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5 candidates queue up for District 5 Commission seat

Republican Primary for county seat is Aug. 23

By NATHAN MAYBERG - | Jun 30, 2022

Five candidates — three Republicans, a Democrat and a write-in — have qualified to run for the District 5 Lee County Board of County Commissioners seat left vacant by the death of Frank Mann.

The Republican field offers former Boston Red Sox hitter Michael Greenwell, former District 5 Commissioner John Albion and chiropractor Joseph Gambino.

A primary will be held Tuesday, Aug. 23, to determine who wins the Republican nomination for the seat that encompasses eastern Lee County including Lehigh Acres.

The winner of the closed primary will face Democrat Matthew Wood, a Lehigh Acres resident and co-owner of Powerwash Pros, on the Nov. 8 special election ballot.

Wood said he was running for the seat because he believes the people of Lehigh Acres have been “overlooked” on the five-member commission whose members are elected countywide.

“I want infrastructure, sidewalks,” he said, adding some lights don’t work in community.

Angela Chenaille qualified as a write-in candidate. A self-described Republican, Chenaille has worked in construction and real estate.

There was a quick turnaround time to file for the race. Due to the tight deadlines, none of the candidates filed petitions with signatures. The fee to qualify under the party was approximately $5,900 and $3,961.80 for non-party candidates.

Greenwell said he was in Nashville getting set to watch a NASCAR race with Ross Chastain, an Alva native, when he found out the qualifying period was quickly approaching. He left the event and hurried back down to Lee County to file.

Greenwell operates a farming business, 31 Produce, and Big League Builders, a contracting business. He also has a property rental company, Greenwell Investment Properties.

A two-time All-Star who faced down Hall of Fame pitchers like Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson in his career, and played alongside Hall of Famer Wade Boggs in the 1986 World Series, Greenwell said he is more than just a businessman and retired athlete.

He helped form the North Olga Community Panel. Greenwell, who also once competed in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, said the panel has been working on planning on how to control growth in the community. He said the community panel was formed to help re-establish an historic area.

Greenwell, 58, described himself as “pro growth” and for “positive growth.”

Drafted out of North Fort Myers High School in the third round of the 1982 Major League Baseball Draft, Greenwell has lived in Alva for the past 32 years.

The runner-up in the 1988 American League MVP race built a home there, raising his two children.

“I want good, managed growth,” Greenwell said. “I feel like we sometimes are growing so fast we don’t get the infrastructure we need.”

For Albion, 59, regaining a seat on the Lee County Board of County Commissioners means he will need to add a residence since his current home is three-quarters of a mile outside the district’s new boundaries.

Although all Lee County voters may cast a ballot in each of the county commissioner races, commissioners must live in the district they represent.

A Real Estate broker and director for the firm Cushman and Wakefield, Albion represented District 5 from 1992 to 2006. His family also operates Safe-T-Storage off Pine Ridge Road in Fort Myers Beach.

Albion cited water quality, infrastructure and transportation, and worker salaries as his main issues.

“We’re having underemployment,” Albion said. “People aren’t being paid as well as they need to.”

The former executive director of the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, Albion said he wants to work closely with Florida Gulf Coast University on economic development.

“It’s a much more challenging time for Lee County. Because of the growth that has occurred, there is less land to solve our problems,” Albion said.

Joseph Gambino, a chiropractor and real estate businessman who has a Fort Myers address in unincorporated Lee County, moved here two years ago from Long Island.

Gambino, 42, still maintains an address in Freeport, New York and works one weekend each month out of his New York chiropractor’s office. In Lee County, Gambino has a mobile chiropracting business and runs the real estate firm Major Coinage Holdings.

“I want to keep Lee County a place for fiscal responsibility and low taxes,” Gambino said. “We have to keep the growth smart.”

Gambino said he wants to limit commercial development in eastern Lee County and keep it centered in Fort Myers.

“Alva, Buckingham, these are areas we need to preserve. Overdevelopment in these areas, I would be against.”

Gambino said he was attracted to living in rural eastern Lee County after visiting family over the years.

“I love the country living,” he said.

“As a family guy with children, I understand what the needs of Lee County are,” Gambino said. “They don’t want overpopulation, they don’t want overdevelopment.”

Elaine Sarlo, a Republican political consultant and former staffer for U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, withdrew after filing for the seat.

Two other county commission seats are up this year and will be decided in November.

District 2 incumbent Cecil Pendergrass, a Republican, faces Karen Watson, who qualified as a write-in candidate.

District 4 incumbent Brian Hamman, a Republican, faces Jim Sheets, who qualified as a write-in candidate.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include comment from candidate Joseph Gambino.