Meet the Candidates 5-28-2010

There was a good turn out of Pine Island residents at the “Meet the Candidates” for Lee County Commission, District 2” on May 28th at the Fishers of Men Lutheran Church.

Kathy Jones from Lee County Patriots introduced the candidates; Sonny Haas, Brian Bigelow, Cecil Pendergrass and Dick Ripp.    Sonny Haas, a native Floridian, Sonny’s service to the citizens of Lee County began as a firefighter for 26 years in North Ft Myers.    He was elected to be a fire commissioner for Lehigh Acres Fire Control in 2002.    In May of 2009, Sonny declared his candidacy for County Commissioner, District 2.    A life long Conservative Republican, he is a current member of the NRA, the Cape Coral Republican Club on the Suncoast Neighborhood Task Force Board.

Sonny said, “I have many personal connections here on Pine Island. My sister lives in Matlacha, and I own and operate two companies that service Pine Island residents, Fort Myers Pool Services, and a roofing company.    I am on the island every day, I talk to the people who live and work here so I know first hand what the residents of Pine Island want from their county commissioners and local government.    If you are ready for change and want your government run like a business and not a social club then vote for Sonny Hass for County Commissioner, District 2.

The next speaker was the only Republican incumbent, Commissioner Brian Bigelow.    Brian is a fifth-generation Lee Countian, born in Fort Myers in 1963.    He graduated from Fort Myers High School and went on to receive a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Florida in Construction Management.    Brian spent the first decade of his professional life in the construction industry.    In the mid 1990s, he became a town planner and enjoyed working in both the private and public sectors.    Brian became a public servant after being elected to District 2, County Commissioner in 2006.

Cecil Pendergrass said,   “I have proudly dedicated my life to public service”.    My calling to law enforcement came after working part-time while attending college under Joe D’Alessandro in the State Attorney’s Office.    I was sworn in as a City of Fort Myers Police Officer in 1984 and faithfully served for 25 years.    During this time my focus was to improve the quality of life for those I encountered.    My work in the Community Affairs Division earned me numerous commendations based on my ability to identify problems, seek solutions, and follow through by utilizing the resources necessary to get the job done, no matter the magnitude.    I served as Vice-Chairperson for six years on the Department of Justice Weed and Seed Board, a program that provided grant money to local non-profit organizations for the betterment of area youth.    My success throughout my law enforcement career is attributed to his unwavering work ethic and unique ability to bring together the desires of the community with City and County resources.    I retired from the City of Fort Myers on December 31, 2008 and continue to serve as a volunteer reserve officer.

Dick Ripp moved to Fort Myers in 1974 and began his career as the owner of Dick's Drywall, Inc.    Through hard work and effort; his company grew to over 700 employees.    Dick's Drywall contributed to every size and type of job for nearly two decades throughout Southwest Florida.    His company provided employment to as many as 700 employees at a time.    In 1990, I was elected to the Lee County School Board and served until 1994.    In 2001, I returned to the construction industry at the request of an old friend.    I am now the General Manager of Construction Solutions Plus, Inc. that has helped to build dozens of office buildings, schools, fire stations and other public and private projects in Lee, Collier, Hendry, Sarasota and Charlotte counties.    I also did several jobs as a General Contractor, including Fire Remediation projects for the Housing Authority of Fort Myers.    Currently I am very involved with helping to market a company recently established by my wife, Pamela, named CSP Document Scanning as well as getting out on the campaign trail, where I hopes to see and/or hear from you very soon.

After the introductions the meeting was opened to Q&A, which was lead by Joe Riske, a member of the Lee County Patriots Organization.

How many of you have owned and operated your own company?

Sonny said,   “I have two successful companies I own and operate, Fort Myers Pool Services and a roofing company”   both service Lee County and Pine Island residents.

Dick said,   “He started his own Drywall Company in 1974, so he knows how to run a successful business.”

Brian and Cecil have never owned or operated their own companies.

Who sitting on the panel is in favor of off shore drilling?

Sonny’s answer was not the popular answer.    He stated,   “I am in favor of off shore drilling only if it is done correctly and with multiple safety measures in place.”    Sonny asked all in the room, how many peddled bikes or walked to the meeting? No hands went up.    He said,   “This is a good indicator that we all need oil. We use it in our jobs; our food is transported in vehicles that use oil.    Our houses are cooled by oil.    We all need oil and we need to stop depending on other countries to supply us with it.    We need to find ways to develope the oil safely.”

The other three candidates said what the crowd indicated they wanted to hear which was   “were not in favor of any drilling”.

This started a discussion in the room.    A resident from St. James City said,   “I will not vote for any of you who said you were not in favor of drilling”   Solar and wind just does not work.    It takes up a tremendous amount of land, the panels and turbines are outrageously expensive, and once the energy is harnessed there is no way to get to the general public. We have so much oil in this country it naturally oozes from the ground.

How would you lower Lee Counties Budget?

Sonny said,   “When I worked as a fire commissioner I was told there are two ways to solve budget problems, to separated the wants from the needs, Lee County is now being run by people and departments that have a lot of wants… this has to stop.”

Brian was asked about a statement he made about scrutinizing Sheriff Scott’s budget because Scott endorsed other candidates.    Brian denies the statement and said he would provide the exact quote from the transcripts.

Did they support the Arizona Emigration Law?

All candidates replied that the County Commissions really have no say when it comes to state or federal laws.    But they did express their person feelings on the matter, which they all were in favor of some form of restriction on illegals.    The meeting was adjourned around 8:30 PM

From left to right: Brian Bigelow, Sonny Haas, Dick Ripp and Cecil Pendergrass. Brian Bigelow, Sonny Haas, Kathy Jones from Lee County Patriots
Sonny Haas, candidate for Lee County Commission, District 2 Joe Riske of the Lee County Patriots presided over the Q and A T. Scott candidate for Lee County School Board.