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December 11,2018 - Editorial: Pears leaves big shoes to be filled

North Port Sun (Published: 1-Dec 2018)

OUR POSITION: Charlotte County’s loss is Babcock Ranch’s gain when it comes to Economic Development Director Lucienne Pears.

Syd Kitson would have been a good Texas Ranger.

You know, the guys who always get their man.

In this case, however, it was a woman.

When Lucienne Pears announced she would leave her post as Charlotte County economic development director to work for Kitson and Babcock Ranch, it was likely no shock to her colleagues. The biggest question about Pears the last year or so was how long could the county keep her talents sewed up.

Pears has been a bright spot for the county since she salvaged a flailing economic development department after the resignation of Tom Patton in 2015. To say she took the bull by the horns would be a cliche that doesn’t do justice to the aggressive approach she took.

Her style was not always embraced by some. We even took exception to her reluctance to sometimes return phone calls if she believed a story or editorial was unfair. But no one can argue with the results and few members, if any, of the county’s administrative staff have had an equal impact on the future and direction of Charlotte County.

That was obvious last week at the County Commission meeting where Pears was asked to address those in attendance in what turned out to be a love fest.

“Thank you so much for establishing the foundation that we have now in economic development,” said Commissioner Ken Doherty. “We can build from what you’ve established over there … we’ve got a great reputation across the country. People are discovering us. We’re on the map.”

The list of accomplishments is not as long as it is strong.

Pears started with a bang when she was the key player in finding a developer for a good chunk of Murdock Village. She lured Private Equity Group to town to make an offer on about half of the vacant land that had been an albatross for county commissioners since it was purchased, partially through eminent domain, about a decade ago. She later was able to make a deal with a developer to put in a water park, shops and a hotel in the other half of the Murdock Village plot.

She took some criticism for both deals after the county agreed to give back most of the sales price to pay for roads and infrastructure. And, it must be noted, neither project has actually broken ground yet. Still, contracts have been signed and, barring another recession anytime soon, it is likely there will be dirt turned soon.

Another huge project that Pears had a strong hand in was the promise of Sunseeker resort coming to Charlotte Harbor. If it comes to fruition, the development will be a game-changer for Charlotte County in terms of bringing tourists here and the property taxes it will pay.

All the while, Pears kept her perspective on the need to improve the lives of people in Charlotte County and she recognized the importance of education, affordable housing and attracting families.