Hoping to continue having "a voice for Sanibel" on the Lee County Board of County Commissioners, former mayor Carla Brooks Johnston says that she is "ready to hit the ground running" in the battle for the District 1 seat.
"This election is different that any one we've had recently," Johnston said on Monday, six days after she learned she would be facing John Manning of Cape Coral in the November general election. "We are at a critical time right now, and our leaders should be shifting their focus towards success in the future."
Last week, Manning bested former Lee County School District board member Bob Chilmonik to win the Republican nomination. Manning garnered 18,263 votes to Chilmonik's 17,457.
Johnston is running with no party affiliation.
"When I was the mayor and dealing with some of the water quality issues involving Lake Okeechobee, I had to deal with people representing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District," she said. "I was working with both Republicans and Democrats, but I had no party label hung across my chest. I was able to make a lot of progress without being partisan."
One of the most important reasons Johnston chose to run for the District 1 seat, she explained, was to keep Sanibel's interests at the forefront of county decision-making. Longtime commissioner and island resident Bob Janes, who passed away earlier this year, was instrumental at achieving that goal.
Johnston hopes to continue being Sanibel's "voice."
"Sanibel's top priority has always been protecting our waters, but we also have an economic interest in what the county does," she explained. "It's important to have a voice there, following in the footsteps of Porter Goss and Bob Janes. We are a critical area of Lee County, and we tend to hold higher environmental standards. In the past, (Goss and Janes) tended to have some clout on those issues."
Asked why the voters on Sanibel — as well as throughout District 1 — should vote for her over Manning, Johnston said that this is an important decision that must be made.
"People need to look at the candidates and choose somebody who can go in, deal with a situation and get things done," she said. "Both John and I have a good amount of experience. He's sat as a commissioner for 12 years, so it's up to them if they want that to continue."
Johnston's top three platform issues include making substantial budget cuts, adopting new ways to grow and stimulate the economy and protect our local waters, which she noted "is why people come to Lee County."
"I probably have more of a track record of solving problems," Johnston added. "In my experience, I've looked in-depth at large budgets and I have a background in understanding human services issues and transportation issues for all levels — trains, buses, pedestrians and bikes."
With the election only nine weeks away, Johnston stated that she's prepared to listen to what the voters identify as most important and make decisions that are best for the county and Sanibel.
Goss and Janes did that quite effectively in the past. Johnston hopes to do that in the future.
Carla Brooks Johnston