Lee County Commission race: Kevin Ruane, Frank Mann, Ray Sandelli pile up big wins

Lee County Commission race: Kevin Ruane, Frank Mann, Ray Sandelli pile up big wins 1

Bill Smith
| Fort Myers News-Press

Lee County Commission race: Kevin Ruane, Frank Mann, Ray Sandelli pile up big wins 2

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2020: Election Day in Florida

Here’s a look in Florida as of Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Lee County’s Board of County Commissioners will continue as a solidly Republican group, with the election of Kevin Ruane and Ray Sandelli to their first full terms and the reelection of the political warhorse Frank Mann to what could be his last four years on the board. 

Ruane, whose only opponent was a college student who declared as a write-in candidate, captured more than 97% of t total, to coast to a seat on the five-member Board of County Commissioners.

Mann piled up more than 64% of the vote in defeating Juan Gonzalez, a pastor and community activist who was making his first run for political office. 

Sandelli ran close to Mann’s pace in defeating Todd Truax, the Democratic candidate. Running as a member of the county commission by virtue of his appointment to the post last August, Sandelli had won about 62% of the vote with only a couple of precincts yet to be counted.

Truax, a Bonita Springs assisted living facility administrator. Truax campaigned on a record of community involvement in both oversight and volunteer roles.

In challenging Mann, Gonzales ran on issues of particular concern to Lehigh Acres, where he resides. During the campaign, he hit topics such as developing a stronger sense of community among Lehigh residents, support for Lehigh’s incorporation as an independent municipality and improving its image to outsiders..

Live blog: With polls closing at 7 p.m., voting at precincts starting to pick up

And: Latest election results for Lee County in Florida

While Lehigh is the most significant part of District 5 by population, county commissioners are elected at-large by county voters.

The election of Ruane to the seat held by John Manning in two tenures totaling 24 years means two of the five seats on the commission have now turned over in  barely a year and a half.

By the way: Mostly smooth sailing at the polls as Lee, Collier surge to record turnouts

While the change in the District 1 seat doesn’t mean a change in political philosophy, it means some changes in approach individual council members take to consideration of county business. 

Ruane’s accounting background and several years as mayor of Sanibel have already had an impact.  

After winning the primary, Ruane, 60, continued his practice of observing commission meetings in person. His influence on the county’s financial management may have already borne fruit in the commission’s discussion of the budget for the next fiscal year.

County leaders indicated they would back some changes in the way the county manages its surplus revenues and reserve funds, topics that Ruane has viewed with interest from outside the county administration.

In addition to being a certified public accountant, Ruane owns several businesses in New Jersey and Florida, including companies that finance tanning and beauty salons.

Also winning a first term on the council is incumbent Sandelli, 73, who was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2019 to replace the late Larry Kiker.

A former naval pilot and New Jersey native who has worked in real estate development from Washington state to Florida, Sandelli ran for a full term and defeated Estero City Council member Nick Batos in the primary and then Truax in the general election.

Sandelli works for CRE Consulting, a real estate and development company, and has backed most large-scale developments that have come before the board during his tenure.  

Previous coverage: Juan Gonzalez challenges Frank Mann’s hold on commission seat

And: Todd Truax sees ‘blue wave’ in race against Ray Sandelli

Sandelli was the first commissioner to dive headlong into the issue of homelessness in several years. After Sandelli became involved, an assistant county manager was given responsibility for coordinating work of several agencies in determining services that would assist the homeless in the long term as well as on immediate issues. 

Public discussion of the issue was broadened by Sandelli, who invited members of the region’s homeless communities to the table after advocates asked the commission for a more substantive role.

With Manning’s retirement, Mann becomes the senior member of the board .

Frequently outvoted on issues before the commission, Mann stands to become chairman of the board if the commission continues its past practice of rotating the chairmanship. 

Commissioner Brian Hamman has been chairman for two-and-a-half years after Sandelli declined to take Kiker’s position as chairman.


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