It’s the same ritual every three years. Bunnell Mayor Catherine Robinson files to run for re-election. Not a single opponent dares challenge her. And she’s re-elected without opposition. It happened again last Friday, when qualifying for the Bunnell city election on March 8 ended, and Robinson was the only candidate in the mayor’s race.
“It’s not routine but it’s humbling to say the least and I appreciate the fact that I don’t have to run an election, that’s nice,” Robinson said this afternoon. There won’t be a celebration per se, but not long ago Robinson was digging out election signs from her attic and her husband asked what they were going to do with them. “You never know,” she told him. Stashing them away for another three years was celebration enough.
The rest is a focus on the next three-year term’s goals–securing money to complete the city’s sewer plant, securing money for the long-sought extension of Commerce Parkway from State Road 100 to U.S. 1, selling the old city hall and moving into the new one on Commerce Parkway, likely next year.
Robinson, 68–she will celebrate her birthday six days before what would have been her Election Day–is the longest-serving elected official in Flagler County. She was appointed to the commission in 1996. She’s had only two competitive races since: in 2008 when she first ran for mayor, she faced Randy Morris. She trounced him with 296 votes to his 177.
Two years earlier when she was on the commission, two seats were open, three candidates ran. She won. But it was also the only time she was bested in the vote tally by someone else.
That someone was Pete Young, who got 141 votes to her 138 (Daisy Henry was third, with 95). Young, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper, served only one term because of the prohibition on dual office holding that he said was extended to troopers. Now Young, 66, is back: he has filed for a city commission seat, ensuring that the March 8 contest will be competitive. Incumbents Robert Barnes, 67, and Tina Marie Schultz, 63, have also filed. The top two vote-getters will be seated. (See: “Incumbents a Crowd as Qualifying Soon Closes in Flagler Beach, Bunnell and Beverly Beach for March Elections.”)
Barnes and Schultz will have an advantage. Young does not intend to campaign until he retires from the Florida Highway Patrol. That’s on Jan. 31. Even then, the notoriously laid back Young said he is not likely to campaign much, though you underestimate him at your own risk. Young, a traffic homicide investigator masks an indomitable instinct behind his aw-shucks demeanor (both of which were on display in a recent hit and run trial built on Young’s evidence: the defense tried to drill holes in his evidence over two days of testimony, and for two days. Young was unflappable on the stand–never losing his cool, but never giving ground, either.)
Young moved to Palm Coast in 1975 with his family. His father retired from the military after a last posting in North Dakota. Young graduated from what was then George Washington Carver High School in Bunnell, got certified to be a part-time sheriff’s deputy in 1976, became a full-time Bunnell police officer, rising to sergeant and then police chief in 1979, a position he held until 1980, when then Sheriff Zip Edmonson, nearing the end of his tenure, brought him on as a full-time deputy. On Nov. 8, 1982, the Florida Highway Patrol hired him. He hasn’t left since. He was promoted to corporal as a traffic homicide investigator in 1989, conducting somewhere between 800 and 1,000 traffic homicide investigations in that span, and responding to many more traffic fatalities. He’s lived in Bunnell the whole time, raising two daughters with his wife of 43 years. (Young has a master’s in criminal justice from UCF and was working on a doctorate.)
Young, a Republican, had actually been planning a run for county commission against Joe Mullins. Once Victor Barbosa, the current Palm Coast City Council member, decided to challenge Mullins (Barbosa owns property in the Mondex, or Daytona North, but doesn’t live there), Young decided to run in Bunnell instead, leaving the county commission option to a future date. “I wanted to be a county commissioner to represent the west side because I live here on the west side, or the district. I may do it next time,” Young said. “Then I thought to myself the majority of the west side is Bunnell, so I probably could do better for the people as a city commissioner.”
His focus, he said, will be the police department he once led–a department in turmoil since last year when City Manager Alvin Jackson’s scathing review of then-Police Chief Tom Foster caused Foster to choose retirement rather than abide by an ultimatum. The department lost its top officers, too. Jackson hired Interim Chief Brannon Snead, then full-time Chief Michael Walker, only for Walker to decide not to take the job, and for Snead to make it clear he would not stay.
When he was 27 and led the Bunnell Police Department, Young had two officers. He told the commission at the time that the city would have to commit to the department, if it intended it to be a serious department: “you’re either going to have to fund it or you’re going to have to lose it,” he said he told commissioners. “The sheriff’s department is going to take it over. But the people in Bunnell deserves a good police department that’ll investigate crimes.”
Nothing has changed in over 40 years. Young thinks the same today–as does Snead, who has been working on a strategic plan for the department and has recommendations on how to outsource certain functions of the department while building up others. But Snead fears those recommendations will be shelved, as have others before him.
Three municipalities were to have an election on march 8: Bunnell, Flagler Beach and Beverly Beach. Qualifying has ended for all three, with qualifying in Flagler Beach ending at 5 p.m. today. There will not be an election in Beverly Beach. Incumbents Donna Christy Procida and James Howard filed to run, drew no challengers, and were automatically re-elected. ” I will swear in the incumbents at our Monday, March 7 meeting,” Town Clerk Jim Ardell said.
Two seats are up on the Flagler Beach City Commission–those held by Rick Belhumeur and Jane Mealy. Mealy, 78, was first elected in 2006. She’s either won every election since or run unopposed. Belhumeur, 68, was first elected unopposed in 2016. One challenger has filed to run, James Sherman, 36.
To vote in the municipal elections, you must be registered as a resident in one of the three municipalities, and be registered by February 7. You may vote by mail. The deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot is February 26, 2022, at 5:00 p.m. Vote-by-Mail ballots must be received in the Elections Office no later than 7:00 p.m. on Election Day, March 8, 2022. Voters may place a request for a mail ballot by phone, (386) 313-4170 or online: Request a mail ballot here.
There will be no early voting. Elections for Flagler Beach and Beverly Beach will be held at one location–Flagler Beach City Hall, 105 S. 2nd Street
Flagler Beach, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on March 8. In Bunnell, the one polling location will be the G.W. Carver Community Center (where Pete Young went to school), 206 East Drain Street, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
For further details on the election, links, forms, and so on, see the Supervisor of Elections’ municipal elections page.