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Bushong, Meister. Scott vying for sheriff

By Staff | Oct 26, 2012

Incumbent Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott will face off against challengers Lee Bushong and Christian Meister in the general election on Nov. 6.

Scott will represent the Republican party on the ballot, having crushed his sole party challenger – Tim Fisher – in the Aug. 14 primary election. Scott garnered about 74 percent of the votes, compared to Fisher’s 26 percent.

The primary was closed to Lee County voters registered as Republican.

In the general election, Bushong is running with no party affiliation, while Meister hopes to unseat the two-term sheriff as a write-in candidate.

– Lee Bushong

Age: 38

Residence: Fort Myers

Occupation: Licensed state investigator

If elected, Lee Bushong will focus on three things in the first 100 days.

The first step is introducing a standardized pay structure for employees that provides for career progression. Though it appears the move would cost the LCSO more, he said it would save a little more than $1 million annually.

“We’re looking at a reward system,” Bushong said.

He would next streamline the actual components of the department to make them more efficient, saving an additional $3 million per year. This would mean more boots on the streets and fewer staffers and administrative personnel.

Bushong said his aim is to reduce the budget 3 percent to 5 percent.

The third prong is the use of specialized enforcement. He explained that law enforcement agencies tend to “throw bodies” at a problem to solve it.

“The problem I have with that is that does nothing,” Bushong said.

He would instead focus on building trust within the community, using those relationships to gather meaningful information and intelligence. He also cited the need to repair relationships with other local law enforcement agencies.

Asked about being the right candidate, Bushong noted his background.

“I have a lot more relevant experience when it comes to actually practicing law enforcement,” he said, adding that he has worked patrol, been a homicide detective, has held supervisory responsibilities and overseen investigations.

“Those experiences really broaden the way that we look at doing law enforcement – different perspectives in interacting with the community,” Bushong said.

Transparency at the department is another priority for him.

“We want openness,” he said. “We’re providing a service to the community, and the community has a right to know.”

– Christian Meister

Age: 44

Residence: Lehigh Acres

Occupation: Legal analyst and author

Christian Meister’s platform is based on enforcing the laws of the U.S. Constitution, then enforcing any additional laws that conform to it. Municipals’ ordinances and judges’ orders that conflict with the Constitution will not be enforced.

He explained that as a member of the executive branch, it is the role of a sheriff to “check and balance” the legislative and judicial branches – lawmakers and judges – to prevent any abuses of power by government.

According to Meister, only about 100 sheriffs nationwide out of 3,000 use the U.S. Constitution as the foundation for enforcement.

“The Constitution already requires it,” he said.

Asked about his priorities for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, he noted training deputies on the laws of the U.S. Constitution as one. Meister said he will also review citizen complaints for violations of Constitutional rights.

He explained that there is an imbalance in selective enforcements.

“There’s certain crimes that are not being investigated,” Meister said.

Improving the image of the agency’s employees is another priority.

“I’m looking for more professionalism,” he said, adding that some deputies are hired by the department, despite having a “high school mentality.”

Meister would also work on improving the community’s perception of the deputies, so that residents are not “too afraid to talk to an officer.”

As for qualifications, he cited his management litigation in the U.S. District Court and Middle District of Florida. He authored two books on procedural law and served as a case manager for the Department of Children and Families.

“I will be a sheriff that will be there to protect them,” Meister said.

– Mike Scott

Age: 49

Residence: North Fort Myers

Occupation: Lee County sheriff

Mike Scott explained that he has run a positive campaign, avoiding the use of negative ads, and he has no intention of changing his approach now.

“I always prepare the same, regardless of the opponent,” he said, adding that his campaign will focus on his record as sheriff for eight years.

Scott cited the crime rate and the budget as benchmarks for a sheriff.

“You’re talking about things that directly impact the community,” he said.

The budget at the Lee County Sheriff’s Office has been on a steady decline since he took office, and Lee County’s crime rate has also been declining.

“So those two, I think, are really the primary issue,” Scott said, adding that he feels “comfortable and confident” moving forward on his record.

“At the end of the day, the numbers speak a very loud message,” he said.

For his educational background, Scott cited his master’s degree in business administration and his completion of the FBI Academy. The academy gave him a chance to network with other leaders in law enforcement on a global scale.

“Less than 1 percent of the law enforcement officers in the world get to that,” he said.

As for serving the past two terms, Scott explained that what happens at the sheriff’s office – both successes and failures – tend to be very publicized.

“One crime is too many. I see those as failures, but I also recognize it’s reality,” he said. “We’d like to do even better.”

Scott cited decisions on technology or deployment operations as examples.

“It might not be a failure, but something else might have worked better,” he said.