Pendergrass, Sawyer square off for District 2 commission seat
With Brian Bigelow giving up his District 2 seat on the Lee County Commission for a failed bid as Clerk of the Courts, it will be Republican political newcomer Cecil Pendergrass and an unaffiliated John Sawyer who will take a shot at his seat on Nov. 6.
Residence: Fort Myers
Occupation: Retired police officer
Cecil Pendergrass has lived in Lee County his whole life, served on the Fort Myers police force for 25 years and has even helped his former coworkers plan for their retirement. So, when he sees what’s happening in Lee County, it makes him want to do something about it.
“With the way the economy has gone in the last 10 years, I’m concerned what’s going on with jobs,” Pendergrass said. “I’m concerned Lee County has gone to reserves to pay for things and will have to raise taxes.”
Pendergrass, who won a four-horse race to win the GOP primary in August, believes tourism is the big bread winner for Lee County, and that it’s much more than baseball that brings in the money.
“Tourism’s impact is huge. There are hundreds of reasons people come here. Sport fishing is even bigger than baseball,” Pendergrass said. “We want people to put their heads in the beds to pay for the parks and beaches.”
Pendergrass also supports reducing crime and protecting the environment and 20/20, saying growth should be controlled and environmentally friendly.
Pendergrass said he wants to work in a positive manner and bring people and departments together to promote change and growth.
“We have too much police not working together, I saw that first hand. I have a desire to work with the board in a positive manner to solve problems,” Pendergrass said. “This will be a challenge and I’m ready for it.”
Residence: South Fort Myers
Occupation: Semi-retired businessman
John Sawyer does not like how things are done in Lee County, and he wants to do something about it.
“We moved here from Miami because it looked rosy here. But I got fed up with spending $200 million on baseball stadiums,” Sawyer said. “My wife finally told me to do something about it.”
Sawyer, a Vietnam veteran who ran more than two dozen Hallmark stores as a businessman, said the way business is conducted countywide is all wrong. With the commissioners in one place, people have to travel to Fort Myers regardless of district.
“Commissioners should have a district office. It’s intimidating going downtown. Why can’t they talk to me in an office?” Sawyer said. “We should also hold meetings in the evening instead of mornings so people can attend.”
Among the other things that distress Sawyer are the “fast-track” foreclosures, the way the county had an itchy trigger finger in dealing with the Red Sox and Twins and the lack of high-tech jobs in Lee County, for which he wants to work with FGCU, Edison and Ave Maria to push science and math degrees to bring quality people in.
However, Sawyer sees public education as failing and in need of fixing at the state level.
“Education is getting killed by the federal government. It takes a one-size-fits-all approach,” Sawyer said. “There’s no excuse that $50 million on education gets spent to put them on a bus for two hours.”