Two newly elected Sumter County commissioners take office today. Craig Estep and Oren Miller will take the oath of office during a brief ceremony at the 5 p.m. Sumter County Commission meeting at Everglades Recreation Center. Another newly elected commissioner, Gary Search, will take the oath at a Nov. 17 special meeting and workshop at Everglades. They join incumbent commissioners Garry Breeden and Doug Gilpin in rounding out the five-member panel. While this is Miller’s first public office, Estep previously served as an elected member of Village Community Development District No. 1. Miller, of the Village of Sanibel, is ready to go to work. “I’m extremely excited,” he said. “On a scale of one 10, I’ll give it a 99. I knew five years ago I wanted to be a Sumter County commissioner. I just didn’t know the path it would take to get there.” Miller acknowledged he has priorities, but prefers to discuss them when appropriate at public meetings in accordance with the state Sunshine Law. “My priority now that I’m going to be in office is to represent the people of Sumter County and the businesses of Sumter County,” he said. “I want to bring honesty, integrity, loyalty and transparency to the people of Sumter County. I just want to represent everybody fairly and honestly.” Since his election, Estep said he spent up to 70 hours a week meeting with policymakers in Sumter cities and attending city commission meetings. “I’m making sure I understand what the needs of the cities are in the entire county, and where they’re headed with their people,” said Estep, of Village Hacienda. “That’s so I have a full understanding of how the entire county runs, not just county business.”
That’s also how Estep is developing his priorities.
“My priorities are to get into office and get a full understanding of where we’re at,” he said. “That’s so I can chart a course for the future. But I can’t chart that course until I have a good baseline where we’re at in the county. The whole premise of my campaign was transparency in government. We want a good, clean, honest, open and transparent government.”
Search served 13 years on the South Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners in Pennsylvania, including 12 years as president.
“It’s been a yearlong process of working toward this,” said Search, of the Village of Amelia. “We’re excited to get in to begin peeling back layers to see where we can represent the people.”
The priorities are fairly simple, Search said.
“My priority is to be a public servant to the people,” he said. “Through that, we need to have a solid comprehensive plan and sound fiscal responsibility by looking at the budget and how we can keep quality services and the local economy developing without burdening the taxpayers.”
Each of the new commissioners became fully engaged in county government after he won during primary elections in August. Estep and Miller won election soon after, when two write-in candidates withdrew. Search defeated a no-party candidate at the recent general election.
In preparation for taking office, the three attended county commission meetings and workshops, Some even attended meetings prior to the primary.
With the current board’s permission, County Administrator Bradley Arnold provided Estep, Miller and Search with commission agendas, supporting documentation and email communications.
“That’s so they can see the breadth and depth of the topics involved,” Arnold said.
Estep, Miller and Search also recently completed the onboarding process required for them to execute their duties. That included taking receipt of a county government cellphone, keycard access to The Villages Sumter County Service Center, login and password for county computer access and signing paperwork whether to accept benefits.
“It’s very similar to what we do with any new employee coming on board,” Arnold said. “Even though they’re elected officials, they do become part of the organization.”
Specialty Editor David R. Corder can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5241, or firstname.lastname@example.org.