Several new faces elected to south Lee fire district boards

Steady Election Day Turnout

Voting is quick and easy in Naples

— The Bonita Springs Fire District board got a face-lift Tuesday night, with both incumbents falling in close races.

Former Bonita Springs City Councilman Wayne Edsall defeated incumbent Pasquale “Pat” Buttino by a vote of 8,012 to 7,475 for the District 2 seat.

Edsall said he figured the race would be tight but that Bonita taxpayers are fed up with what he called an excessive budget and want a new board.

“The people wanted change,” Edsall said. “These guys (the incumbents) are pretty well entrenched, and we relied on the Bonita citizens to recognize that. And they did.”

In District 4, Steve Lohan defeated incumbent Robert Paterson and Alex P. Grantt, another former Bonita councilman. Lohan garnered 6,149 votes, followed by Paterson with 5,323 and Grantt with 3,679. This is Lohan’s first stint as an elected official. He’s lived in Bonita Springs for the past 24 years.

Lohan said the key to his win was his approach to the growing budget, which is $32 million for 2009, with $14 million of that being reserves.

“With the way the economy is now, the budget is on everyone’s mind,” Lohan said. “People are paying a lot more attention to that; the taxpayers have spoken.”

An inflated budget, seemingly high pension rates for firefighters and a possible consolidation of Bonita Springs, Estero and San Carlos Park into one fire district are all topics Edsall and Lohan will face as first-time board members.

Estero

The Estero Fire Control & Rescue District will see a new face on its board in the District 2 seat after candidate Frank Messana beat out incumbent Bob Morris, who has served for two terms. Messana, a career fire officer, was appointed to Lee County’s affordable housing committee by Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah in 2007.

Messana, who won with more than 60 percent of the votes, is on record supporting the pursuance of consolidation and merger options and promised voters to maintain a balanced budget while in office.

In the District 4 race, incumbent and current chairman Richard Schweers, who has served since 1997, ran unopposed and retained his seat in office.

San Carlos Park

The two incumbents retained their seats on the San Carlos Park Fire Control District board.

Incumbent Lawrence Sweeney retained the District 2 seat. Sweeney, a retired firefighter from Waterbury, Conn., beat out challengers Nick Kellen and Maria Oppermann.

“We have to look how we can get better services and see how cheap we can get it,” Sweeney said of his plans for his next term.

Terry Dettmar, an eight-year fire district commissioner, soundly defeated Orin Oppermann to keep the San Carlos Park Fire Control District 4 seat.

“I think people voted for the person continuing to lower taxes and giving them best services for the amount of money we have,” said Dettmar.

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