Lee County Tax Collector, Larry D. Hart, announces his retirement and will not seek reelection this year. Hart stated he would like to see Chief Deputy Tax Collector, R. Noelle Branning, Esq., succeed him in office.
A Lee County native, Hart has served Lee County for his entire professional career. After serving in the United States Air Force, Hart began a career in law enforcement as an officer with Fort Myers Police Department. In 1995, Hart became the first African American Chief of Police for the City of Fort Myers, appointed by Mayor Wilbur Smith. Hart retired from FMPD in 2001 but continued his public service by becoming Assistant Tax Collector for the Honorable Cathy Curtis. In 2012 Hart was appointed by Governor Rick Scott to the office of Lee County Tax Collector and was elected by the community for the last two terms.
Hart says of his decision, “In June of 1973 I raised my hand to serve the United States Air Force and was proud to serve. That started my career. I then had the opportunity to serve my hometown for 22 years in law enforcement and was so blessed and honored to serve as Police Chief in the City of Fort Myers and later elected by the citizens to serve as your Tax Collector. It’s time for me to step aside and leave the team that I have has the pleasure of assembling. I truly love this community and all the support you have given me. I will never take the love my community has given me for granted.
During his tenure as Tax Collector, Hart held various leadership and committee chair roles within the Florida Tax Collectors Association, including President in 2016. Hart always fought for policies that were in the best interests of the taxpayers and was instrumental in ensuring legislation that provided for greater taxpayer protection passed. Hart was an ardent supporter of Lee County tax dollars remaining in Lee County.
Hart said of his support of Branning, “Noelle is my Chief Deputy and I am confident that with her leadership the agency will continue to move forward. She has the experience and she is the right person at the right time to succeed me. Noelle has the ability and skillset to continue the great work the Lee County Tax Collector’s office is doing for our community.” Hart stated he would support Branning if she were to run.