Matt Caldwell will be stepping down as Vice-Chairman for the Lee County Republican Party in order to start a campaign for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives, District 73. In December of 2008, Caldwell had won the election to serve as Vice-Chairman of the Lee County Republican Party
Caldwell says he is a 7th generation Floridian through his mother's family. His ancestors arrived in an area east of Tallahassee when it was still a Spanish colony.
He and his family moved to Lee County in 1982 to join both sets of his grandparents who had been in Lee County since the mid 1970's.
Caldwell currently lives in the city of Lehigh but grew up in Fort Myers and co-manages an appraisal business. If you live in Fort Myers, the odds are that you already recognize his name because of his real estate work. He says he started as an apprentice appraiser in 2002 while still in college (it is one of the few careers that still requires an apprenticeship).
Caldwell says his interest in politics can be traced back to a very young age. He recalls always being interested in fairness and that it underlies his behavior in family, political and business areas.
On top of throwing his hand into looking for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives the desire for fairness also motivated him to join the Coalition for Common Sense Government (CCSG). He believes the CCSG will give the voters of Lee County better representation especially among minorities. This was in part inspired by experiences in the Charter Review Commission which he was appointed to by Commission Frank Mann in 2007.
He cites Ronald Reagan, the McLaughlin Group and Rush Limbaugh (in the early Clinton years) as early influences on the mental pattern for his political thought.
After going to a meeting of the Republican Party in 2003, he volunteered for the 2004 Bush/Cheney campaign. This lead him to continue to volunteer and work within the party in 2005-06. Part of the work was researching and presenting finding on the Lake Okeechobee issues and the Lee County Budget.
Eventually, he was appointed to serve on the Water Resources Advisory Committee (Lake Okeechobee Subcommittee) for the South Florida Water Management District.
Caldwell has previously run against and lost to Dave Aronberg for a State Senate Seat for District 27 which includes Lee, Charlotte, Glades, Hendry and Palm Beach counties.
Asked why he believes he will make an effective Representative, Caldwell cited his contributions to the Charter review process where he suggested that a 9 out of 15 vote would be required to pass recommendations on the Board of County Commissions (BOCC) but that if 12 votes were gained the proposal would bypass the BOCC and move straight to the ballot. (The Charter Review Commission consists of 15 members, 3 each appointed by each of 5 County Commissioners). He believes he presented a solution here that would clear up misunderstandings and snags that have plagued previous Charter Review Commissions. He also cites his partnership in a successful firm as well as his priorities on fairness, individual liberty and limited government.
"The duty of a representative is not only to pass good legislation," said Caldwell, "but also to block bad legislation. I believe a citizen legislature is the only way to prevent an entrenched political class from taking the reins and instituting a de facto royalty in this state and country. This is a concept I will fight for on a daily basis."
Caldwell believes that he can positively contribute to the political landscape of Southwest Florida but that he is not will be satisfied to continue working on his firm and his family should he not gain the seat in the House of Representatives.
Matt had some advice some Southwest Floridians in these tough times as a successful businessman.
"Success in tough times takes the same qualities as in good times," Caldwell said. "The government does not create wealth, not matter how much others may wish it to be. Hard work, determination, quality customer service, and ingenuity are the keys to successful business and many in our community will need to continue to be creative in how they earn a living."
Caldwell says his own firm has been beset with "confiscatory taxes" that have forced them to hold off on replacing employees who have left over the last year.
Caldwell believes one solution to the economic woes of Southwest Florida is to expand the use of railroads and removing barriers to industrial growth.
On the real estate front, Caldwell sees a "long-term slump" that will take time to overcome and again feels that government involvement has mostly been negative thus far.