Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann died this past Tuesday morning, only hours before a Lee County Board meeting was held. The first 45 minutes of the meeting was devoted to Mann’s service to Lee County, as the board, friends, colleagues and family members paid tribute to Mann and the legacy he leaves behind.
During the meeting the Board of County Commissioners renamed the GS-10 preserve, a Conservation 20/20 preserve in east Lee County, to the Frank Mann Preserve. Mann was a champion of the environment and was quite concerned with too much growth.
Fort Myers Beach historian Lee Melsek commented to Beach Talk Radio News that beach residents have Mann to thank for having Black Island and Lover’s Key put in state ownership and preserved as parks. “He and then Governor Bob Graham persuaded the legislature to purchase the two islands in the 80s. He served us honorably and effectively in the state House and Senate and then the Commission for over 40 years. We have lost a fine public servant.” Melsek believes the state should put Mann’s name on Lover’s Key State Park.
The preserve, encompassing nearly 625 acres of land in east Lee County, will bring flood relief to the area and house amenities such as a trail system, paddle craft area, pavilions and restrooms. Commissioner Mann dedicated his public service to preserving our local environment and quality of life and it is a pleasure to honor him with such a fitting project.
Mann was a lifelong resident of Lee County who 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.
Services for Commissioner Mann are planned for 11 a.m. Saturday, July 2, at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 2439 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers.
“Commissioner Mann was a tireless advocate for the people of east Lee County and for recreational opportunities, amenities and open spaces in District 5,” said Chairman Cecil Pendergrass, who made the motion to approve the name change. “Frank was instrumental in both the creation of the preserve and the opening earlier this year of part of the site for fishing and kayaking.”
Sanibel Mayor Holly Smith shared her thoughts with us about her Commissioner Mann: “Frank was truly one of a kind, Its really hard to know where to start or stop when speaking to the contributions he made to his beloved Lee County and to the state of Florida. I knew him to be an old schooler, never without a genuine smile or a welcome. Frank was a true southern gentleman. He voted and spoke clearly for what he believed in. Sometimes being the 1 in a 4-1 vote- he always did what he believed was the best for his constituents and the greater good of the entire county. Commissioner Mann was known for his on his environmental stewardship . This county is truly better for all of us for the public service he gave to Lee County . As Frank Jr said on Tuesday morning at the BOCC meeting- watch out – Frank will be watching to make sure we don’t screw things up! Please keep Mary Lee, his family and beloved grandchildren in your hearts and in your prayers.”
We were lucky enough to interview Mann in August of 2020 before the election.
Mann was 80 years old when he passed from pancreatic cancer.
Frank Mann restored credibility in a county steeped in a dark history of political corruption.
Five Lee County Commissioners, two local congressmen and a Lee County tax collector have gone to jail or been forced from office for crimes since 1982. But Frank’s service remained through all of the years honorable, tireless and immensley respected as a state legislature and county commissioner. I covered his work while covering the Florida Legislature for Gannett’s Florida papers in 1978 and watched his friendship and influence with Governor Bob Graham grow, culminating in his success in persuading Graham and the Legislature to buy Black Island and Lovers Key, put them in public hands, protect them from further planned development and giving all the generations to come miles of public shoreline, marine nurseries and a beautiful public park on two miles of shore.
His name should now be placed on that park. The county should ask the the state to do that. Perhaps the Friends of Lovers Key can offer help in such a campaign.
For the people who settled along the Southwest Florida coastline those miles of Gulfshore preserve and public park are a monument to exemplary public service.
Just do it.
Thank you for a wonderful “eulogy”. So much I didn’t know about this great man.