Two-way race in Aug. 30 primary for Lee County sheriff
Two candidates are running for Lee County Sheriff in the Republican Primary election with the winner on Aug. 30 to go up against non-partisan candidate James Didio in the November general election.
The Republicans squaring off in the closed primary are incumbent Sheriff Mike Scott against former patrol Sgt. Stephanie H. Eller. By law, Eller had to resign to run against Scott.
“I served 15 years with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office,” said Eller. “I also bring private sector experience to the job as a bank branch manager and office manager for my husband’s water well business.”
Eller, 57, has lived in Lee County since 1975 and currently resides in North Fort Myers with her husband and one son.
“I know how to create wealth,” she said. “I think government employees need to be more responsible with spending. In eight of my last 10 years with the sheriff’s office there were no raises for the deputies. I want to reestablish a path to promotions for the officers and create a hierarchy built from the bottom.”
The Bishop Verot High School, Edison Community College and International College graduate takes a five-point plan to the polls – cut the fat from the top of the ranks; put more boots on the ground; target high crime; fiscally responsible spending; and reduce employee turnover.
Scott, 53, is seeking his fourth term as sheriff. The North Fort Myers High School graduate was first elected in 2004, then reelected by wide margins in 2008 and 2012. He earned degrees at then-Edison Community College, University of South Florida among others and was invited to attend the FBI Academy.
The Lee County native currently resides in North Fort Myers with his wife where they raised two children now adults on their own.
Scott believes that in today’s world with greater threats on law enforcement, his experience will give the citizens of Lee County the necessary consistency and continuity with other state, federal and local law enforcement agencies as well as the FBI.
“Not everyone is invited to the FBI Academy,” said Scott. “I have worked closely with all those agencies and it takes time to build those relationships.”
Whoever is elected sheriff faces tough challenges over and above the recent rise in violent attacks on law enforcement. Also, attacks by lone shooters are difficult to predict and prevent, but presents a great challenge for officers. Running the Lee County Jail with about 2,000 inmates is an enormous operation that consumes about half of the department’s annual budget of more than $166 million.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office has about 1,600 active officers to manage plus some 300 volunteers in uniform.
After 28 years in the LCSO, Scott is proud of negotiating the department through the tough economic downturn while trying to maintain staff morale and level of service without being able to hire or purchase new equipment. He also praises the Star Care wellness program he calls an amazing benefit for employees.
“I’ve lived here all my life,” said Scott. “I love Southwest Florida, and I don’t take my job for granted.”