At the northern end of Gateway Boulevard lays a dirty, forgotten political sign from the Mary Carol Stanley campaign. The last vestige of Stanley’s presumptive win in the 2016 election for Seat 2 on the Board of Supervisors of the Gateway Services Community Development District.
Of course, we all know that Stanley lost to Supervisor Kathleen Flaherty. A humiliating defeat for a Pelican Preserve community that was once so feared in Gateway politics that candidates dare not run against anyone who resided in the 55 and older community.
For the benefit of those who are new to Gateway, the GSCDD was established by the State of Florida in 1986 and consists of Gateway as well as the Pelican Preserve community in Fort Myers. For that reason, Pelican residents can be Supervisors and lord over Gateway – an opportunity some in Pelican have come to feel is their given right over the years.
In their minds, they should help us run our community because they are older and wiser than those of us in Gateway.
They’re half right.
To be fair, we’ve been fortunate enough to have at least one decent Pelican resident on the GSCDD board. Specifically, current Vice-Chairman Bill Guy is a Pelican Preserve resident, and has done an outstanding job looking out for the interests of Gateway residents during his tenure.
But there have also been jackasses, such as real estate agent Gary Neubauer, who (especially toward the end of his time on the board) made decisions that benefited his friends, and verbally attacked fellow board members who were doing great things for the Gateway community.
Unfortunately, Guy’s seat on the board is one of two up for election in November 2018. Based on his track record, Guy would be the one Pelican Preserve resident this publication could endorse. We happen to believe however that Guy has accomplished what he came to do in his 8 years as a Supervisor and he will not be running for re-election. Maybe he’ll prove us wrong.
The Gateway Sun has learned from multiple sources that Pelican Preserve residents are already organizing themselves for the 2018 campaign. They intend to protect Guy’s seat come hell or high water. We have heard from no less than 5 people that Pelican Preserve was deeply embarrassed by Stanley’s loss to Flaherty in 2016, and will do all they can to win in 2018.
The other seat that is up for election is occupied by Supervisor Doug Banks. A high-level Gartner executive who founded the Gateway Gives charity and spent countless hours volunteering on behalf of the youth in this community, Banks is hands-down the most competent Supervisor when it comes to human resource and policy matters that the GSCDD has ever seen. We have received strong indications from Banks that he will seek another term.
So if you’re a relatively unknown candidate looking to throw your hat in the ring, should you run against the motivated folks from Pelican Preserve, or against the incumbent in Supervisor Banks?
As the leading (and only) GSCDD analyst, that question is easy for me to answer: Focus on winning Gateway, because Gateway residents will decide the winner of both races.
You could have 100% support from Pelican Preserve and still lose. Indeed, Stanley had 83.44% of the Pelican vote in 2016 (about as unanimous as you’ll get in local politics) and she still lost quite handily to Flaherty, a Gateway resident.
Don’t be fooled by Pelican Preserve residents who are puffing their chests out right now, pretending to be confident. They know just as well as we do that the perception of Pelican’s dominance in GSCDD elections has been a facade.
They know the only way a Pelican Preserve candidate will win is if no one from Gateway runs against them. So is it any wonder we’ve heard that they’re trying to scare away potential opponents by playing up their community’s resolve?
See for yourself:
Here are the voting results from Flaherty vs Stanley in 2016, as provided by Lee County Elections. (www.lee.vote)
Pelican Preserve (1 precinct):
PCT. 036 Total votes: 1,431
Choice Percent Votes
Kathleen Flaherty (NON) 16.56% 237
Mary Carol Stanley (NON) 83.44% 1,194
Gateway (2 precincts):
PCT. 075 Total votes: 2,652
Choice Percent Votes
Kathleen Flaherty (NON) 68.70% 1,822
Mary Carol Stanley (NON) 31.30% 830
PCT. 076 Total votes: 1,290
Choice Percent Votes
Kathleen Flaherty (NON) 66.59% 859
Mary Carol Stanley (NON) 33.41% 431
Elections are a numbers game, and as you can see, Gateway has the numbers.
As I recently explained to one potential candidate, running against Banks just to avoid Pelican Preserve is a stupid strategy in 2018. People in Gateway know Doug Banks and they trust him. He’s a good Supervisor, and even a better person.
For every locked-in vote a Pelican Preserve candidate will have in that community, Banks will have two in Gateway. And if a Gateway resident tries cozying up to Pelican Preserve leadership in order to curry favor with the 55 and older crowd as political strategy, well, that would probably be exposed during the campaign. And selling out Gateway for political gain will not sit well with Gateway residents.
We don’t think there will be a lot of people who run this year. We’re not hearing much chatter in that regard.
But as long as someone from our community is willing to run against whomever Pelican Preserve serves up, we will be looking at the first ever all-Gateway Board of Supervisors.