Last Updated: July 27, 2022, 5:20 p.m.
Lance Alred is one of seven candidates in three races for Flagler County School Board in the Aug. 23 primary election, running against Will Furry and Courtney VandeBunte in the District 2 race.
School board elections–for Districts 1, 2 and 4–are non-partisan races: all registered voters in Flagler County are eligible to cast a ballot in the two races–whether registered Democratic, Republican, Independent or from a minor party.
If you are a registered voter in Flagler County, you may cast a vote in all three races regardless of the district, the town or the subdivision you live in–or whether you are out of state or living abroad, in which case absentee ballots may be sent in.
The election on Aug. 23 will decide the winners in District 1 between incumbent Jill Woolbright and Sally Hunt, and in District 4 between incumbent Trevor Tucker and Christy Chong. District 2, where incumbent Janet McDonald has opted not to run (she is running for a county commission seat) is a three-way race between Alred, Furry and VandeBunte. The race in this case would be decided only if a candidate wins better than 50 percent of the vote. Short of that, the top two vote-getters will go on to a run-off, to be decided in the general election on Nov. 8.
FlaglerLive submitted 14 identical questions to the school board candidates, who replied in writing, with the understanding that some follow-up questions may be asked. Questions appear in bold. Follow-up questions, when necessary, appear in bold and italics, and may be awaiting answers. When a candidate fails to answer a question, that’s noted in red. The questions and follow-ups attempt to elicit precise answers, but the candidates don’t always comply.
School board members serve four-year terms and are paid $36,000 a year. The amount is set by the Legislature, not the local school board. It increases by a shade under $1,000 each year. Last spring the Legislature passed HB1467, a bill, enacted this year, that institutes a 12-year term limit for school board members. But the clock doesn’t start ticking until November. In other words, any school board member who has served one or more term by then will not have that time counted against the tenure. The restriction is on consecutive years only.
|To vote: see a sample ballot here. Early voting is between Aug. 13 and Aug. 20, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at four sites in the county, listed here. You may vote early at any of the four sites regardless of your precinct location. To vote by mail, request your mail-in ballot here. Because of the Legislature's new law, restricting voting convenience, drop boxes are available, but only to a limited degree. The ballot drop box at the Elections Office will be monitored by a staff member beginning 60 days prior to the election, through Election Day. This drop box will no longer be available after office hours or on weekends, except during the early voting period. Other drop boxes will be available at early voting locations, but only during the days of early voting, and only during voting hours. Mail ballots must be received in the Elections Office by 7 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted. If returning your ballot by mail, please allow at least ten days for delivery. A postmark does not extend this deadline. You may track your ballot here. All other election-procedure related inquiries can be answered at the Elections Office's website.
The Questions in Summary: Quick Links
- Purpose, vision and preparation
- Role models
- Budget cuts
- District accomplishments and failures
- Half-penny sales tax
- Evaluating Superintendent Mittelstadt
- Sheriff’s contract and armed civilians in schools
- Impact fees
- School enrollment and the future of public education
- “Don’t say gay” and anti-woke bills
- Prayer in school.
- Background check
Place and Date of Birth: Chattanooga, TN, February 8, 1972.
Current job: President of Nomad Management Services, LLC
Net worth: Click here for financial disclosure form.
Political affiliation (keeping in mind that school board races are non-partisan): Republican.
Resume: Alred provided the following bio.
Websites and Social Media: VoteLanceAlred.com and on Facebook.
1. What is your vision for public education in Flagler County and how are you uniquely qualified to help enact it within the limitations of the job? If you’re an incumbent, what examples illustrate how you yourself, as opposed to the board collectively, made a difference in enacting your vision in your previous years on the board? If you’re a challenger, what have you done to prepare, so that you’re ready from day one?
I envision Flagler County schools as an “A” School district, as in 2019. We also need to raise our goal to be a “Top 10” Florida School District. We are fully capable of achieving that goal.
I come from a family of educators. My father, Tony Alred, taught and coached for 37 years. My mother taught, coached and was a guidance counselor for 32 years. My uncle was Assistant Superintendent of schools, a principal and teacher for over 30 years. My wife, of over 20 years, Brandie Alred, is a teacher and girls golf coach at Matanzas High School. I, literally, grew up in the public school system. I know what happens in classrooms.
My diverse background and experience make me uniquely qualified. As a business owner I have had to run the day-to-day operations of a company: Customer Service, Support, Training, Payroll, Accounting, Benefits, etc. These are all important areas a School Board member needs to have experience in. I also worked for the Department of Defense as a contractor for nearly three years, for six tours, in Afghanistan. I was responsible, as the Lead Project Manager, for overseeing off base construction in Northern and Western Afghanistan.
In preparation, the first thing I did was read the mission statement and what the responsibilities were of the School Board. Then, I met each and every School Board member, introducing myself. I watched or attended each workshop and School Board meeting. I, then, set a goal to meet every elected official in our county because with ILA upcoming, it was important to meet and understand the thinking of those making these decisions. [Alred is referring to the meetings and discussions over the Inter-Local Agreement between the district, the county and municipalities on school concurrency.] I have attended planning and zoning meetings, to gain insight into the process when we have new schools constructed. I have met with and listened to: the Superintendent, most of our school administrators, our Sheriff and resource officers, teachers, our bus drivers and our paraprofessionals to gain their insight. I’ve met with Teresa Rizzo, the executive director of the Flagler County Education Foundation (the only candidate in District 2 to do so). I have met and spoken with the Commissioners of the City of Bunnell (the only candidate in District 2 to do so) and also with the Commissioners of the City of Flagler Beach (the only candidate from District 2 to do so) because I believe members of the School Board should represent the entire county as well as our district.
Sally Hunt, District 1
Jill Woolbright, District 1
Lance Alred, District 2
Will Furry, District 2
Courtney VandeBunte, District 2
Christy Chong, District 4
Leann Pennington, District 4
Janet McDonald, District 2
Greg Hansen, District 2
Denise Calderwood, District 2
Palm Coast City Council, District 2
Theresa Carli Pontieri
2. Who among school board members of the past 10 years or so do your most closely identify with, and why? Who in the world at large, and among the living, do you consider a role model of political or intellectual leadership?
There isn’t just one board member. The first person I would say I emulate in some ways, is the late John Fischer. No one could ever question the dedication that Mr. Fischer had for the students of Flagler County. If there was ever an event going on in our school district, you could rest assured, Mr. Fischer would be in attendance. I would be honored to follow Mr. Fischer in the School Board district he represented. Another School Board member who has impressed me is Mr. Andy Dance. Mr. Dance always seems to be a voice of reason for difficult decisions. He also brings a temperament to his elected seat that I find very much worth emulating.
One particular person, I have learned a great deal from and would do well in attempting to imitate is Colonel David Hackworth. His autobiographical book, “About Face” is not only a tremendous read, but a great leadership manual. His leadership style never wavered in principle, but he could and would adapt his tactics to meet the many fluid challenges he faced.
3. Candidates often have a list of things they plan to accomplish if elected. As one five board members, what is your understanding of the power of—and limitations on–an individual member, and how would you go about exercising this power and respecting its limits to accomplish specific goals?
We do have goals, set by the Superintendent, that she wishes to achieve. I believe they are worthwhile. I do believe we need to raise the bar. We need to be better overall within the state of Florida. It is generally an accepted premise that we should become an “A” district again. We should also be a “Top 10 school district” in the State of Florida. I, fully, believe we are capable of this achievement. To achieve this requires a collaborative approach. We, as a School Board, need to start pursuing and promoting academic excellence again. We need to do away with petty squabbles and remember our duty. We need to be listeners and meet with our knowledgeable experts to see how we can help them achieve these goals. As a member, I can then help develop policy and provide the financing to make these goals attainable.
The answer is enlightening about your goals, but the question is focused more on process and understanding of a board member’s authority and limits on that authority. What is your understanding of your procedural responsibilities, and what example could you give that would constitute crossing a line beyond your authorized role as a board member?
Here’s an example: I schedule an appointment with the principal to come visit the school. While touring the school, I see something I think requires attention. If I call out or attempt to correct this matter and address the Administrator, I have crossed the line. It is not my role or responsibility, as a School Board member, to address this with an Administrator. I would need to speak with the Superintendent directly. I can facilitate communication and ask questions of people, but our role has nothing to do with the day to day operations of schools.
This is why being a School Board member isn’t a teaching position. It’s a leadership and management position that requires someone with experience in knowing how to effectively communicate and decipher what’s important. I feel I am the most qualified candidate in District 2, by far, in this regard. I’ve been a business owner for decades. I was trusted to oversee millions in offbase infrastructure projects, by the US Government, in Afghanistan (as a contractor). This involved working with and communicating effectively with many different and diverse people and entities: US DoD, US State Dept, USAID, UCERP, the government and governors of Afghanistan, Afghan Contractors, as well as, multiple governments: Spain, Italy, Lithuania and Germany. This required working in unison, collaborating effectively to obtain a positive and optimum result. I am very adept in this regard.
You’ve referred repeatedly to your experience and contract work with the Department of Defense as playing a role in your qualifications in your run for school board. But you didn’t send in a CV and don’t tell us in your bio or your answers who you worked for, or what company you led (if you did), as a contractor, or what specific title you held, so we can better understand what you mean when you say you were “trusted to oversee millions.” Who was the contractor specifically, what was your title, in what stretch of time, and what was the specific value of the contract(s)?
I worked for various companies as the contract changed with the U.S. Department of Defense. I was deemed “mission essential” and was hired in March of 2011 and returned stateside August 2013. My title was Project Manager as a Subject Matter Expert (SME) in Construction Management. Here are a few of the details.
Note: Alred did not provide the names of companies he worked with, and the documents he provided in the link above, which are taken at face value, make no mention of those companies. The Rand Corporation conducted an extensive study regarding the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations‘s Afghan operations, through which contracting projects like those Alred refers to in the documents provided were executed. Rand called TFBSO’s record “very mixed overall.”
4. Tell us who you are as a person—what human qualities and shortcomings you’ll bring (or have brought) to the board, what your temperament is like: if you’re an incumbent, what do you consider may have been a mistake or a misjudgment on your part in your official capacity—something you’d do over, differently–in your last term? If you’re a challenger, apply the question to your work or civic involvement in recent years.
I try to grow as a better person, parent and business owner every year. As I’ve grown older, 50 now, I’ve tried to not make the same mistakes I made when I was a kid, at 30. One of the first substantial challenges I faced was the birth of my two daughters. As the son of coaches and teachers, I was raised not only in classrooms, but on the athletic field and in the locker room. I was ill prepared to be a father of daughters. I read books, I asked other parents (whom I respected) to gain insight, but nothing ever quite prepares a person for the parental experience!
In 2011, I had to leave my wife and two daughters, who were 1 ½ and 3 ½ to work in Afghanistan. It was the most difficult challenge I have ever faced. My wonderful wife raised these two girls incredibly and I was relegated to parenting through Facetime. After nearly three years abroad, I returned home to a family dynamic that was well established without me. The goal was to slip back into that dynamic without upsetting the apple cart and all that they had achieved without a steady fatherly presence. I started doing the mundane tasks: maintenance, laundry, dishes and cleanup. I watched, almost as an outsider, waiting to be included on their terms. Slowly, patiently, but steadily, I was accepted and we became a family unit again.
I don’t make hasty decisions and I really attempt to look at issues from a 360 degree approach before making a decision. I will bring that thoughtful concept to the School Board. My door will always be open and I am always susceptible to a good cup of coffee, an intelligent conversation and a good perspective from a knowledgeable source.
I am, also, an Elder at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Palm Coast and also members of both the Benevolent Order of Elks and the Tiger Bay Club.
Can you cite a specific mistake, an error of judgment, something you regret in your professional or civic involvements that you would do differently, or that you learned from–not, as you say, when you were a kid at 30, but in the last few years?
I make mistakes everyday. However, I’ve learned through experience and not rushing to hasty judgements, to reduce the impacts immensely. Experience will tell you there are always different viewpoints and you must get as much information as possible before making a decision. The goal isn’t to, necessarily, make the “right decisions”. If you can do that, it’s wonderful. That said, It’s very difficult, almost impossible to do when dealing with large organizations. The goal is to make the best decisions possible given the information you have received.
5. Finances are always a challenge. Let’s imagine that during the next term, the district will contend with the kind of recession it contended with between 2008 and 2010, when revenue fell sharply. What two or three program areas, aside from instruction, would you consider cutting, and what areas would you consider too critical?
Each year we should be reviewing the budget. We should examine maintenance and construction contracts that cost the district up to $10 million/year, for example. We should review each program’s funding and look at the cost to student ratio to determine if we are getting the best “bang for buck” with every program.
Salaries represent the lion share of the budget. Once that is done, there isn’t a great deal left for programs and such. This is why our budget should be reviewed each year. We have a responsibility to be good stewards and financially disciplined. If our national economy struggles, there will be hard decisions that will need to be made. This is never popular. In March of 2011, for example, the School Board cut the next year’s budget by $3.5 million. It was not a popular decision, but it was a financially responsible decision.
The approach is clear in principle, but to be more specific, and putting your recent knowledge–from meetings with officials and attending board meetings–to work, what two or three programs specifically would be more likely than others to pare down or eliminate, in case the district was in a similar position as in 2011?
It is my sincerest hope that our economic situation doesn’t come to this. I do believe that Florida, because of our leadership, won’t be as impacted economically and is seen as a haven from the incorrect economic decisions that have been made nationally.
I have no plans to “pare down or eliminate” any programs. If our economic outcome changes, dramatically for the worse, and we are put to the financial test, I’m sure we will deal with it the best we can.
6. Setting aside Covid policies and procedures, what are the district’s three brightest successes and the three failures that affected students most in the past two to four years? What will be your chief priorities regarding student achievement, within the limits of the doable—that is, four years from now, what can we look back to and say: you were responsible?
The three brightest:
- In 2019, we were an A school district.
- We have great acceleration programs that provide wonderful opportunities for students.
- When Covid hit, it proved that our investment in technology was well placed.
- We need to do a better job teaching literacy in our VPKs and continuing it in K-3rd grades. Studies have shown the earlier literacy is taught the higher the student’s academic success and achievement. 85% of school studies are taught through reading.
- We have failed to provide enough training for our paraprofessionals, especially as it pertains to their safety.
- We have failed and need to improve our ESE, or exceptional student education, programs. We need to do a better job evaluating these students and providing a more collaborative approach to their education
“85% of school studies are taught through reading.” Can you clarify?
In preparation, I have spoken with many of our Administrators and educational professionals. I have also tried to educate myself by watching webinars. Several of these were very much focused on literacy and its importance in promoting equity in education. One of several points stressed about the importance of literacy is that most academic studies are taught through reading. It was stated that 85 percent of material presented in schools are reading based. This simply implies the importance of literacy at an early age. Thus, the number I used. The National Assessment of Educational Progress was cited as a source. Other statistics they mentioned: 95 percent of students have the ability to read and only 34 percent of students in the US are successful at reading to grade level expectations.
They also documented the history of reading curriculum in the United States: The “Basal Series” in the 1930’s, “Phonics” in the 1960’s, “Whole Language” in the 1980’s to “Research and Standards” from the 1990’s to now.
Being a candidate is more than just cutting, pasting and posting news articles to your Facebook page. It’s my duty to try and understand the educational process through the eyes of our professionals, so I can help our School District reach its goals. I think Flagler County also needs a School Board member that understands the struggles and challenges faced by our students. I watched, first hand, my parents and wife work countless extra hours helping struggling students raise their outcomes. It is my mission to raise the educational standards of the School District as a whole.
7. This year, the district’s half-penny sales surtax expires. It’s on the November ballot. The district will seek to renew it for the third time for the next 10 years. It’s been in effect for 20 years. Evaluate its worth, explaining how you see where it’s paid off, how you see where it has not. Do you support its renewal, openly advocating for it on the campaign trail, and the focus areas for the next 10 years’ spending. Would you alter its scope in any way and fund different items?
I fully support its renewal. Allowing capitol upgrades to be financed was a proper decision. We do, however, need to do a better job of educating people about what exactly it does. I have seen many comments that, incorrectly, attempt to tie this to the Palm Coast City Council’s decision to increase their salaries, for example.
This tax was first approved in 2002 and renewed by voters in 2012. It finances all our school technology upgrades. It helps improve our school safety and security in the District. This revenue stream helps fund our classroom renovations. Also, as I understand it, Charter schools will benefit this year.
The funds received all stay in Flagler County and support our schools, directly. Another great aspect of this sales tax is that visitors and tourists all contribute to the education of our children.
We are projected to have two new schools built in the next five years that will be between $70 and $120 million dollars. The reason for the wide discrepancy is because it is yet to be determined what type of schools it will be, such as elementary, middle, or high schools. It is very hard to project more than five years because of the uncertainty of how much our population will grow.
Note: The district’s plan is in fact to build a $70 million middle school and a $90 million high school in the middle of the decade.
8. On July 1 Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt enters the third and, for now, final year of her current contract. Assuming you have followed the school board closely in preparation for your run (or are immersed in it as an incumbent), give us your evaluation of Mittlestadt as a leader, as an educational visionary and as an executive. Would you renew her contract? If yes, tell us on what terms. If not, tell us why. Along those lines, what is your experience and success in recruiting and hiring senior executives?
I will not comment on future decisions of the School Board. This would be a violation of the Sunshine Law and you would be in violation, as well, as a conduit. Answering this question could be considered influencing other School Board members.
Your respect for the law is appreciated. But the Sunshine law is often misunderstood, even by those who’ve been in office quite a while: we had to correct School Board Chairman Trevor Tucker on this very score. First, you are not yet under the provisions of the Sunshine law. That will start should you win election (and before you take the oath). Even then, the law is never a prohibition on an elected official’s ability to speak or write freely, not even in memo form to fellow-elected officials, for example, certainly not in answer to questions in this or other forums, whether the issue is before the board or not. The prohibition is on having exchanges between elected officials on the same board, outside of sunshine. The Sunshine law is intended to foster transparency and public understanding of public business, not mum it. It is also a misconception that reporters would be “conduits” when they either ask questions or even use one board member’s answers to elicit thoughts from another board member, in separate interviews: restricting the press in those regards would be illegal, though it isn’t uncommon for public officials to seek to evade answering questions by using misunderstandings of Sunshine as a pretext. The candor you have displayed so far, and your predilection for intelligent discussions you mentioned above, suggest you are not of that inclination. With that in mind, the above question is posed again.
I am not a legal expert. So, I will stand my ground on this one and won’t be commenting on what my vote may or may not be, in this regard. Without being presented facts to consider, a determination can’t be made. Honestly, this isn’t a very good question.
9. The County Commission through the sheriff pays for roughly half the cost of sheriff’s deputies in schools but it doesn’t have to: security is a district responsibility. Despite that, the school board has at times spoken of the growing financial burden of its share of the contract. What is your opinion of the district’s relationship and contract with the sheriff’s office? If arming staff as opposed to contracting with the sheriff is the more affordable way to go, would you? Alternately, would you be willing to arm civilians in addition to existing deputies, and if so, what sort of ratio of armed civilians per campus would you want, and how would that relieve the district’s financial costs of security? Going that route, do we risk over-weaponizing campuses?
I am open minded to workshopping all ideas: The Guardian’s Program, Dads on Duty, etc. I would like to know what it would cost the district, what training is required and what our liability would be.
As a candidate, I’m not privy to the contractual details with the Sheriff’s office. We want to provide exceptional security at an affordable price that would include common sense security solutions, such as: limiting line of sight, perimeter security and single points of entry. During my time in Afghanistan, I oversaw many security details at compounds, judicial buildings and airports. My experience, in this capacity, would be a benefit to our school district.
10. The Flagler Home Builders Association and the County Commission successfully blocked a doubling of school impact fees this year, scaling back the school board’s original plan. First, who pays impact fees? Second, do you think either the School Board was unreasonable in proposing its original impact fee schedule, or was the County Commission unreasonable to block it? Setting Florida’s strange statutory requirements aside in this regard, should the County Commission even have a say in ratifying or blocking the policies of a school board? Should home builders?
Impact fees are one time fees paid on new construction, which helps to offset the area’s growth and the “impact” it has on public infrastructure and services. Having attended these public meetings, it is my understanding that the County Commission reached an agreement with our School Board that impact fees should be raised. The impact fee compromise is correct: If district attendance increases, the fees increase accordingly.
All governmental entities should be working to better our community. There are times when the School Board and County Commission overlap in responsibility. A few of these would be: Hurricane Shelters, Adults with disabilities and the youth centers.
The overlaps you mention entail more cooperation than opposition. In the case of impact fees, the county has the authority to block another ostensibly autonomous, elected body’s decisions, as it did in this case, under pressure from home builders. Do you consider this proper?
The County Commission is doing what, they feel, is the right course of action for them. I think it was unfortunate to do away with the ILA. This decision brought other questions to bear: Will development have to stop? Also, is their definition of “capacity reservation” legal? I have yet to figure out how a “reservation” can be made without a seat available. Further, now an entirely new ILA will have to be written and approved by September 1.
None of this helps the School District prepare for future school construction. Currently, the District is underfunded in this regard. The School District needs to increase the amount of funding they have in reserve, if they hope to have enough to bond and finance a new school or additions in the future.
11. Flagler County’s population has grown substantially in the last decade and a half, from an estimated population of 89,000 in 2006 to 119,000 last year, according to UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. Yet school enrollment has been remarkably flat since 2007. One reason is a big demographic shift as the proportion of older residents has grown while that of school-age residents has shrunk. The population grew by 33 percent. The 65-and-over population grew by 70 percent, from 21,400 people 65 and over to 36,500. Private, religious, virtual schools and home-schooling are also factors. What is the future of traditional public education in your view, and are Flagler schools doing enough to counter enrollment erosion from traditional public schools?
One vital thing we learned from the pandemic is that most children need school and learn better in person. It’s not just academic, but social. Flagler County, fortunately, was more prepared to deal with the challenges faced in 2020 than most schools. This was due to our investment in technology with the help of the ½ cent sales tax, that will be on the ballot for renewal. I believe we grew from the challenges we faced. We were able to improve our virtual learning through necessity and this only benefits our students.
As far as school population, your numbers don’t reflect the overpopulation of our VPKs. It also doesn’t account for having to move 6th grades to Middle Schools due to the overpopulation of our Elementary Schools. We are a growing county and the family dynamics are very diverse across the board. There are currently eight portable buildings sitting in front of Buddy Taylor Middle School waiting to be installed for a reason. If we make Flagler County public schools the best educational option, there will not be erosion.
12. Two of the more contested bills in the last legislative sessions were HB1557, at times referred to as the “don’t say gay” bill, which restricts discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades, and HB7, the so-called “anti-woke” bill, which restricts conversations about racism and sexism in schools. Residents now have the ability to sue the district when faced with allegations of infractions, and the district has to assume legal costs regardless. If you were to propose amendments or re-writes of the two laws at the next legislative session, what, if any, would those recommendations be?
There are, actually, three bills that were introduced: HB 1557, HB7 and HB 241. We answer to our taxpayers, who are our parents. I think controversial topics do belong in school, but I also believe, 100 percent that it is the right of every parent to decide when it’s appropriate for a school curriculum to include those controversial topics. I have serious concerns about topics, such as, sex and sexual orientation lessons being delivered to elementary aged children. I flat out believe that is wrong. High school would be way more appropriate. At the same time, the parent needs the power to decide what is right for their child. A lesson plan that includes “sex” as a topic, in anyway, should require a parental consent form. If a parent doesn’t wish their child to take part in that activity, I think it’s completely fair. We are here to educate kids, it’s not the job of the school district to shape their social/political thoughts. The only change I would make on HB 1557 would be to extend it from K-3rd to K-5th grade.
Racism and sexism should be taught in proper historical context and it needs to be accurate. I wouldn’t change HB 7.
I wouldn’t change anything as it relates to HB 241.
Note: HB241 is the “Parental Bill of Rights,” passed by the Legislature and signed into law in 2021.
13. The U.S. Supreme Court has been especially friendly to the re-emergence of religious expression in public schools, or the erosions of restrictions on the use of public funds for parochial education, with more such decisions likely ahead, such as a test of the prayer-in-school standard that would go further than the Coach Kennedy case we saw this term. Do you favor a return to pre-Engle days, the 1962 decision that found school-sponsored prayer in schools unconstitutional even if participation is not required?
The Supreme Court’s job is to interpret the law. Our nation was founded by those seeking religious freedom. I don’t believe anyone should be forced to pray in school, or otherwise. That said, people are perfectly allowed to pray and should be allowed to practice their faith, as long as it doesn’t impose on another’s rights through force or fraud.
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? Have you ever been demoted? If so, please explain, including cases where charges or claims did not lead to conviction or disciplinary action.
On July 3, 2019 my family and I were traveling on our boat to St. Augustine for the Independence Day celebration. Our boat suddenly caught fire and we were forced to abandon ship in the Intracoastal as our boat was fully engulfed in flames. Subsequently, I was charged with a misdemeanor by the FWC for “abandonment of a vessel.” I, personally, removed 90 percent of the boat myself, cutting it into pieces and hauling it out over the course of months, as weather and tide allowed. This case was settled and dismissed.
In 2011, the “Great Recession” was at its peak. It had hit the housing industry extremely hard and as a home builder, I felt its effects. After doing my best, for years, to survive financially, I filed personal bankruptcy and it was fully discharged.
The facts of the case as documented in the court file indicate that FWV contacted you at least three times between July 3 and July 18 after the incident in 2019 to ensure removal, which did not take place (you had told FWC you would secure a salvage company, according to their report), leading to the charge being filed in November, more than four months after the incident. You pleaded no contest three months ago and were in fact sentenced on a misdemeanor, paid the usual court costs, and adjudication was withheld. But there never was a dismissal or a reduction in the charge. How was the case “settled and dismissed”?
It’s a little more complicated than you would think. First, I’ve never had a boat catch fire and almost kill my entire family and I while aboard. Secondly, who do you call for this line of work? Especially, given the event occurred JULY 3rd and the family is traumatized by almost losing their lives and sleeping in the same bed every night. The FWC knew, full well, that it takes more than 15 days (with one day being the same as the incident occurred) to acquire names and bids of companies that provide that line of work. Thirdly, I was in constant contact with FWC in the following months and was allowed time to remove the majority of the vessel myself. Meanwhile, during the process, I was negotiating with companies in the salvage removal business who were already contracted with other work and trying to get on their schedule. The FWC decided to pursue this with an open contract in November. In doing so, they undermined my bid with a contractor. I decided to go to court. The boat was summarily removed and court costs were paid. It was my understanding that no charge would be filed. judge ruled this would be “withheld”. It was my understanding that a “withhold” is a special sentence in which the judge would not formerly convict a defendant of a criminal offense. I’m not a lawyer and had never been charged with a crime, so if I am incorrect, it is certainly not intentional.
Editor’s Note, added July 27, 2022: A day after this interview published, FWC sent FlaglerLive additional documents relating to the boat fire and salvaging, and images of the vessel (one of which can be viewed here). The documents include a more complete “Officer’s Narrative” by Officer Joshua Lawrence, who created a “derelict vessel call” in reference to Alred’s abandoned vessel on Nov. 8, 2019, four months after the fire. The officer met with Alred on Nov. 16, 2019, and cited him for derelict vessel. “I gave him Derelict Vessel Notification Packet and Notification Letter, which he signed for,” the officer reported. See the signed form here, and the packet for which he signed here. The packet includes an explanation of rights and means of contesting FWC’s actions, including the request for both an informal proceeding and a formal, administrative hearing, before any court action. That request would have had to be made within 21 days of receipt of the packet. No documents point to any such requests. FWC issued a “total removal cost” of $13,760. According to the FWC officer’s narrative: “On January 3, 2021 Officer Megan Thomas verified the removal of the vessel from state waters. Owner began to remove the vessel at the beginning of the derelict vessel process, but never finished the removal. Contractor hired by the city of Saint Augustine finished the removal of the vessel. On March 9, 2021 Officer Kurt Harris and I personally delivered the letter of repayment to Alred.”
2022 Election Candidates, Flagler County
|County Commission District 2||Greg Hansen, incumbent (Rep)||Janet McDonald (Rep)||Denise Calderwood (Rep)|
|County Commission District 4||Joe Mullins, incumbent (Rep)||Leann Pennington (Rep)||Jane Gentile-Youd (NPA)|
|School Board District 1||Jill Woolbright, incumbent||Sally Hunt|
|School Board District 2||Lance Alred||Will Furry||Courtney VandeBunte|
|School Board District 4||Trevor Tucker, incumbent||Christy Chong|
|Palm Coast City Council Seat 2||Theresa Carli Pontieri||Sims Jones||Shauna Kanter / Alan Lowe|
|Palm Coast City Council Seat 4||Cathy heighter||Fernando Melendez|