Let’s step back for a moment from talking issues and politics in Lee County. Instead, let’s look at a more basic topic: women’s leadership in our community.
In reality, our county has not one strong woman’s voice speaking up on local, in-our-backyard, countywide topics of concern. Think about it. With our all-male county commission, the only women’s voices we hear are those elected to our local jurisdictions — Holly Smith and Katy Errington are mayors of Sanibel and Estero, respectively, who address their constituents’ interests; women councilors on the boards of Fort Myers Beach, Bonita Springs, Cape Coral and Fort Myers do likewise. However, on a countywide level dealing with countywide issues, there is no one woman leading the charge. Why is this?
Sadly, Women For a Better Lee cannot answer the question. What we do have is one very powerful, highly respected voice from Southwest Florida: State Senator Kathleen Passidomo, who represents Collier County and part of Lee in Tallahassee.
WFBL is nonpartisan and working to elect more women to local political offices, no matter their political affiliation. Consequently, Kathleen Passidomo’s party identification — Republican — is unimportant; rather, we want to examine what makes this woman an influential leader.
Recently, The News-Press profiled the senator, who is in line to become President of the State Senate in the 2023-2024 legislative session. Ascending to the post will result in her becoming one of the three most powerful people in Tallahassee.
The article was highly flattering to the Senator with whom, it should be noted, WFBL sometimes strongly disagrees. Of interest to us are the qualities Senator Passidomo embodies, as enumerated by the reporter, James Call, in his story [italics ours]:
- “Passidomo said she has a few people-focused policy initiatives she will pursue as well as initiate a discussion of how the Legislature can engage in long-term planning.”
- On her love of volunteering and community service, she said that following her marriage and just starting out without much money, “What I could offer was my time,” and “…that’s how you get to know the community.”
- As leader of the Senate’s Republican majority, she was a team-builder and explained “A majority leader is someone who can build coalitions and get things done.”
- As to serving the voters, she says “The No. 1 thing our office does is constituent service. When I get a call from a constituent, I do not look up whether they are a Democrat or a Republican.”
As to her success in Tallahassee, the reporter noted that “…Passidomo has displayed a knack for finding common goals. Since joining the Senate, 60% of the bills she has filed, or their House companions, have become law. That compares to the 6% passage rate for all bills filed during the 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 sessions” — a .600 batting average.
This is a woman who gets things done, a political leader who looks after her constituents, cares about her community, and reaches out across the aisle.
We need to find the likes of Kathleen Passidomo to run for county office here in Lee.
Someone once said, “Real leaders don’t talk leadership. Real leaders do leadership.” Much has been written about leadership and surely not everyone is born a leader. But how many women only recognize their leadership skills when they are thrown into the role and find their way intuitively — much as Senator Passidomo did? Indeed, there are many women leaders here in Lee County, they just don’t know it — yet.
We encourage them to step forward and contact us at WFBL2022@gmail.com.
Fort Myers resident Charlotte Newton wrote this column on behalf of Women For a Better Lee.
Note to readers
The News-Press and Naples Daily News Southwest Florida Community Advisory Board is scheduled to meet with Sen. Kathleen Passidomo in June. If you have questions you’d like us to ask her, please submit via email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a subject line “Passidomo.”