Scott, Didio face off in two-way Sheriff’s race
Incumbent Mike Scott is running for his fourth term as Lee County Sheriff and is being challenged by former deputy James Didio.
With no party affiliation, Didio did not participate in the August Primary and waited to face the Republican Primary winner in the November General Election.
Scott received overwhelming (85 percent of votes) support in the Primary over opponent Stephanie Eller.
Early voting in the General Election begins at 10 a.m. on Monday and continues daily through Nov. 5. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.
James F. Didio, NPA
* Age: 31
* Residence: Fort Myers
* Occupation: Sanibel Police Department
* Education: Degree Nashville Auto Diesel School, police academy
* Family: Married, two children
A 20-year resident of Lee and Collier counties, Didio earned a degree in the auto repair industry, but after working in the field he decided on a career in law enforcement. He directed traffic for Sanibel Police until he could qualify for the police academy and became a certified deputy sheriff and served for a time under Sheriff Mike Scott.
He left the department to start a small auto repair shop in 2012. He later hired on with Sanibel PD as a part-time officer on road, marine and beach patrols.
Didio decided in 2014 to focus on the political side of law enforcement with a run for sheriff with no party affiliation.
“I’ve worked the streets, I know the area,” Didio said. “I want to take the politics out of policing.”
Didio said his platform is aimed at making the people in the county safer by filling the 110 vacant budgeted positions, with a promise to recruit new people to the force. He wants to put more officers in Lehigh and other areas where violent crime is rising.
“I want to close the gap between the public and the police,” Didio said. “I work with people and I’ve seen the void. The agency needs to bond with the public to help fight evil crime.”
He accepts the challenge to take a more proactive approach to law enforcement while making the best use of a $160 million budget. He sees a top heavy administration and wants to allocate more of the budget to deputies in the field.
Didio wants to create a career agency to keep locally trained officers and attract new talent through goals and achievement incentives.
“We lose 53 percent of deputies we’ve trained to other jobs,” said Didio. “That has to change.”
He believes the 420,000 registered voters overall are looking for a change and calls it a big movement.
“The old school approach, the old boys mentality is coming to an end,” he said.
Mike Scott, Republican, incumbent
* Age: 53
* Residence: North Fort Myers
* Occupation: Lee County Sheriff
* Education: Edison Community College, University of South Florida, FBI Academy
* Family: Married, two children (now adults)
Scott, a Republican, is seeking his fourth term as sheriff. The North Fort Myers High School graduate was first elected in 2004, then reelected by wide margins in 2008 and 2012. He earned degrees at then-Edison Community College, University of South Florida among others and was invited to attend the FBI Academy.
Scott believes that in today’s world with greater threats on law enforcement, his experience will give the citizens of Lee County the necessary consistency and continuity with other state, federal and local law enforcement agencies as well as the FBI.
“The election can’t get here soon enough for me,” Scott said. “Especially with the Presidential election, there’s a lot of frustration out there, but I remain optimistic. I got enormous support in the primary and I don’t think that will end on the party line. I think it will follow me to the general election. People know me and they don’t know much about my opponent, at least in a broad way.”
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office has about 1,600 active officers to manage plus some 300 volunteers in uniform.
After 28 years in the LCSO, Scott is proud of negotiating the department through the tough economic downturn while trying to maintain staff morale and level of service without being able to hire or purchase new equipment.
“I’ve lived here all my life,” said Scott. “I love Southwest Florida and I don’t take my job for granted.”
Scott reacted to a claim by his opponent that he is considering a mid-term retirement.
“No one can prove what will or will not happen,” Scott said. “I’m the closest one to the action. When I sign on for four years, I serve the full four years. It’s not my intention to cut and run. I am in the state DROP program, but as an elected official I do not have to leave. This has been my career and I am not planning retirement.”