LEE COUNTY, Fla.- A controversial candidate has entered the race for Lee County commissioner. WINK News was there when former Lee County manager Don Stilwell filed his papers with the election office Friday morning.
Stilwell resigned as Lee County manager back in 2009, after he was caught forwarding sexually explicit emails from his work computer. It was one topic he certainly wanted to address.
"I made a mistake. I was wrong. I regret it," Stilwell said. "If I could change it, I would change it. I tell you, I've paid the ultimate price."
For the last three years, Stilwell hasn't been in the public eye, but he's back and Friday, filing papers to run for Lee County Commission, District Two.
"I think if people look at what the problems are in Lee County, and look at what the candidates are offering, it should be a very clear choice," Stilwell said.
He said he couldn't stand by as the county uses up its reserves.
"We've been balancing our budget off our savings account and everybody knows you can't do that," Stilwell explained.
He is seeking office and trying to forget the way he left it: in a flurry of controversy over racy emails forwarded to coworkers.
Stilwell said he's been investigated, vetted and proven to be who he claims to be.
"There's not a day that goes by that I don't regret that. I wish I hadn't done that and obviously it would never happen again," he said.
WINK News reached out to Stilwell's opponents.
"I say to all these candidates, come on in the water is warm," Warren Wright said.
Wright said he's more focused on the issues than he is on Stilwell's past.
"We are dealing with such a fractured economy right now. We're all still trying to find a way to deal with this new normal and so what I think this election is really about is do we want to go back to the old ways of thinking to the old ways of problem solving or do we want to move forward," Wright said.
In a statement, candidate Cecil Pendergrass said, "I wish him luck and am glad to see more people engaged in the commissioner's race. I'm surprised, due to his contract being terminated with the county, that he would come back. I am trying to do something positive for the county and have no grudges. I think some people are running for the wrong reasons. I want to move forward, not backwards."
Doug St. Cerny was not available for comment.
The primary election happens August 14th and the general election is in November.