Hart, Lee to face off in GOP primary for tax collector
When Tax Collector Catherine Curtis passed away in April, it created a vacancy in the office that needed to be filled.
Larry Hart was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to fill that void on June 13, but his tenure is contingent on both a primary win in August and another victory in November.
Hart will face businessman Kyle Lee in the Republican primary Aug.14 and the winner will face James Chandler, who is running without party affiliation, in the Nov. 6 general election.
Larry D. Hart
Residence: Fort Myers
Occupation: Lee County Tax Collector
Hart has served as assistant tax collector since 2001 after 22 years with the Fort Myers Police Department, including six as its police chief.
Hart is certified by the state and he says his experience runs the gamut of what the position is about.
“I have 11 years experience dealing with property taxes, hunting and fishing, I have a thorough understanding of the office,” Hart said. “We follow the processes, statutes and regulations the state requires us to follow.”
Despite less than three weeks in the top post, Hart doesn’t feel the ship has slowed down one bit.
“The transition has been great. As the No. 2 person I understand the flow. There was nothing I needed to catch up on,” Hart said. “We have 200 people providing great customer service. We’ll continue to do that and allow our employees to grow within the agency.”
Hart decided to run because, he says frankly, he believes he’s the best candidate.
“I have experience in the office and understand the system,” Hart said. “We can continue the continuity of the department because I have the best understanding.”
Residence: Fort Myers
Occupation: owner of car dealership
Lee said that as a businessman, he believes the tax collector’s office should be run like a business, and that begins with customer service.
“I deal with the office on a daily basis. I see some issues with the office and someone has to do something about it. Customer service needs attention,” Lee said. “Going there is like going to the dentist.”
Lee, who said he likes Hart, also said he doesn’t think the position should involve politics, but rather a businesslike attitude.
“For many of the offices here, politics are involved. He dealt with politics as police chief. If you want a politician, Hart’s your man,” Lee said. “I’m not entrenched here. I just want to take office and make it better.”
Lee said he would bring some unique ideas to the office, such as new collection methods.
“I’d look for ways to cut back like outsourcing collections and bring up issues people don’t realize,” Lee said. “I have a business mindset and the office needs to be treated as such.”
Lee previously ran for property appraiser in 2008.