LEE COUNTY, Fla.- The votes are in and some big changes are in store for parts of Southwest Florida. A historic election in Cape Coral puts a new leader in the mayor's seat, while Fort Myers voted to stick with its current mayor.
Voter turnout may not have lived up to expectations, but it was enough to make an impact on the cities of Cape Coral and Fort Myers, as well as local law enforcement.
In Fort Myers, Mayor Randy Henderson beat out challenger Raimond Aulen by 83 percent. He'll now serve a second term as the city's mayor. Henderson said he expected to win, but was surprised by the margin.
Lee County voters struck down Amendment One, that would have consolidated the Lee County Sheriff's Office and Fort Myers Police Department. Sheriff Mike Scott released a statement after the vote, saying his team is anxious to move forward in keeping the public safe.
A much smaller margin made all the difference in the Cape Coral mayoral race. Incumbent John Sullivan lost to newcomer Marni Sawicki by less than one percent. Sawicki is the city's first female mayor. She said she's honored, and already has plans to bring unity to the Cape. The Cape Coral City Council will also see a full set of new faces. Richard Leon beat out Chris Leetz for District 4 Representative. Rick Williams will take over for District 6 over incumbent Kevin McGrail. And in District 1, former mayor and council member Jim Burch beat David Headd.
Voter turnout in this year's election scored low locally. Just one in five voters came out to the polls between early voting and Election Day. The Lee County Elections Office said they're not surprised by the low turnout. They said people simply don't come out as much for municipal elections. Officials estimated 10 to 15 percent of voters would turn out this year. We did surpass that number with just over 17 percent of registered voters coming out to the polls.
And in Punta Gorda, a new mayor was elected unanimously by the City Council. Rachel Keesling will take the spot, with council member Carolyn Freeland as the city's new vice mayor.