Only four at
ENGLEWOOD — Just four candidates for Charlotte County Commission came to speak at the Englewood East Homeowner’s Association Candidates’ Forum on Wednesday night at the Tringali Center.
The four candidates who attended were Republicans Ken Doherty, George Kearns and Susan Kovacs — all running for District 1; and Democrat Valerie Guenther, running for District 3. All four were rewarded with longer speaking times. Candidates William G. Truex, Tricia Duffy (incumbent), Nirmilla Jitta and Joanne Marie Mulvaney — all Republicans — were not present.
Doherty, who is running for the District 1 seat, opened by complimenting Commissioner Bob Starr, who was not present, for “taking the high road” in running a civil campaign during the primary. Doherty defeated Starr for the nomination. Doherty then summed up his experience as a public and private sector civil engineer, including his work for Charlotte County.
“I’m the only candidate who has actually prepared a Charlotte County budget,” said Doherty, vowing to implement independent budget reviews if elected and to “fix how difficult and unpredictable Charlotte County is on permitting.”
Kearns, a write-in candidate for District 1, described his career as a lawyer who specialized in workers’ compensation, disability and social security law, and a mediator for small-claims court for Charlotte County. Kearns advocated starting an incubator to promote new, young businesses.
“The current commission and the county have been afraid to spend money,” said Kearns. “Murdock has us so apprehensive of getting stuck again that everyone says no.” An incubator can be established without buying more property, he said. Kearns described county employees as “a lot of fine people who do their best for the county … but they need more direction from the County Commission.”
Kovacs, also a write-in candidate for District 1, responded to Doherty’s comment on civility. “We don’t need civility, we need to hear the truth,” said Kovacs. She also spoke of the need to “make this a more moral place to live,” adding that she would accomplish that because she is a woman.
“Women don’t do some of the things I’ve seen from this commission,” said Kovacs. Her lack of experience and connections in the county would be an advantage, she said, because she wouldn’t make deals through friendships and connections. Kovacs also envisioned adding residences to U.S. Highway 41 to beautify the highway “without giving up the tire store we need.”
Guenther, who is running for the District 3 seat, acknowledged that she would be the lone Democrat on the commission if elected, describing that as a distinct advantage. “I can bring up other points of view and encourage additional thoughts,” she said.
As a former telecommunications representative with a $12 million annual quota, she said she would apply the knowledge she gained in that position, as well as experience raising venture capital for a former business she and her husband owned, to introduce new ideas affordably but without being stingy.
In addition to “the curmudgeons and tea partiers,” Guenther said, “neighbors and people who will invest here need a voice. … I would encourage vision and listen to more than just a few.”