Growth management, economic development, low-income and workforce housing, and protecting the environment are the issues I’m focused on in this year’s Board of County Commissioners (BCC) elections.
Some – but not all – Collier County voters will have the opportunity to vote in the BCC primary in August. In this post, I’ll show you how to find out if this election will be on YOUR ballot and tell you something about the candidates you will have to choose from in August.
Will this election be on your ballot?
Unlike the School Board, whose members are elected at-large by all voters in the county, County Commissioners are elected only by those who live in their commission District.
Also unlike the School Board, whose elections are nonpartisan, County Commission candidates run as members of a political party. And since Florida is a closed primary state, only registered members of a party may vote in that party’s primary election.
Which Collier County Commission seats are up for election this year?
Commissioners serve four-year staggered terms with no term limits. In presidential election years, Districts 1, 3 and 5, currently held by Republicans Donna Fiala, Tom Henning and Tim Nance, respectively, are up for election. To find out which District you live in, click here.
With no Democrat running in District 1 and just one running in each of Districts 3 and 5, there will be no Democratic Party County Commission primaries in August. As I’ve suggested in the past, if you are not a Republican, you might consider changing your party affiliation so you can participate in electing the Republican to run against the Democrat in November. To review or update your voter registration information, including party affiliation, click here.
In addition, the District 2 seat currently held by Republican Georgia Hiller may be on the ballot, since she has filed to run in the August primary for Clerk of Courts against incumbent Dwight Brock. Since Florida is a “resign to run” state, Hiller will have to resign her Commission seat by June 10, although the resignation doesn’t have to take effect immediately. Potential candidates would have until June 24 to file and qualify to run.
If you live in Districts 1, 2, 3 or 5, read on to learn about the Republican candidates in your District’s primary.
As of now, only incumbent Republican Donna Fiala has filed to run. If no one challenges her before the June 24 deadline, her name will not appear on the ballot and she will automatically be considered elected at the November General Election.
Fiala has served on the County Commission since 2000. She is a fierce defender of her East Naples District, most recently supporting the controversial Gateway Triangle development and opposing locating any more low income housing in the District.
Fiala has raised $24,330 through April 30, including nine contributions (two from out-of-county) of the maximum $1,000 (37%), $850 from out-of-state, and a personal loan of $50. I am unable to find a campaign website or current Facebook page.
District 2 If incumbent Georgia Hiller resigns from the BCC by June 10, this seat will be on the August ballot. Since the seat is not otherwise up for election this year, no one has filed to run for it. However, James D. Carter has filed to run in 2018, and raised $2,500. (Hiller has raised $67,950 through April 30 for her Clerk race, which I’l be writing about in a future post.)
If you live in District 2, pay attention to what happens in the coming weeks. Carter can easily switch his filing to the 2016 election, in which case he would be unopposed unless another candidate gets in before June 24. If a Republican but no Democrat files and the race will be decided in the primary, all District 2 voters, regardless of party affiliation, would have the opportunity to vote.
District 3 With incumbent Tom Henning not seeking reelection, five people have filed to run for the District 3 seat.
Registered Republicans who live in the District have the opportunity to choose in the August primary among Ron Kezeske, Burt Saunders and Russell W. Tuff. The winner of the election will face Democrat Annisa Karim and No Party Affiliation (NPA) Atom Joseph McCree in November.
Ron Kezeske Kezeske is CEO of Hawkey Capital, a small, private investment management firm formed in 2014 that targets start-up and growing businesses in Florida and Texas. Previously, he was Executive Manager of Refined Energy, LLC, a private equity firm that “invests in and develops oil and gas projects … currently focused on drilling shallow oil and gas wells in-and-around southern New York.” He founded his first investment-based company, National RE/Group, Inc., in 2011 while attending and completing law school.
Kezeske has a BS in political science and government from the University of Wisconsin and a JD from Ave Maria School of Law. He is a member of the Collier County Republican Executive Committee, the Naples Men’s Republican Club and the GAIN (Growing Associates In Naples) Class of 2015; Vice President of Community Outreach of the Naples Jaycees; and a Lifetime Member of the National Riflemen (sic) Association. He previously sat on the county’s public safety authority and code enforcement board, and is involved with the Naples Jaycees and Naples North Rotary.
His political views are “Conservative” and his interests are “local government” and “liberty,” according to his campaign Facebook page. He is for “responsive representation, reputable growth and resourceful community services,” according to his campaign website at ronkezeske.com. His LinkedIn page is here.
Kezeske has raised $8,870 through April 30, virtually all through personal loans ($7,000) and in-kind contributions ($1,652).
Burt Saunders Saunders, a partner at Gray Robinson Attorneys in Naples since 2004, is currently a lobbyist for Collier County. He previously served as an Assistant Dade County Attorney, Collier County Attorney, Collier County commissioner (8 years), Florida state representative (4 years), and Florida state senator (8 years).
He has a BA in physics from the University of South Florida, a JD from the William & Mary Law School, and a Masters in International and Environmental Law from the University of Miami School of Law.
His focus issues are roads (fix and invest for the future); community (protect and preserve Collier’s natural environment to drive tourism and attract economic opportunities); health and safety (proper funding and training for the Sheriff’s deputies; a strong partnership between the County and local health care systems); and taxes (keep taxes low; cut unnecessary government regulations).
Saunders has raised $38,900 through April 30, including $15,000 (39%) in personal loans and 16 contributions of the maximum $1,000 (41%). Funds from out-of-county total 17% of the funds raised, including five contributions of $1,000.
Russell W. Tuff Tuff is Managing Partner at Social-Impact, a PR firm he launched in 2011 specializing in Internet marketing. He also runs Tuff News Media Consultants and is a staff musician at Trinity-by-the-Cove Church. Before going out on his own, Tuff had a career in publishing, including almost six years as Executive Editor of EW Scripps.
Tuff is president of the Golden Gate Civic Association. Previous community involvement includes Collier County Planning Commissioner, Director – Naples Area Chamber of Commerce, Member – Golden Gate Master Plan Committee, Member – Collier County Republican Executive Committee, President – Golden Gate Chamber of Commerce, Founding President – Golden Gate Visitor Center, Charter Member – Naples Area Tourism Board, Charter Member – Collier County Tourism Alliance, Member – Collier County Economic Advisory Council, and more.
He says, “The improving economy offers us a second chance to learn from past mistakes, maintain and expand infrastructure, live within our means and hold government fiscally responsible” and that he is running to ensure the county plans “appropriately” for the the future and addresses infrastructure needs.
He has a BA with a double major in history/political science and business administration and a minor in religion from University of Jamestown, and a Education for Ministry (EfM) certificate from the University of the South School of Theology.
Tuff has raised $16,365 through April 30, including a $1,000 personal loan, two $1,000 contributions and $600 from incumbent Tom Henning. All but $130 comes from within the county.
Tuff’s campaign website is at VoteTuff.com, his personal web page is here, his LinkedIn profile is here and his Facebook Page is here.
District 5 As in District 3, with incumbent Tim Nance not seeking reelection, five people have filed to run for the District 5 seat.
Registered Republicans who live in the District have the opportunity to choose in the August primary among Randolph Cash, William “Bill” McDaniel and Douglas L. Rankin. The winner of the election will appear on the ballot along with Democrat Tamara A. Paquette in November. Independent Marvin D. Courtright is running as a write-in candidate.
Randolph Cash Cash is president and owner of Flamingo Air Management, Inc., an aviation operations consulting business. After receiving a degree in politics and public affairs from the University of Miami School of Business, he joined the army and served in Northern Iraq, Korea, Turkey, Germany, and Somalia. He retired as a Major after 22 years of active service in 1999.
His civic involvement includes Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Golden Gate Post 7721, Collier County Republican Executive Committee, Collier County Veterans Council, Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association and the Immokalee Chamber of Commerce.
Cash’s platform issues are to preserve our quality of life and protect the environment through managed growth, bring hospital services and create economic development opportunities to eastern Collier County, advocate for affordable housing, and ensure quality fire and EMS throughout the County. He has specifically mentioned the need for a stop light in Immokalee, work on a number of bridges in the Estates and help with the failing sewage treatment facility in Everglades City.
Cash has raised $10,150 through April 30, including a personal loan for $5,000, contributions from businesses sharing his personal address totaling $2,000, and $1,150 from out-of-state.
William “Bill” McDaniel McDaniel is the owner of Big Island Excavating, Inc., in Naples and Lazy Springs Recreation Park in Hendry County. In 2012, he ran unsuccessfully – though with the Naples Daily News endorsement – for the District 3 seat then held by Tom Henning. He served as chairman of the county’s East of 951 Horizon Study Committee which looked at growth issues in Golden Gate Estates from 2006 to 2008, and on the Rural Land Stewardship Committee which made recommendations about changes to the county’s RLSA growth plan in eastern Collier County from 2007 to 2009. In 2013, he was appointed by Governor Rick Scott to the Board of the Collier County Housing Authority (CCHA) and currently serves as its chairman. The CCHA owns and operates Farm Workers Village in Immokalee. Its director was fired in 2015 for misusing federal funds.
Two companies McDaniel owns are at least two years late paying property taxes and owe a total of more than $140,000 to Collier and Hendry counties, according to the Naples Daily News last month.
His campaign priorities are tax and spending cuts, streamlining the county permitting process, and term limits for county commissioners.
McDaniel has raised $22,210 through April 30, of which 21% was from out-of-county. There were 13 contributions of the maximum $1,000 (59%), of which seven share the Naples address of his Big Island Excavating and Lazy Springs businesses, and two share an address in Punta Gorda.
Douglas L. Rankin Rankin is an attorney practicing in real estate, wills, trusts and estates, and corporate and business law at his own firm in Naples. He began his career as an accountant with his family firm in Bradenton. He has a BA from the University of South Florida College of Business Administration and a JD from the University of Florida.
Rankin’s District 5 community involvement includes helping to stop expansion of the Quarry next to the populated Estates, which he says would have driven Estates and District property values down, and helping to stop a “home for mentally disturbed youth” being put in the Estates. He told the Immokalee Bulletin that he played a “small part” in helping get the Immokalee business incubator grant, along with Rep. Matt Hudson.
He has served on the Golden Gate Master Plan Committee, the East of 951 Study Committee, the Collier County Foreclosure Task Force, and the Collier County Productivity Committee. He has been on the board of Habitat for Humanity of Collier County since 1997.
Rankin has raised $6,825 through April 30, of which 44% is from himself and 32% is from out-of-county (including two $1,000 contributions).
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Based on the research I’ve done to-date, I have preferences in both the District 3 and 5 races, however I’m not yet ready to make a final decision. There will be additional candidate forums in the coming months, as well as Naples Daily News Editorial Board interviews, all of which will be important sources of information.
I did find reviewing the campaign finance reports to be quite interesting, as several candidates received early support from people I know. I’ll be monitoring these filings as they come in over the coming weeks and months as well.