Raymond Sandelli of Bonita Springs was sworn in as the new District 3 Lee County Commissioner on Tuesday morning, August 6, in the Lee County Courthouse Commissioner’s Chambers before roughly 150 fellow government officials, citizens and guests. Sandelli will fill the roughly 15 months remaining in the term of the late Larry Kiker, who passed away in April. Commissioner Kiker was a former Fort Myers Beach Mayor and Council member prior to his service to Lee County.
After his swearing-in, Commissioner Sandelli made a brief statement: “I am happy to be here and a little surprised! My only goal is the best interest of our community and it is as simple as that. Thank you to my family and to Governor DeSantis for the appointment.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis named Sandelli to the vacant seat on Friday, August 2. Lee County District 3 includes Fort Myers Beach, San Carlos Island and South Fort Myers.
Following his comment, Lee County Commissioners began their meeting. Their first action, in a strictly procedural manner, was to unanimously pass their 32-item Consent Agenda, causing Commissioner John Manning to quip to Sandelli, “Congratulations, Commissioner – you just made your first vote!” Lee County Commissioner Acting Chair Brian Hamman quickly added, “You did great – you just passed 32 items in one vote!”
Near the end of the meeting, under “Commissioner Items,” Commissioner Frank Mann pointed out that “Commissioner Hamman has been our Acting Board Chair since the passing of Commissioner Kiker. Over the past 7 or 8 years, we rotate the Chairmanship based on the District numbers, so we are in an unusual situation, as technically our new Commissioner should be Chair. Commissioner Hamman, your Chairmanship was been nothing short of exemplary, as evidenced by today where we have had nothing but 5 to 0 votes, and that is a tremendous tribute to your leadership and a sign of continued happy days ahead, so this has nothing to do with you, but technically, in the remaining 3 months and 6 meetings of our County year, the District 3 Commissioner is entitled to be Chair, as new Commissioners have done in the past, to stick their bare feet right into the fire! Since there is so little time left in the District 3 Chairmanship, if you prefer not to, Commissioner Sandelli, I have no problem with this magnificent young gentleman continuing as the Chair, but we need something on the record.”
“I am smart enough to know what I don’t know,” said Commissioner Sandelli with a smile! “It seems as though Chair Hamman is doing a terrific job, from what I see here and listen to, so I would like to continue with this.” Commissioner Mann made the motion to allow Commissioner Hamman to remain Chair that unanimously passed.
Sandelli completed eight years of military service as a Naval Officer and Aviator, receiving his wings in January 1971. While deployed aboard the USS Independence, he completed two cruises to the Mediterranean Sea. He participated in the Sixth Fleet operations during the October 1973 Middle East War and 1974 Cyprus conflict, before reporting to the VT-66 Naval Air Station in Pensacola in March 1975 as an Advanced Training Command Instructor for Naval Flight Officers. Sandelli’s final tour was as a member of the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, The Blue Angels.
Commissioner Sandelli is a Managing Partner at CRE Consultants for the past five years, where he advises clients on healthcare, office, retail, industrial, land and property management, after having spent the previous 28 years with CBRE, Inc., of Seattle. In 1995, he became senior managing director of the CBRE Tampa office and in 2000 assumed responsibility of its Florida region. In 2007, he began managing statewide oversight of lender and servicer representation for the reposition of all property types through CBRE’s Recovery & Restructuring Services program.
This Is Your Purpose!
After the meeting, in speaking to the press, Commissioner Sandelli acknowledged that he did not seek the position from Governor DeSantis, while 14 others did. “My understanding is Governor DeSantis offered the spot to State Representative Dane Eagle, who declined, but he suggested my name, and the Governor offered me the job last Friday. I am not from the world of politics so I don’t know how these relationships work. I have been approached to enter politics in the past, but in being married and raising three children, the timing was never right until now. Public service is important to me, however, as evidenced by my military career. When I called my son about the offer, he said, ‘This is your purpose!’”
Asked whether he considered the Board Chairmanship when Commissioner Mann brought it up, he replied, “Brian has done a great job and it would be a disservice to our citizens to take the reins after one day.” When asked if he will run for the District 3 Commissioner position in 2020, he said, “Right now I take the approach of one day at a time before making a decision.”
Commissioner Sandelli said he brings no immediate agenda to the job. “I just returned from vacation over the weekend, so yesterday was my first day to begin to study the position, so I am not ready to declare what I am prepared to do and not do. On top of that, we lost our power, so I was handwriting my notes by candlelight; it made me feel a bit like Abraham Lincoln! I am not a coffee drinker, but I became one last night! My only priority right now is to do the absolute best that I can for the citizens of Lee County, and we will see what happens after that.”
Bridge & Beach
In other matters on their agenda that pertained to Fort Myers Beach, Lee County Commissioners unanimously approved a change order to the future Big Carlos Pass Bridge replacement that they have been exploring since 2016. The change order allows Lee County staff to advance the high fixed span option that Lee County Commissioners approved in December 2018 from the 30% to the 60% design stage. Once this project is complete, Lee County will host public meetings in early 2020 for residents to review the update. The design phase will not go past the 60% level until the Florida Department of Transportation has approved the Project Development and Environment Study, anticipated in early 2020. Following that, the design will proceed to the 100% stage, with work on the new bridge estimated to begin in 2021. Chair Hamman pointed out, “This change order is the planned next step and within the budget of the project. This is not an extra added cost but in the plan for it that we rolled out.”
Tamara Pigott, Executive Director of the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau (VCB), asked Lee County Commissioners to approve a $136,817.50 transfer from the 5% Tourist Development Tax, better known as the Bed Tax, to reimburse the Town of Fort Myers Beach for cleanup efforts from a Red Drift Algae accumulation on the beach from late April to early May of this year that received unanimous approval. Chair Hamman explained, “This was quite unpleasant, with a horrible smell, so that cleanup was necessary.”
By Gary Mooney