CCB, December 1, front page). This proposal is so wrong in so many ways. It should be rejected outright.

    In addition to costing an additional three million dollars per year, this would add an additional layer of government. County Commissioners — from different districts within the county — come from all over the county and represent their constituents. Governmental power is diffused. This is a good thing.

    Libertarians, including me, believe that governmental power should not be concentrated in the hands of any single individual. We have a powerful preference for any necessary governmental power to be a shared responsibility at best.

    If elected to be State Representative from District 79 (Cape Coral), I will oppose any such initiative like this one. Vote Libertarian.

    Larry Gillis, Cape Coral

    (Professor Gillis is registered with the Florida Elections Division as a 2024 Libertarian candidate for State Representative from Cape Coral)

    • rick whitaker

      December 4, 2023 at 8:22 pm

      vote libertarian, why would i waste my vote?

Comments are closed.


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