I.U.P.A. Local #6070 (Sergeants) & Local #6071 (Deputies) co-hosted a recent forum in Fort Myers to interview candidates for Lee County Sheriff.
The audience was made up of I.U.P.A. members who were joined by members of the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police), PBA (Police Benevolent Association), IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers), Lee County Fire Unions, the Steam Fitters Union, SPALC (the Support Personnel Association of Lee County), and TALC (Teachers Association of Lee County) as well as numerous other interested persons.
Candidates Lee Bushong, Timothy Fisher and Christian Miester appeared and were questioned on a series of issues concerning the Lee County Sheriffs' Office and each candidate's qualifications to serve. Sheriff Michael Scott declined the invitation and was not in attendance.
Each candidate opened by presenting their platform followed by questions from the moderator selected from those submitted by Union members. The questions covered a wide range of issues.
The moderator opened the questioning asking each candidate to outline their specific qualifications; especially their perception of the role law enforcement experience plays in establishing those qualifications.
Additional questions focused on the impact current departmental policies and practices had on what many deputies have reported as increasingly poor morale. The discussions included descriptions of nepotism, low salaries, a five-year moratorium on raises and other economic issues leading to a high turnover rate.
Candidates were asked to describe how they would deal with the county's committing huge amounts of their budget to land acquisition and other projects while failing to address public safety budgets or staffing problems in the agency.
They were also asked to identify the most critical problem areas in Lee County and to present a plan to improve public safety as well as how they would determine that their efforts were successful.
As could be expected in a forum hosted by two labor organizations, the candidates were asked to describe their view of effective labor/management cooperation and what practices they would implement to improve on it.
Based on his pro-union stance coupled with a combination of extensive experience in law enforcement, and his masters degree in public administration, at the conclusion of the meeting the two sheriffs' locals met and, after much discussion, chose to endorse Tim Fisher, a sixteen-year veteran of the department.
Currently the supervisor of the School Resource Program for Lee County, Fisher is responsible for overseeing the safety of nearly 90,000 students in 93 schools. He is also a member of the Lee County SWAT team, which includes dealing with high risk incidents such as executing narcotic search warrants, search and rescue missions and participating in the Florida Region Six Task Force for Homeland Security.