Chilmonik makes official announcement about commission candidacy
Lee County School Board Member Robert Chilmonik officially announced Thursday morning that he is running for the Lee County Commission District 1 seat left open by the passing of Sanibel resident Bob Janes.
Chilmonik, and a group of his supporters, met with local media outlets in Cape Coral to explain his intentions. He submitted his application to Gov. Charlie Crist Wednesday afternoon — along with 11 others — to be considered for the appointment to the vacant seat.
Some local residents were concerned that the appointment would go to someone not living in the district — Cape Coral, Sanibel or Pine Island.
“Citizens had approached me wanting someone in the district who had experience and someone who can hit the ground running,” said Chilmonik. “I listened carefully to what they had to say, weighed the pros and cons of running for the seat and I feel it was the right thing to do.”
If Crist decides to appoint Chilmonik to the commission then he will have to resign from the Lee County School Board, but either way Chilmonik said he will pursue the seat in November and therefore pull out of pursuing his third term on the school board.
Chilmonik said his tenure as a school board member for eight years, as well as his former experience in the corporate world, will benefit a transition to the county commission.
“One of the key issues we have in Lee County is unemployment, foreclosures and what can government do to help, and the best thing to do is keep taxes low and make it a streamline processes so businesses are attracted here from other areas,” he said.
Chilmonik, on the Republican ticket, said if he is elected his first priority would cutting spending in the 200-page county budget. A self-described fiscal conservative, Chilmonik has butted heads with the four other members of the Lee County School Board on district spending, specifically with how much the school district spends on transportation.
It’s unclear how leaving his current seat will change the dynamics of the school board, yet besides the District 1 seat being left by Chilmonik, both Board Members Steve Teuber and Elinor Scricca are seeking re-election.
“I think there will be some changes on the school board and there needs to be some changes, and not it’s an open field for anyone to stand up and run,” said Chilmonik. “But, I’m going to continue being an activist for education in Lee County.”
A 20-year Cape Coral resident and outspoken critic of the school board, John Traube, said he is considering a run for Chilmonik’s empty seat. He is a 50-year member of the United Federation of Teachers and has sat on the district’s curriculum committee for eight years.
“There is a campaign to be waged, I have disputed the board publicly at meetings for years,” he said.
Another candidate for the school board, Don Armstrong, was also present at Chilmonik’s Thursday morning press conference. Armstrong said the community needs to become more involved in school district business.