Saturday, May 19, 2012

Make an informed choice for County Commissioner


In last week’s post, I explained how to find out if your County Commissioner is running in the August 14 primary election.  This week, I’ll walk you through two steps I've taken to help me make an informed choice between District 3 incumbent Tom Henning (R) and his challenger Bill McDaniel (R):

  1. Research candidate bios
  2. Set up and monitor Google alerts
I've tried to provide enough guidance so you can follow a similar process regardless of where you live.

1a.  Research candidate bios - Henning
Since Henning is an incumbent, I knew where to look for his bio: the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) website.  I learned he has been a resident of Collier County since 1973 and is a graduate of Lely High School. There’s no mention of any post-secondary education.  He “sold his business of 19 years, Golden Gate Auto Repair, to devote himself full-time to his Commissioner’s duties.” 

The BCC bio says he has been active in the Golden Gate Civic Association since 1992, and is currently a member of its board of directors.  A quick Google search confirms what I already knew: Golden Gate is quite different from the part of the county I live in, which suggests that Henning’s interests may not be aligned with mine.  Something to keep an eye on.

The BCC bio also says Henning served as an elected Fire Commissioner for the Golden Gate Fire and Rescue District for 4 years.  Consolidation of fire districts and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has been a hot issue in Collier County for years, so it’s useful to know Henning has some sort of interest here.  A quick Google search told me that Commissioners voted 4-1 last week to bring back the possibility of putting fire consolidation on the August primary ballot, and that Henning was the lone dissenter.  (For more on this issue, click here.) 

A Google search for “Tom Henning commission” identified an ethics complaint filed last month concerning potential discrepancies in Henning’s financial disclosure forms (more here).  It also reminded me that Henning had abstained from voting on the Immokalee Master Plan in December, citing a conflict of interest (more here). 

I also looked at Henning’s own campaign website henning2012.com.  His tag-line is “Proven Leadership.” 

One more thing to check out is who is financing Henning’s campaign (click here).  Clearly more time spent Googling would turn up additional information relevant to making an informed voting decision.   

1b.  Research candidate bios - McDaniel
Knowing nothing about Bill McDaniel, a Google search is my first stop.  At billmcdanielcolliercounty.com, the pitch is “jobs, jobs, jobs”:  “If your [sic] looking to bring jobs and bring new businesses to Collier County, vote Bill McDaniel!”  Another McDaniel website proclaims he cares about “Family” and “Environment.”  It also displays a rotating list of “supporters,” some of whose names I recognize (and also Googled): Earl and Thelma Hodges (Naples); Dave Farmer (Golden Gate City); Fred Thomas (Immokalee); Ski Oleski (Lake Trafford Marina); Frank Halas (former County Commissioner – Naples)

That second website links to a detailed bio.  In part it says “Education: Clarion State University, PA; majors in accounting and computer programming; minor in economics.”  (The suggestion is that he is a graduate, but McDaniel was upfront in telling me that he didn't finish his college degree.)  He’s lived Florida since 1981, and lists his religious affiliation as Protestant.  (I wonder why he thinks that’s important.)  His previous work experience included carpentry, real estate and banking; he is now the owner of Big Island Excavating, Inc

The website lists past community involvements including Kiwanis Club; the Masonic Organization including Cypress Lodge #295 and the Grand Lodge of Florida.  He is currently active with Goodwill of Southwest Florida, Goodwill L.I.F.E. Academy School, and the Corkscrew Island Neighborhood Association.  As an appointee of the BCC, he served on the East of 951 Horizon Study Committee until 2008 and on the Rural Land Stewardship Committee from 2008-2009.

A quick search on the Naples Daily News website reveals that “McDaniel was delinquent on his business property taxes for two years in a row, but said recently he's doing whatever it takes to get them paid.”

I’m almost out of time, but this hour of research has given me a bare-bones start on both candidates.

2.  Set up and monitor Google alerts
Next, I went to www.google.com/alerts.  I created one alert with the query “bill mcdaniel” collier county and one with the query “tom henning” collier county, asking for “everything,” with “all results” delivered to my email address “once a week.”

Next steps
I’m pretty confident that with this little bit of background, and a careful monitoring of the weekly Google alerts, I’ll be pretty well-informed come the August election.

I hope you’ll take an hour and do some similar research.  Then let me know what you find that’s interesting, something relevant that you didn’t know, and/or something that will be helpful to you in making your decision.  I’m really interested!

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for your hard work. Our commissioner is not up for reelection this year, but I very much appreciate the info on the other candidates.

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  2. Only to say, I've known Tom Henning for well over a decade. He's honest, intelligent, caring and very insightful.Also a great family man. He's not afraid to stand against the entire board when he considers them wrong, even if to go along would help him politically. Thanks also for the info, on Mr. McDaniel, I do not know him and can start the process.

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  3. Sandy, as usual terrific advice/work.

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  4. Thanks for providing good guidelines for researching candidates! Great piece. Any thought of working this into letter to editor? Actually I am interested in the Tax Collector race. I have met Wagner (who did collect the necessary 1500 signatures), and know he has or does work in division of motor vehicles as supervisor but really have no idea of how he compares to Ray! Guess I need to do some homework!

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  5. Have to say that I appreciate your blog about researching the county commissioners; I learned (should've known) that Henning is my commissioner too. Sheesh. I plan to go back and read previous posts you made and try to keep up. You present your information very clearly; much appreciated.

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