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State office attracts local candidates

By Staff | Sep 20, 2017

The state’s law on term limits means a domino effect for positions from rank and file state reps and senators all the way up to the governor.

Current agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam has termed out and plans to run for governor next year as Gov. Rick Scott will also term out in 2018.

This has given two local officials an opportunity to vie for Putnam’s job in a race that has heated up despite the Republican primary being almost a year away.

State Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-76, may be about to term out of his job in Tallahassee, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to come home and return to his fulltime job as a real estate appraiser in North Fort Myers.

Caldwell announced in May his intent to run for Agriculture Commissioner for the state of Florida, a job that encompasses much more than touring orange groves.

Also, State Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-26, whose district covers northernmost Lee County, including North Fort Myers and Alva, but mostly the rural heartland of DeSoto, Charlotte, and Highlands counties, has also thrown her hat in the ring.

Both candidates have travelling throughout the state, collecting campaign funds and getting their names out, though not yet at full-campaign mode.

Caldwell said he wants to continue to serve the people of Florida and continue the work he has accomplished.

“We want to continue the work we’ve done to fix the problems with Lake Okeechobee and bring the water south into the Everglades,” Caldwell said.

Grimsley, who served in the state house from 2004 to 2012 (serving alongside Caldwell for two years) before running for Senate, said she never saw an ideal candidate who expressed her views, except herself.

“I was trying to think about someone who could succeed him who brings to the table the same things I do,” Grimsley said. “I couldn’t find a candidate I could support so I decided to run.”

Grimsley said she brings agriculture experience, as she owns 350 acres of citrus groves and 100 acres of cattle land, as well as business experience, as she ran 10 convenience stores and a distributorship company before becoming an administrator at Florida Hospital in Lake Placid and Wauchula.

“That’s what I do on the weekends. I get things done on the weekend that didn’t get done during the week,” Grimsley said. “I have experience in the public and private sector.”

Caldwell said he would address important issues regarding the state, including Lake Okeechobee and trying to bring the water south to restore the Florida Everglades and the problem with greening in the citrus fields.

Grimsley said she would focus more on customer service and make sure people who need services under her jurisdiction are told what they need to do to get their questions answered.

Caldwell and Grimsley said the job is much more than making sure the crops and cattle are in good shape. Most of the job is dedicated to consumer regulation, the protection of goods to market.

The Department is also subdivided into many offices, governing everything from emergency preparedness to concealed weapons permits to the safety of the rides at the state fair.

“There are a lot of things we’re responsible for. Obviously, citrus greening is a concern, but the office is one of the biggest responsibilities,” Caldwell said.