By: Butch Swank
It’s a brand-new year, Lehigh Acres! We have come a long way with tons of new friends, neighbors, and some very cool businesses popping up right here in the neighborhood. I absolutely love how Lehigh continues to grow but somehow still maintains the feeling of a small town. It is the community aspect I think I like best – everyone is generally kind and looks after each other. Granted, we have way more than our share of crazy drivers, but overall, this place is great!
I thought it would be a fun way to start the year with some more positive news. We recently elected Mike Greenwell to represent us on the Lee County Commission. I catch a lot of grief because I prefer to work, work, work in my office and rarely venture out. I think I might be allergic to networking. However, earlier in December, I got a wild hair and arranged for a half-hour meeting to spend some time with our new Commissioner and get to know him. I asked if he could share some details on what he’s working on to help us, you know, the people that elected him, and I was pleasantly surprised. He has a big map of Lee County behind his desk, and he popped right up and started showing me all the traffic hotspots he’s already been working on. I wanted to hug him! We could not get more into detail since I only arranged a half-hour meeting, but I walked out of there feeling like we are in good hands. I promise to spend more time with him in the future and report back on what I learn.
Another important item to share is that Lehigh now has its very own Representative in the State Legislature. We elected Tiffany Esposito, so I thought I should have a sit down with her, too. As it turns out, her December was booked. “Why?” you ask. I am thrilled to report for a truly excellent reason! Tiffany and the rest of our lawmakers were in Tallahassee for a special session to fix our broken home insurance market. If I made a Christmas list with all the legal changes needed to fix things, it would look exactly like what our legislature just made happen. (Good Lord, is that not the lamest Christmas list ever? Santa must just shake his head when he gets my letters.) Back to business, there were no half-measures. This was exactly what we Floridians needed, and our legislature delivered. It will take no less than one year for things to actually begin improving, but the important thing is that we’re finally going in the right direction, and our few remaining insurance carriers got the lifeline they so desperately needed. So far, I am happily reporting our elected leaders sure seem to be listening and, most importantly, they are acting!
You’ve heard me bark a lot about how Lehigh has been ignored. You’ve also heard me say we should take full responsibility for that. It is 100% our fault we’ve been neglected. The tremendously good news, though, is that it is 100% in our power to fix that. Look, we’re all busy with a million things to do. I get it. Now here comes the “But” part… But, I ask you to pick just one thing that is important to you and work towards making that right. Take the road medians, for instance. They’re a disaster in most places of Lehigh. Lee Blvd actually looks pretty great with the trees, and it is well maintained. Elsewhere though, it is a mess. Garbage, weeds, dead plants. Did you know Lee County has a Department of Transportation? It’s true. Look them up and make a call. Don’t like traffic in an area? Make a call. Feel like we don’t need yet another Dollar General? Make a call. Now that you’re on the line ask some questions. Be nice and polite, but make your voice heard. When I call, I always give a short explanation for my call and then ask who I should contact to have it addressed. Believe it or not, they really do want to help and are batting 1000% for me so far. They can’t help if we don’t let them know where we need it.
The bottom line is that we do have the power to keep Lehigh getting better and better. We need to invest some time in making connections with those in power to fix things. It’s not good enough to complain about things and not act. We all know that person – rhymes with itch about something all the time but then never does anything about it. Those days of whining but not acting are over, and if you look around, the proof is everywhere because we’ve already made a big difference. Lehigh is on a great path, and I say it is on our shoulders to make sure the future we all want becomes a reality.