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Big boots to fill

By Staff | Jun 24, 2022

County Commissioner Frank Mann sings “This Land is Your Land” during the ribbon-cutting celebration for Conservation 20/20 at Prairie Pines Preserve in March of 2020.

Lee County is among Florida’s more diverse.

We have cities, both historic and new. We have beachfront communities and some of the best beaches in the world. We have environmentally sensitive areas, both waterfront and inland. Add in rural communities, farming acreage and rock mines — and another growth boom in the making as we head toward the million-in-population milestone.

Finding an elected official who not only gets the differences but understands how to balance the respective needs could be hard.

Lee County, though, already has such an official in office — Lee County Commission District 5 incumbent Frank Mann.

Blunt, outspoken — but also willing to negotiate if there is a quantifiable, long-term benefit — Commissioner Mann is a lifelong Lee Countian who has effectively represented a divergent and ever-changing district on both the state and local level, seldom wavering from a philosophy that melds land preservation and comprehensive plan compliance with growth.

Neither an anti-growth naysayer nor an any-growth booster, Commissioner Mann has long been a voice for the rural communities he represents while acknowledging the private property rights of developers who offer — some might say are squeezed for — the mitigation and infrastructure their projects demand.

With proposals like the River Hall density increase request pending, and the possible expansion of the Babcock Ranch development stretching across the Charlotte County line into Lee expected, Commissioner Mann’s experience and expertise is needed now more than ever.

Meanwhile, his “Mann Plan” for Lee County continues to resonate with its promise of fiscal responsibility; growth management, particularly in water recharge areas where it should be limited and urban in-fill areas where it should be encouraged; and land preservation via Conservation 20/20.

He’s a steadfast, proven leader whose word is his bond. Simply put, he does what he says he will do.

The opinion above appeared on these pages in August of 2016 when we endorsed Commissioner Frank Mann’s bid for re-election to the District 5 seat on the Lee County Board of County Commissioners which he had then held since 2006.

We share it again today in the wake of his passing as, a half dozen years later, its words ring as true as they did when first published.

Commissioner Mann, unlike so many, did not disappoint. He remained true to mission, steadfast in execution, ever the public servant, never the professional politician, throughout.

He will be missed.

One other thing from that 2016 missive that also remains true today: Finding an elected official who not only gets the differences but understands how to balance the respective needs of our still thankfully-diverse, natural-resources-blessed county could be hard.

Very hard indeed.

Commissioner Mann did not leave big shoes to fill.

He left big boots.

Broken in by a labor of love.

Tamped with rural soil and sandy beaches.

And buffed to a quiet sheen reflective of a vision for which Lee Countians will be ever grateful.

The Lee County Commission’s naming of its recent addition of 625 acres of environmentally sensitive land to the Conservation 20/20 program the “Frank Mann Preserve” is a fitting remembrance to the man who for decades served Lee County well through both state and local office.

Seeing that we fill his vacant seat with a person who can grow into those empty boots would be a fitting remembrance as well.

Our thanks to Commissioner Mann for the legacy he left.

Our condolences to his family and the many who loved him.

–Breeze editorial