Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann has died at 80

Reporter: Emma Heaton Writer: Derrick Shaw
Published: Updated:

Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann died early Tuesday morning at his home in Alva at the age of 80.

Mann’s family asked that everyone help maintain and enhance the quality of life in Lee County by preserving its beauty, one of Mann’s missions.

The Lee County Board of Commissioners voted on Tuesday during their regularly scheduled meeting to honor Mann by renaming east Lee County Conservation 20/20 preserve the Frank Mann Preserve.

His absence was marked by a black robe draped on his empty chair. Flowers were also placed on his desk.

Frank Mann’s empty seat. Credit: WINK News

Mann, a lifelong resident of Lee County, began his career in public service in 1974 in the Florida House of Representatives, where he served eight years before moving on to the Florida Senate for four years. He served as Lee County’s District 5 Commissioner for more than 15 years.

He was honored by his fellow commissioners and family who spoke on his behalf during Tuesday’s meeting.

“If there was one overarching theme of his entire public service career, it was to maintain and enhance the quality of life here at Lee County by protecting and preserving the beauty that he enjoyed since his times as a boy,” said his son Frank Mann Jr.

The elder Mann was last at the county commissioner’s meeting two weeks ago when he reported for work in a wheelchair.

“All his years of service, he basically gave his life to Lee County, he never retired. He basically worked till his last day,” said County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass.

As a Democrat in the ’80s, Mann recommended Republican Porter Goss for county commission, angering his own party but solidifying a friendship.

“Frank Mann was my friend and my mentor and if I’ve ever done anything good in public service I have to give him some of the credit,” Goss said.

Goss went on to serve in Congress and as the Director of the CIA.

Mann, himself, was appointed to the Lee County Commission in 1993 by then-Gov. Lawton Chiles. He served for a year.

In 2006, Mann returned to the Board of Commissioners, where he has served since. He worked to protect the county’s resources from unrestricted development.

No one on the Lee County Commission had more political experience than Mann. He stood up for what he believed in and was often on the losing side of votes, earning him the nickname “Four to One Frank.”

“If we’re not careful, we can destroy that paradise with overdoing with the asphalt and the concrete,” Mann once said.

An avid hunter and fisherman, Mann wanted everyone to experience Lee County as he knew it as a kid.

Mann was instrumental in the creation of the preserve that would bear his name. It opened earlier this year.

“He was always advocating for environmental wetlands, green space, and we’ve been doing that here, the board of the county commission last 10 years of creating more green space and trying to keep, preserve what we have here,” Pendergrass said.

The younger Mann said for the county to dedicate a preserve to honor his father.

“I know it’s something he was very grateful for,” the younger Mann said.

Lee County is awaiting guidance from the state on how to fill Mann’s seat. Gov. Ron DeSantis could appoint someone or schedule a special election.

Mann and his wife Mary Lee celebrated 61 years of marriage on June 1.

Meanwhile, services for Commissioner Mann are planned for 11 a.m. Saturday, July 2, at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 2439 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers.

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