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Stewart good choice for county manager

August 22, 2009
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Cape Coral City Manager Terry Stewart is among a dozen "semi-final" candidates culled from a field of 80-plus vying to serve as the next manager of Lee County.

We're not surprised.

Given his credentials, Mr. Stewart should easily rise to the top of most any selection process.

He has spent the bulk of his career in government service, getting his start as a firefighter, before quickly moving through the ranks to the chief's post in the City of Lauderdale Lakes where he served for more than 19 years.

He became an assistant fire chief in Pembroke Pines and then served as the city's assistant city manager before being hired away in 2002 for the Cape's top administrative post, which he has filled very well through good times and bad.

Lee County would do well to tap Mr. Stewart as its next manager should he make the hiring firm's "final five" on Sept. 1 - or even if he should not - and we urge the county commission to do so.

Given Mr. Stewart's in-depth knowledge of local issues, the learning curve would be virtually nil and the transition to the new stewardship seamless.

Make no mistake, though, the county's gain would be Cape Coral's loss.

We believe, as did as a majority of city council when it voted to extend Mr. Stewart's contract until 2011, that the Cape needs leadership continuity through these crises years.

But with at least one candidate in every race - and two incumbents - pledging to "reform the city administration," that may be too much to hope for, another reason we would like to see Mr. Stewart appointed county manager.

As the county as a whole would benefit from his local knowledge, so would the Cape, although to a lesser degree should Mr. Stewart leave the city.

First, as Cape Coral suffers through the throes of economic depression, Mr. Stewart would be able to seek out and propose mutually beneficial consolidations of services.

The county would benefit. The city would benefit.

Read that as county and city taxpayers would benefit.

Two, there would be a distinct advantage to both entities in having a leader on the administrative side who intimately knows the Cape, its challenges, its issues, and its municipal goals.

Relations between the county and city have been contentious at best.

From major disagreements on the Zemel annexation and its proposed development, to fracases concerning how the county markets itself to visitors and businesses looking to relocate, and even animal control costs, the two government entities have wrangled with regularity.

The county could mitigate accusations of political posturing and negate "but you don't understand" arguments in one fell swoop with an appointment who understands very well.

Lee County could do far, far worse than appointing Terry Stewart. And so could the city if and when it has to hire his replacement.

- Breeze editorial



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