LEESBURG —When Billy Mathis stepped down from the Lee County Commission in 2006, he thought he was done with local political office. He said enjoyed his time as a commissioner, but he had a law practice to run plus his wife, Wendy, and two children — son, Tripp, and daughter, Carly — to devote his time to.
But eight years later, Mathis said his view changed. He’s the lone candidate to replace Ed Duffy as commissioner of District 3.
“I grew up in the community,” he said. “Now that the kids are gone, and I know this may sound a little bit corny, but I thought there might be a chance to give back to the community.
Mathis, who will represent the most populous district in Lee County, believes all taxpayers should be treated the same.
“I’ve always been a proponent that if you pay taxes, you deserve good, basic, vital services, no matter where you live,” Mathis said. “You deserve fire and EMS service and sheriff’s protection. … Every taxpayer pays their fair share.
“I hear there is a plan to take some full-time firemen out of the Palmyra district and put in other places with volunteers. I think that is a terrible idea.”
Mathis’ reasoning is the fire station in the Palmyra district protects many of the commercial taxpayers in Lee County.
Instead, Mathis would rather have full-time stations in each district. He said a volunteer force is an excellent way to supplement a fire department staffed by full-time certified firefighters.
Mathis says he is a conservative fiscally, but a libertarian environmentalist “if that makes any sense.”
“I believe we are taxed too much on all levels,” Mathis said. “I think the government should stay out of our lives as much as possible.
“I also believe we really need to take care of what God has given us. I think taking care of the environment is pretty important to us also.”
How quickly Lee County can make progress on a fire department and other services depends on the economy and growth, Mathis said.
“It’s just a wonderful place to live,” he said. “I think we have some challenges and have got to continue growing the economy and growing services. I think Lee County has done a good job in the past 20 years becoming a vibrant residential community.”
“If you grow your revenue, you keep taxes down, and I think its very important we do that as a community.”
Mathis said the County Commission has a balancing act to perform when expanding services while keeping taxes stable.
“I always feel when you add services, you do it incrementally,” he said. “You have a plan and do not put any more burden on the taxpayers.”