Denise Calderwood is challenging Donald O’Brien, a a first-term incumbent Republican, for the District 5 seat on the Flagler County Commission. Calderwood is running as an independent, as is Paul Anderson, in the same race.
In District 3, incumbent Republican Dave Sullivan narrowly defeated Kim Carney in the primary, which was the only election for that seat. Two-term Commissioner Charlie Ericksen in District 1 has opted not to run again. Republican Andy Dance, the long-time school board member, will face Democrat Corinne Hermle in the Nov. 3 general election.
Flagler County Commission members serve four years. They’re paid $55,387 a year.
FlaglerLive submitted identical questions to all candidates, with the understanding that additional questions might be tailored to candidates individually and some follow-up questions may be asked, with all exchanges conducted by email and on the record. The Live Interview’s aim is to elicit as much candor and transparency as possible. We have asked candidates to refrain from making campaign speeches or make lists of accomplishments. We have also asked candidates to reasonably document any claim or accusation. Undocumented claims are edited out. Answers are also edited for length, redundancy, relevance and, where possible, accuracy. If a candidate does not answer a question or appears to be evading a question, that’s noted.
But it’s ultimately up to the reader to judge the quality and sincerity of a candidate’s answers.
The Questions in Summary: Quick Links
- Critical issues
- School cops
- Beach rebuilding
- Beach rebuilding
- Environmental protection
- Economic development
- Jerry Cameron
- Social media
- Background check
Place and Date of Birth: Philadelphia, Pa.
Current job: Small business owner-grant consulting and Security Guard at Plantation Bay.
Party Affiliation: Republican, running as an independent (no-party affiliation).
Net Worth: Did not include.
Website and Social Media:
1. Tell us who you are as a person—what human qualities and shortcomings you’ll bring to the board, and what makes you qualified to serve—or to unseat an incumbent, as the case may be. Please give us real-life examples to illustrate your answer.
As a person I strongly believe in humanity, ethics and treating people and animals as humanely as possible. I care about all of the citizens of Flagler County regardless of who you are and what your background is including your political and personal affiliations. I have a strong moral compass and believe as a leader one must stand for things and not be afraid to stand by what you say and do and I always remember what my mother told me, someone is always watching you….and that motto has always guided my decision making and this was before cell phones, social media and personal recording devices.
I am a registered Republican voter who actually owns a home and a small business within the confines of District 5. I have a Master’s Degree in Public Administration with a concentration in Criminal Justice and Public Health. I am the only candidate who has had the pleasure of working for the citizens of Flagler County, first as a Deputy Sheriff and then for the Flagler County Health Department as a Community Organizer and now as a director of a not for profit agency and a founding member of the Flagler County Mental Health Advocates.. I have regularly attended County Commission meetings, have spoken on several issues and have been a Volunteer Executive Director who has received and managed several thousand dollars of Flagler County Taxpayers money when I founded and managed the Flagler Teen Center , Focus on Flagler and Family Matters of Flagler. I am one of the most honest and forthright people you will ever meet. I care about people but at the same time I am not a pushover. I am willing to hold people accountable for their actions, no matter who they are, homeless person, a reporter, the County Administrator, attorney or a developer. I am a no nonsense individual who is willing to take a stand for social justice that is right for the majority of the people in the community, and not just a select few.
I’m running again because the incumbent has done nothing to address the homeless problem that he brought attention to and after he spoke out about how it needed to be fixed he turned the issue over to Commissioner Mullins to solve and he of course has only made matters worse and interesting enough, the incumbent did do something to help his family out. His son had been hired by Commissioner Mullins to run his campaign and to coordinate his marketing efforts, and now he may be working for Commissioner Sullivan and also working to help elect Andy Dance.
I have an ability to remember the past and I am not afraid to bring it back up and some say the past is the past, even if it has only been a week. And I am not beholden to anyone and I feel strongly that county politics should have no party and I want to represent everyone equally and I believe I can be an effective, ethical county commissioner.
Is O’Brien’s record on homelessness the only reason that compelled you to run? You are one of two avowed Republicans in this race who have chosen to run with no-party-affiliation, yet you continue to call yourself Republicans. Why didn’t you oppose the incumbent as such in the primary? Is this not a purely tactical move to have it both ways, since you are clearly a Republican?
Thank you first of all for acknowledging that I am a Republican, especially since several other elected officials have switched parties just when it benefits them and their narcissistic behavior. The local Republican party has never supported me, only individual leaders have, and when they chose me the party denounced them (Commissioner Hansen and his wife gave me a contribution during one of my previous runs) and told them they could not legally do so during the primaries even though they themselves openly supported the other candidates. Perfect example is the current County Chair Dave Sullivan. At one time he was the REC’s candidate recruitment lead and he never acknowledged my desire to run, then he ran himself and said openly inaccurate statements about me that I tried to correct but was unable to do so–very typical of the behaviors and gamesmanship that has been going on behind the scenes for a very long time here in Flagler County.
O Brien’s behavior and the new choice of leadership at the REC and the candidacy of Bob Jones (both of them) prompted me to enter the race again at a very late time and with my belief that local races on the Commission should be non-partisan. I decided to do it again if not just to have a voice of more than three minutes to speak. Then the Covid crisis struck. O’Brien promised and was quoted in the papers that he would take care of the homeless, his neighbors. He has not done anything except add another hurdle to overcome, then turned the issue over to Commissioner Mullins, and we know the rest of the story: the fiasco with the library land, the hiring of private security and turning it into a construction site overnight. The only construction that took place was a fence. The homeless scattered, making it nearly impossible to help those who need or wanted help and calling all of those who did help enablers, and me personally a saboteur–which is ridiculous since all I do is help those in need sometimes at the cost of my own needs. Then offering Volusia County $350,000 to serve up to ten residents at their homeless shelter. They did not want our homeless. Only the mayor of Daytona Beach supported the idea. Even our own Sheriff wasn’t consulted, since to participate law enforcement had to drive the homeless to the shelter.
O’Brien has been quoted in your own Live interviews as saying that he does not speak or take action unless he has something of value to contribute – he claims he is a deep thinker. I feel he has to wait to be told by his handlers what their position is before he speaks. O’Brien has been mute on the issue of homelessness since the dog bit him (FYI-the same dog is doing great living with a foster family). To his credit, O Brien did sometimes show up at Access Flagler and help load cars of food up, unlike the other Commissioners who only went there to shake hands during election time.
I don’t know political tactical moves. I am a servant leader who has floated several ideas and had solutions only to be rebuffed several times.
As I look back on my response to this question during the last election cycle, I had to laugh because the answer I gave then is still relevant today. And I guess that is why I chose to run again. The current commission hasn’t done anything to be proud of the last four years and I equate that to ineffective leadership of the current commissioners. We know we had problems with Craig Coffey but we still have problems now with our acting county administrator and I believe that has a lot to do with the ethical lapses and arms length transactions that we have with our current elected leadership. Of that I mean holding themselves and the two employees the commission employs accountable for their actions and their questionable behaviors with each other. Example: Commissioner Mullins buying Jerry Cameron’s property and he in turn pays off his mortgage and still doesn’t move to Flagler County, like his contract says he would once he was made permanent, and now he is back in acting status to get around the issue. This is an example of how County Attorney Al Hadeed operates–he is a smart attorney who knows how to change the rules and contracts to fit the issue and not stand by his original work…. and for the way the public is still being treated by the Commissioners and their staff. So here is what I said four years ago, with some changes:
Our county has several critical issues and picking three among them can be difficult. One of them is paying the bills that are due without raising taxes. Our existing commission has spent a lot of money recently with big ticket expenditures and how we are paying for them needs to be outlined. In 2020, we’ve been selling our big purchases at a big loss: Sheriffs Operations Center and the Sears Building, and yet we still don’t have a new library. Growth is a big issue, it is returning, and we are not prepared for the cost that growth brings. Impact fees don’t cover the true cost so we need to do long term planning coupled with short term decision making. Communication between the county and the municipalities has gotten a little better with the new leadership but we are still arguing over the unique differences faced by each municipality and how they interact with the county. I stand by the fact that Palm Coast is still located within the confines of Flagler County and so the County as a whole should be considered when Palm Coast leaders make some of their decisions and vice versa. Flagler County needs to respect decisions made for example by the City of Flagler Beach when it comes to the beach.
You don’t give the county credit for navigating through three hurricanes and the dunes-reconstruction project that followed, for resolving the Sheriff’s Operations Center fiasco (though it took time and the job isn’t done), for ending the Coffey era, for the county’s management of the covid crisis under Emergency Management Chief Jonathan Lord’s watch, to name a few issues? If not, how did the county fail at these issues? What specific bills are you referring to that are due, and how do you propose paying for them without raising taxes? If as you claim growth doesn’t pay for itself, and impact fees are insufficient, what’s your proposal to manage and pay for it? New impact fees? Limits on growth?
I give the county staff the credit they deserve. The criticism is to the leadership, the Commission, the County Attorney and the now acting-again County Administrator. We survived those major events due to the fact that Emergency Management Chief Jonathan Lord, Chief Engineer Faith al-Khatib and Heidi Petito are true professionals who get their job done without whining or crying out for help. They all seek out and manage grants effectively and they know how to work with the community and with outside consultants and to manage their budgets effectively. And Heidi has even offered on several occasions to take over the supervision of the social services department. That is what I expect them to do since they get paid well and that they have the background and leadership ability to get the job done. After all Lord was in Tallahassee before at a much higher level of responsibility so he should be able to handle our issues here.
3. Evaluate the county’s response to the coronavirus emergency. As of this writing, the county has not mandated the use of masks in public places, though it’s in the commission’s power to do so. Tell us how you’d vote on a mask mandate, and explain your answer, citing appropriate scientific authorities.
I believe that Bob Snyder, our County Health Department Director is doing a good job managing his part in the issue and I feel that Jonathon Lord, the Emergency Management Director is supporting the Health Departments efforts and providing the necessary support that his division has available and I feel strongly that the community through the use of Flagler Volunteer Services is doing their part. I believe that the issue of wearing masks should be enforced but do so by way of education. Provide the scientific facts and demonstrate through example by wearing masks publicly and not say something differently on a personal basis or on your Facebook page.
Have recent developments–the continuing high number of covid cases in Flagler, the president’s diagnosis, the resurgence of the virus in a majority of states–changed your mind about enforcement of mask ordinances? Understanding that you submitted your original answer in July, do you have a different evaluation of the commission’s handling of the crisis since?
I support the idea of masks and the wearing of them. Enforcement should be done by sending a strong message that wearing them is in the best interest of our community and demonstrating caring for your fellow citizens, not by creating a scene at the Commission meeting and then having what happened, happen. It is and still is a major embarrassment and the failure to censure Joe Mullins is another example of a leadership failure or a demonstration of undue loyalty bestowed to Mullins by O’Brien, Sullivan and Cameron. What happened at the Palm Coast Social Club should be a lesson for all of us. This pandemic is real and strong action must be taken and rules and new norms should be followed by all. Again not just pick and choose when it benefits you the individual.
4. Commissioners like to say they won’t raise taxes or will keep taxes, or at least tax rates, flat. How do you define a tax increase—as keeping the rate the same or as exceeding the rollback rate? Adopting your definition of an increase, are you against property tax increases? What three specific line items would you cut from this year’s proposed budget to keep the property tax where you’d want it?
Yes, I am against any kind of property tax increase and the incumbent said he would not increase my taxes but he has each year since he has been in office and that is because of the big ticket purchase items and the bad decision making that keeps being made in regards to those decisions made while the incumbent was the Chairperson of the County Commission. If you keep the rate the same it is still a tax increase so I would like to see a reduction in the tax rate and truly get back to a zero based budget approach and start from scratch, justifying each budget decision and to make sure when we sell properties that we bought that we sell them at fair market value, pay off the bond associated with it and not give someone a sweetheart deal. A big issue with me is buying more vehicles and equipment… I believe we have too much of that around sitting idle or buying new because we have grant money that needs to be spent. How many new fancy vehicles did we just buy and how can we justify spending so much money on wrapping fancy police cars….and buying new fire trucks and paying big salary dollars to department directors and continuing to pay their salaries while they are being investigated for malfeasance. And we should not be giving these Directors, like former tourism director Matt Dunn and former economic development director Helga van Eckert golden parachutes and get their remaining salary after they are let go since they were paid well for the level of service they already provided us.
Donald O’Brien has been careful to say that he has not increased the tax rate in his tenure, which is correct: he has not, and the one time when it was increased, he voted against it. To our knowledge he has not said that he would not increase taxes per se, though it is also correct that by not going back to the rollback rate, taxes are increased for taxpayers, so in effect, he has voted to raise taxes, including this year. That said, you noted above that growth doesn’t pay for itself, yet you still would have gone to the rollback. What would you have scrapped from the budget other than police car “wraps” and directors’ raises (which in and of themselves, even including fleet purchases, would not have covered the deficit created by rollback). Would you scrap all other employee raises? All fleet purchases? How is government to keep up with its yearly depreciations? Had the county not sold the Sears and Sheriff’s building at a loss, we might still be talking about getting rid of both buildings now, the way the school board keeps talking about getting rid of its property on Palm Coast Parkway (the old ITT parcel). Would you have been willing to hold on to those buildings indefinitely?
5. State law requires armed security in every public school. Flagler has chosen to have a School Resource Officer at its schools. The district and the county essentially split the cost. But the county doesn’t have to assume that security cost. Would you reduce the county’s share? Alternately, do you pledge to preserve that split for the duration of your term?
I need to research your question here with the information I have been told before I truly commit to an answer.
I’m not sure you know this about me but I was the second school resource officer hired in the county when there was six schools and I was responsible for the schools and the other deputy (Paul Mercado) was responsible for the other three schools. At that time the salary was split equally with the Sheriffs Department and the school department and it has remained so remained so since that time…but when the guardian grant money came down I’m not sure where that money was sent to, whether it was the school budget or the sheriff’s budget. This is where accountability comes in…the school system is the largest employer in the county and the sheriff’s department is the largest county department employer. I fully support the SRO and PAL programs and each school needs at least one full time deputy per school … we need SRO’s more than we need six new traffic deputies who only run traffic in the city of Palm Coast….at a shared cost between the city and the County.
No “guardian” money came to Flagler because the school district chose not to take that approach, opting for professional sheriff’s deputies instead. But the district did receive substantial sums to underwrite some of the costs of security. Would you support a move away from deputies in favor of armed individuals (the term “guardian” being a misleading euphemism that hides the difference between deputies and individuals not required to meet the same professional standards)? Now that you’ve had time to consider the question, would you reduce the county’s share of the cost?
I don’t know about the Guardian money you spoke about because I don’t think it was ever truly discussed. If money was available then we maybe should have taken it and reexamined our approach and not just expand the school resource officer program, especially since the Sheriff asked and received more deputies. Accountability of all public funds, including share. These budgets should be checked regularly and not just yearly and all expenses should be justified based on the already established metrics and strategic and operational plans. We have a lot of dedicated and we’ll qualified citizens that could have become effective guardians but I don’t believe this option was even discussed. I for one being one who would have applied to be a guardian, and maybe some of the dedicated COPS or fire police we have could have also been considered.
Note: the school district and the Sheriff’s Office did discuss the “guardian” program and were aware of its funding mechanisms, but opted very strongly not to go with it.
6. Evaluate the county’s long-term plan to save its beaches. It signed on to a $100 million beach renourishment plan for just 2.6 miles of beach just in Flagler Beach. The cost is expected to increase by the tens of millions of dollars, with half that cost over the next four or five decades the county’s responsibility. It is now demonstrably certain that sea levels are rising, and Flagler’s revenue sources for additional beach protection are tapped out. How do you propose to pay for the next repairs should a hurricane like Matthew or even a strong storm with damaging surges strike during your tenure? How is beach protection not a losing battle?
Yes, sea levels are rising and so is Flagler’s increasing chance of hurricanes actually hitting our shores now or at least creating future damage. For years when I used to volunteer with Flagler County Civil Defense I assisted with writing the hurricane plans for the county and we historically were never affected truly by the storms due to the way Flagler was geographically located within the coastal boundary. Hurricanes used to bounce far enough off and go to the Carolinas but as you mentioned tides, sea levels and development have affected us and now, we have to adequately plan for these emergency repairs-and plan for using our tax dollars wisely as match to pull down the federal assistance through grants. But we again have a failure to plan properly financially. In the 1980’s, Flagler County had a dedicated grant writer for the county and it was their job to work the match dollars out with the budget director but that position was eliminated and responsibility for grants was given to each Department Director. Some of the Directors could handle that function but some like social services could not and so grants did not keep up with the needs. We need to get back on track with that. I heard recently that the County was looking for a grant writer and a new lobbyist so we shall see where that leads. Federal funding cycles and availability of federal funds changes with each Administration and each disaster and so do the rules, so flexibility in how the county responds must be fluid. According to some, any kind of prevention is a losing battle. Does that mean we don’t try?
Just to be clear for our readers: there’s no scientific evidence that Flagler’s geographic location ever caused hurricanes to “bounce” off and strike elsewhere. Scientifically speaking, Flagler’s fortune has been just that: fortune. But we’d like you to address your last line: do you believe that beach renourishment is a losing battle, and if so, to what extent should the county try to mitigate sea rise? With what money, if, as is almost certain, federal funds will not be more than a contributing factor that will still depend on local matches? Where is the tipping point beyond which the county says: enough?
Enough is already here, isn’t it? Historically and not scientifically I was talking about the bouncing of hurricanes off the coast and up to Georgia or South Carolina or up north just like it does when the storms move west out of Tampa and go northwest to the Panhandle or Alabama or New Orleans. And still see what mother nature does to us. We need to get back to a common sense approach to it all and maybe that is what the holdouts on the easement issue was about–holding us accountable to explain our rationale of why we need the easements. Al Hadeed, the county attorney, was unable to convince the holdouts and money was raised locally to entice them, but that may or may not work, just like the other ideas or initiatives that others have tried not necessarily in the beach area here. Historically speaking we stick to what we have first committed to and we don’t change with new ideas and maybe that is where the problem lies so enough already, sea levels are rising and can’t be stopped.
I have many concerns about our environmental protection department and the Director of the program, Tim Telfer, and his relationship with a local realtor who sold the county three sick buildings….and was responsible for working with the environmental consulting company that did the FEED (Flagler Economic Enhancement District) grant that Flagler County had, yet they never tested the old hospital we purchased? Why when the first hospital across the street was tested two separate times, two years apart, under that grant…. and I have made my concerns known. Some citizens really like Tim and his approach and others say he never returns their phone calls or shares information with them, even after a public records request so I would ask for accountability and a closer examination of this department and it needs to happen sooner rather than later. I believe this department is failing from what my personal understanding is so I need to be given proof that it has been successful the last few years with the budget that he and his advisory board are responsible for advising on. I know Tim does not go after grants as aggressively that the county used to get years ago when it had the dedicated grant writer…like Bings Campground purchase, the former KOA campground at Marineland- now Guana Tolomato National Estuarine Research Reserve or Dead Lake campground- now Bull Creek . Under the surface this division could be another tourism or economic development fiasco. I think it is.
As mentioned I have current concerns with the old hospital that became the sheriff’s operations center. The fact that this building is still there after forty years is a social justice issue. It was recently bought and the new owner is illegally taking scrap metal out of the building when the building has been deemed to have been contaminated and needs a certified EPA approved vendor to safely remove the hazardous waste. Complaints have been filed but the removal is still occurring so where is that metal going?
8. The population of Flagler County has increased almost two and one half times since the main library opened in 2001. Yet current funding for the library is approximately the same as it was in 2007. What are you willing to do to restore some financial balance to the system, reflective of the 50,000 cardholders it serves? Library administration and the Library Board of Trustees have determined that a library branch is badly needed in the southern part of the county. The county has picked out a site near the Government Services Building, but year after year has not funded it. What are you willing to do to see that a library branch is constructed?
I have personal experience with this issue. I was involved with the Library Advisory Board and the Friends of the library and Sandra Rose Freidman was a personal mentor of mine and so was Mary Ann Clark. Both women fought hard for the library and I know Mary Ann was still holding out hope foe the library when she moved away but if Sandra Rose was here we would have had three new libraries built by now without question. If she knew we had an offer of a million dollars she would be writing the grants herself even after the county administrator told Holly Albanese, the library director, no about going after them. I personally offered to write the grants for free back in 2007 when I moved back home and then again each year afterward. Here again is another example of the short sightedness and lack of accountability with the sitting commission and its follow through on their capital improvements plan. Library Board Chairman Jim Ulsamer is optimistic about the future but also cautious. Library Board member Alan Peterson is frustrated. Jim is too cautious for me. He needs to be more vocal and start demanding what he wants and needs for the library. They need to be getting their fair share of the budget and they are not, and now they did not even get support from this past Legislative Delegation request since the county voted to give all of its support to the MedNex project.
This is the first time we’ve ever heard Jim Ulsamer referred to as not vocal enough, given his persistent and insistent advocacy for the library, echoed in Albanese’s approach. Both have done their share. But if the commissioners have not, what would you, as a commissioner, do differently, assuming that grants alone will not be the deciding factor for a new library? Would you subtract capital money from the planned sheriff’s operations center? From beach projects? From building maintenance projects?
Jim Ulsamer, the library trustees, the Friends group and Holly Albanese, the library director, have all done their part and more when they secured the outside funds, the million dollar match.
However, County Administration under Coffey failed to do their part and the advocates failed to educate or hold accountable the current Commissioners to support their efforts. We use excuse after excuse whether it be the Sheriff’s operation center, the dispatch center, the fire department or more trucks, buses and vehicles or more toys….ah the good ol’ days of Sandra Friedman. If it wasn’t for her we wouldn’t have what exists today just like the David Seigel Adult Center, and Steve Jones. These individuals knew how to influence elected officials and they knew how to leverage funds. Even in death, Mr Clegg couldn’t help out the library. We just bulldozed his historic property along with the old jail while the Second Hand Rose building still sits there unused when we pitched that idea and location years ago for the new library. But we just bought land and budgeted for a new operations center and put the library on hold.. Why? What’s missing? The money again, well where is it, already allocated for past projects even though the library has been a project all along but we had money and staff to build the cottages and to enter the tourism business.
Note: the million-dollar pledge to the Friends of the Library was an independent, anonymous pledge that was never actually carried out, as it was made with strings attached: the donor wanted the money spent only on an expansion at the library site on Palm Coast Parkway. That expansion is no longer planned for now. The donor in the interim made a $200,000 donation to the Friends of the Library, without strings. That money’s fate is now in contention. The court is hearing the case in November. In effect, neither the original $1 million pledge nor the $200,000 contribution had anything to do with the library board or county leaders, and what complications surround the contribution have more to do with the donor’s strings than the county’s inaction.
9. For all the county’s claims of tackling homelessness, it has done little more than push the homeless to different encampments after fencing in the public library site on the claim, later proven inoperable, that it would build a sheriff’s district office there. What’s your plan for homelessness?
I can give you my dissertation paper, strategic plan with funding sources attached in regards to this question or just the simple working presentation board but it is to no avail. As a county, we gave back $750,000 grant to aid our homeless residents because we could not agree to work together. Each agency and church is fighting for their own survival and who suffers? Not the decision makers, but the homeless who are now scattered around the county. The county will do what it wants when it wants and we can thank Joe Mullins for that. He has disrupted all plans and he tells everyone that he has the solution and then it all fails, including sending our homeless down to Daytona. He blames me for sabotaging his months of work and I supposedly did it all in a two minute off the cuff remark I made at one of the first step shelter meetings–asking if the rumor I heard was true that Flagler County was going to give the shelter $350,000 for seven beds for Flagler residents…at the end of the public comment period the mayor responded to my question, which was a breath of fresh air since that never happens in Flagler County, and the game playing began.
None of the First Step Board members knew about it, only the Mayor of Daytona Beach and the City Manager. The next day two board members resigned over the issue due to control and that Flagler was only coming in at the end and not a part of the long tedious process. The homeless here did not want to go down to Daytona anyway and where was the $350,000 going to come from? It was in no one’s budget. Then the rule was that only law enforcement could transport homeless people there. So the next day at a Commission meeting I asked Sheriff Staly about his knowledge of the proposed plan and he knew nothing of it and he said “you can tell anyone this: I am not nor will I be an Uber Sheriff and take homeless people to Daytona Beach.”
Then Mullins gets on social media and tells everyone that I am a hypocrite because I applied for the Executive Director position. (I was interviewed and made it to the final four out of 300-plus applicants). Joe is the hypocrite. He told me that he had a trailer behind his supposedly Bunnell house that I could take and I did and gave it to a homeless woman who lived behind the library, and three days after it was set up at the new site, the owner of the trailer contacted me and asked for $3,000 since the trailer was not Joe’s to give away. I had to personally give the money to buy it, which I did, and that senior citizen has been living in that trailer successfully since and paying her own bills. We did that same thing for two other seniors from behind the library since they only get $783 month to live on so try that for a month.
Family Matters of Flagler is now actively seeking more trailers as donations or at low cost so we can place a few more of the homeless. This is an economic as well as a social justice story that no one wants to hear especially since it goes to the heart of the Focus on Flagler, not to be confused with Joe Mullins’s Focused campaign (past tense since he has to change my work to suit his narcissistic needs and make it past tense) and the Volusia-Flagler unfair spilt of dollars between the agencies. I have a new plan in the works with the purchase of ten acres of land that was recently bought. A week after the land deal closed the City of Bunnell code enforcement came out to the property based on an anonymous complaint. But I can’t get anyone to be concerned about the old hospital.
You’ve given us a personal history of your interactions with local officials and agencies over the last few years. But what’s your plan as a commissioner for homelessness? Where would you locale them? With what money? With what oversight?
Right or wrong the county did it but I blame Commissioner O’Brien for it not working the last year since he was the Chairperson of the committee and he never expressed the changes he wanted to see within the department or with the Advisory Committee. I feel strongly that when something is demolished, it should be for a reason and that something else needs to be put in its place or at least a viable explanation as to why it wasn’t working. Ironically enough, Coastal Cloud was a prospect and so was Aveo, and where are they now. AVEO is still here a little bit but no one in the new administration has reached out to them. I am still waiting for the next evolution of it. Funding for economic development is a slippery slope. We as a transitioning county do not have enough money to complete on large scale like Volusia or Jacksonville but we had agreed to work regionally. But then I see we have been left out yet again from the regional basis since everyone in the region is competing for the jobs. I feel strongly that Flagler’s economic development approach needs to be tied into the vision of Flagler County and also tied into the budget and other initiatives that are going on statewide and regionally. MedNex is a regional approach that should be part of the plan and part of the future budget. I do not think we got our money’s worth with Helga van Eckert and the county’s economic development department. I brought her one of her first prospects that fell out of consideration here but they are doing well in Daytona Beach. We need to support our existing businesses first and buy local and we should have never let our Chamber fail unless we have a back up in place especially since the county had made them vulnerable when they pulled out the tourism division…and we should be helping our big businesses like Palm Coast Data and Sea Ray but we didn’t in either case and now with the pandemic we need to be helping out the restaurant and hotel industry. The budget again should be based on strategic goals and the adopted strategic plan and be compared with results to see if what we spend is cost-effective and has a good return on investment.
On one hand you say the county didn’t get its money’s worth with van Eckert, on the other hand you blame O’Brien for disbanding what wasn’t working. Which is it? What would you have put in the department’s place that wouldn’t have been just another department? Why should local government–whose taxes you want to keep low, at rollback–be involved in courting business? How is that government’s business?
11. Evaluate the performance of County Administrator Jerry Cameron, listing strengths, weaknesses and areas of concern. In the next four years the commission will very likely face another search, given Cameron’s Methusalahian status. What skills will define the sort of administrator you will look for?
I was excited when Jerry came to Flagler County since he was responsible for supervising the social services, library and human services division in St Johns County when he was assistant county administrator. I was on a WNZF radio show with him on his first day of work. I spoke to him, told him I could be a friend or a foe and Julie Murphy, the county’s public information officer, laughed the comment off. I was working closely with him and now I am not. He deemed I wasn’t a good team player- whatever that means, and he threatened to have me trespassed from the Emergency Operations Center after one of the last public safety meetings we had. It appears now that Jerry will do what Joe wants him to do (I wonder why). But in addition to that I had an issue with Jerry and a project with Tim Telfer and the homeless funds that fizzled out. The historic Clegg property was demolished along with the historic county jail all in a matter of weeks without the public knowing about it. I am still waiting on the demolition of the former Second Hand Rose shop on the corner of Moody Blvd. and Dr. Carter Blvd. and see what is going to go there in its place. What was promised has not transpired and it appears no dollars have been budgeted for it–a proposed one stop social service building that would house the Free Clinic, Flagler Cares and the Health Department staff. Cameron is still “acting” administrator. how long can one be in acting status especially since this commission made him permanent and then reversed it? This concerns me. I would look for an Administrator who wants to work with the community and be inclusive of the community and not isolated from it, and one willing to listen to advisory panels whether or not they have authority or not because they are the taxpayers and people who are willing to donate their time and talents to help our county out and not to take from it like the highly paid consultants and outside lawyers we use. I would look for an administrator who stays impartial and believes in doing the job as efficiently and effectively as possible and one who follows a moral compass.
12. We currently have five white Republican men as county commissioners on a commission that’s never elected a Black or Latino member, though every other local government has seen minorities elected. Does the commission have a diversity problem? Explain how you have reached or would reach out specifically to constituencies that don’t mirror the commission’s demographics.
Yes, the commission has a diversity problem but so does Flagler County as a whole and we see that now with the current lawsuit involving the school system. When I was President of the Flagler County League of Women Voters, we held a diversity forum and educated our voters on the need to have a more diverse leadership in place. We need to have one of those again to educate our voting community on the importance of diversity. I am and have been an active member of the NAACP and at one time was on the Board of the African American Cultural Society. I helped with acquiring their first grants that enabled them to buy the land and start the construction of the building. Over the years I helped with the formation of several of their programs, Kwanzaa, the steel drum program and the Third Eye program. I helped establish the Espanola Listening project which resulted in the County building the Espanola Community Center there and I have participated in cleaning up the historic black cemetery on Old Kings road. Over the years I helped support the Carver Gym in Bunnell before the school board started putting programs in there. I was an active member of AAUW- the American Association of University Women until they split the two programs. And in addition, I have lobbied unsuccessfully for the past four years to create a dedicated senior center so having a place for seniors to stay engaged and involved would be beneficial to all.
13. Should you be held to account for what you display on your social media pages any differently than for what you would say anywhere public? Do you have different standards of behavior between the way you’d conduct yourself as an elected official—in a meeting, at an official function—as opposed to on your social media platforms?
I am a neophyte when it comes to social media and I am doing my best to learn the proper protocols. However, what I do see on Facebook and what I read on it when it comes to our elected officials concerns me greatly. Even hearing things on the radio makes me cringe, especially when it comes to bullying your constituents online. I am still learning Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and now Alignable but I am not aligned that I know of and I can’t seem to unlock an old Twitter and Facebook account. But no matter what forum or form of social media one uses, if you are in an elected office you should be held to a higher standard and you should not blur the lines. I believe in transparency and what I say I will say to you directly and then again in a open forum and I will not hide behind anonymity nor will I make up other addresses like some do. And if county policy says employees can’t do it, why can elected officials do it? Isn’t that poor role modeling?
14. Have you ever been charged with a felony or a misdemeanor anywhere in Flagler, Florida or the United States (other than a speeding ticket), or faced a civil action other than a divorce, but including bankruptcies, or faced any investigative or disciplinary action through a professional board such as the bar or a medical board? If so, please explain, including cases where charges or claims did not lead to conviction or disciplinary action.
No I have never been charged with any crime and I have never filed for bankruptcy.