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Lee County Commissioners voted 3-1 Tuesday directing staff to draft a resolution opposing future legislation pertaining to adding an elected county executive, such as an administrator, manager or mayor. The motion also directed the board chairman to provide copies of the resolution at the upcoming Lee County Legislative Delegation meeting Oct. 30. 

The item was originally brought up by Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass at an Oct. 17 commissioners meeting but was ultimately deferred to a special meeting Tuesday.  

Pendergrass said he was approached by an unnamed member of the delegation a few weeks ago regarding commissioner support of a bill calling for an elected county administrator, manager or mayor. 

The county operates under the Lee County Charter, which states in Article II that the county shall operate under an appointed county manager form of government with cooperation of legislative and executive functions. 

“It could be brought up after Oct. 30 in a special meeting before session or will definitely come up next year by another member based upon rotation of seats of the house delegation,” he said. “[The member of the delegation] also made pretty clear that it was really important that we have this communication [and] let them know how we feel as a board.” 

During public input, two residents were in favor of keeping the current organization of county government. “I feel it’s really important that we maintain the same form of government that we have for the county,” resident Carol Brokke said. “[Commissioners] being on the first line of defense of all the information that we have, you need the opportunity to appoint the people that work under you.” 

Commissioner Brian Hamman said the item may be searching for a problem that doesn’t need to be solved at this point in time.  

“I don’t know that by passing this resolution, the delegation would just say, ‘Oh, they didn’t like it, so we’re not going to do it,’” he said. “Typically, resolutions and letters haven’t swayed or been persuasive to delegations in the past.” 

Hamman cited Commissioner Kevin Ruane’s thoughts on the matter, which were that the board must go into the session unified, working together with the delegation to do everything it can to bring home hurricane relief funds for the community and not be distracted by issues that aren’t on the agenda. 

Last week, commissioners unanimously approved the 2024 State Legislative Agenda, which establishes legislative priorities to guide the county’s advocacy efforts for the 2024 state legislative session.  

Items of emphasis in the legislative agenda include hurricane recovery, community resiliency, water quality, maintaining the county’s home rule authority, opposing cost shifts or unfunded mandates and advocating for critical infrastructure projects and funding. 

Absent from the special meeting, Ruane wrote a letter, which Hamman read, stating his opposition to sending a letter to the delegation or to sending the chairman to convey a message of what should or should not be done. 

“[It’s] not in our best interest,” Ruane said in the letter. “We should consider the important appropriation asks we are requesting regarding hurricane recovery, water quality infrastructure and revenue deferral. We need to focus this time on the issues that are most important to our county, and that is ensuring that we get the top legislative priorities funded.” 

Hamman, who was the lone dissenting vote, suggested if the item were to ever appear on an agenda with the delegation, the commissioners could call a special meeting at that time and act if necessary. 

“The voters of Lee County voted in a charter for their Board of County Commissioners, and they voted in the charter with the current setup that it has. Should they ever want to change it, it’ll be the voters of Lee County who want to change that as well,” he said. “I would certainly hope that if the delegation wanted to bring this forward, they would give the commissioners or the Charter Review Commission or even the citizens a chance to use the current process to amend the charter without doing it through legislation.” 

Commissioner Mike Greenwell said an elected administrator or manager would be adding an extra layer to government, which he is against.  

“We elect five county commissioners across the county, not just in our own districts,” he said. “It’s voted on countywide. I think we are the voice, and we should know that we’re the voice and we should continue to be the voice. My concern is adding another layer.” 

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