He has covered county politics as a journalist since 1986. Now, San Carlos Island resident Charlie Whitehead has decided to try his luck on the other side of the fence by officially declaring his 2012 candidacy for District 3 on the Lee County Board of County Commission.
According to officials at the Lee County Supervisor of Elections office, Whitehead filled out filing qualifying papers for candidacy last week.
"I've opened my campaign account," said Whitehead, who noted District 3 covers the South Lee County and Fort Myers Beach area. "I have an understanding of the issues that Lee County Government faces and the way Lee County works and the reasons that it doesn't work that nobody else does. I've been watching Lee County as a dispassionate analyst for 25 to 26 years. Nobody has the kind of understanding about the issues and the workings that I do."
Charlie Whitehead, known around the Beach as the president of the FMB Little League Association, has officially declaring his 2012 candidacy for District 3 on the Lee County Board of County Commission.
Whitehead believes it is time for a change - a fresh new look. If elected, he promises to work hard. He will try to convince people he is right about things, and work with people to see those issues get resolved.
"I've seen (the District 3 position) done well, and I've seen it done badly. Right now, it's not being done well," said Whitehead. "People of Lee County deserve somebody that will work hard to create a consensus and get things done. It's been years since there was a consensus or anybody working to create consensus on Lee County's board.
Current District 3 Commissioner Ray Judah has served in that capacity since 1988. His latest term ends in 2012.
"The incumbent throws bombs at the state legislature, at regional government entities like the water management district and at his fellow commissioners. He doesn't work to create consensus," said Whitehead. "I think that is what's needed. We don't have anybody working to get people to agree with them. I think I'm really good at that, and it's a great fit."
Whitehead said he believes Lee County government needs somebody who is not a "polarizing influence" and not too far apart to create consensus. He says a quarter of a century in one political seat is too long.
"We need to work things out. Government, county government specifically, needs to stand up and look at everything that you are spending money on or might spend money on and compare this expenditure with that expenditure," he said. "We need to make those decisions straight forwardly. There is discretionary money that can be moved around.
"Lee County officials brag about no other county in Florida is as good as us in planning. They say, 'we still have money in the bank.' Frankly, I'd rather that money was in the pockets of the taxpayers that provided it."
Born in Dec. 19, 1957, Whitehead is a native of Ohio and moved to the area in 1986.
That same year, he began his political writing career at the Beach Bulletin and has been covering county politics among other new items for various newspapers and publications ever since.
Whitehead studied English and Journalism at the University of Louisville (Ky.) and Yankston College (S.D.) where he played both football and basketball. His grandmother, Grace Whitehead, was also a popular and active member of the Beach community.
"Regardless of what people think Ray did in the 1980s or 1990s or even before 2010, things are different now," he said. "You have to look at taxpayers in the eyes and tell them that this is what we should do and what we are going to do."
Whitehead, a Republican candidate, admits he has never run for anything other than a board member position on his condo association, but his work-related experience gives him the confidence for such a political move. He has also served on the Bay Oaks Advisory Board and the Town's Community Resources Advisory Board and is currently still the president of the FMB Little League Association.
Charlie has been married to his wife, Debbie, since 1989. They have three children: Allison, 19; Rachel, 17; and Michael, 13.
"Everybody goes to Fort Myers Beach. The old surveys indicated that virtually all of the tourists that come to Lee County eventually drive over that bridge," said Whitehead. "The things that are Lee County's responsibility and need to be taken care of properly include Estero Boulevard. There is no reason the County cannot work in tandem with the Town. Essentially, Fort Myers Beach is a cash cow for the County."
The 2012 candidate would like to see what mid-1980's traffic engineers said should be done on the county road on the Beach.
"They said, 'the thing you have to do is eliminate the left-hand northbound turn across traffic and run traffic underneath the bridge' for a better flow," Whitehead said. "All the traffic engineers have said that's the most easiest, best way to eliminate that one major choke point."
Whitehead calls his home base the "Greater Metropolitan Fort Myers Beach" area. He believes there should be a direct communication with the Town Council to establish and fit their priorities for the Town into the overall area.
"There are a lot of tourist taxes that come from out here and a lot of business is done from out here. From a county point of view, you have to protect that as a resource," he said. "You need to have an understanding working relationship with everybody you come in contact with. I don't that is that hard to do, and I don't think that is being done very well now."
Whitehead has received a lot of support from those that know him. A local daily newspaper broke the news he was thinking about running for the commission back in June.
"I've received an outpouring of support. People have encouraged me to get the campaign account open, because they have wanted to donate to the campaign," he said. "Frankly, I've been encouraged by the amount of support."