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Commissioner Kevin Ruane talks about the Lee County Recovery Task Force: Moore About Business

For the past couple months, the Lee County Long-Term Recovery Task Force hosted community townhalls to hear directly from citizens on what the county could have done better to withstand and recover from Hurricane Ian.

Lee County Commissioner Kevin Ruane is chairman of the county’s Hurricane Ian Recovery Task Force. He recently spoke at the Southwest Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Ruane said the purpose of the task force is to review and endorse a unified list of priorities for consideration by the State Legislature. He said community input is critical.

"The purpose really is to try to advocate, because we as a community need to come back as one community. Every piece is essential and vital to this community. I’m happy to say that it’s a great representation of our community," said Ruane. "160 people from Lee County (that obviously represents Lee County), with a whole bunch of elected officials that have the opportunity to look at some policies, make necessary recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners."

The task force connected with legislators in Tallahassee to make the case that Lee County needs additional financial assistance to achieve full recovery.

“The argument was really to ask them to make an investment in Lee County: it was really not a handout, it was an investment to give us an opportunity to get back on our feet,” he said. "They encouraged us to come up with a plan."

Tanya Shannon spoke after Ruane. Shannon is Deputy Director for Recovery with Hagerty Consulting, a national company that helps clients prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. The company facilitated the townhalls in Lee County.

"Recovery is measured in years, not months. And while there is devastation and folks are going through a lot -- and we are hearing that in every single town hall, of individual stories of what they’re experiencing -- there is a lot of opportunity with the funding, once-in-a-generation level funding, that’s going to be coming into this area to build back more resiliently so that if something were ever to occur again, a very very long time from now, that it would not hurt as bad as Ian did,” said Shannon.

Though the 19 town halls are now complete, Shannon encouraged those people who were unable to attend to give their input online at resilientlee.com.  

Community input is critical because, those comments will be included in a proposed recovery plan that will be presented to the Lee County Commission on December 5, 2023. 

Karen Moore is a contributing partner for WGCU and the publisher of SWFL Business Today.

Publisher of SWFL Business Today