Denise Calderwood is a Republican candidate for Flagler County Commission, District 2, facing incumbent Greg Hansen and Janet McDonald in the Aug. 23 primary. It is an open primary: all Flagler County voters are eligible to vote regardless of party affiliation.
Two seats are up on the commission in this election cycle: District 2, held by Republican Greg Hansen, and District 4, held by Republican Joe Mullins.
Both Republicans have drawn opposition in the primary. In District 4, Mullins has drawn Republican Leann Pennington. The winner will face Independent, or no-party-affiliated, Jane Gentile Youd in the November 8 general election. (There is also a write-in, but that candidacy was likely intended only to foreclose the possibility of an open primary. It is not a candidacy as serious as it is cynical.)
In District 2, since Hansen faces only two other Republicans in the primary, and no Democrat or independent has filed to run, the District 2 race is an open primary. That race will decide who the next commissioner will be, therefore all voters get a voice.
Flagler County Commission members serve four years. They’re paid $59,637 a year, a salary set by the state, not by the local commission.
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 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. Answers are lightly edited for clarity, 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. In Calderwood’s case, repeated contact by phone, text, Facebook messenger and email seeking answers to the follow-up questions went unanswered. Calderwood said she’d had computer issues in the first round, so the questions will not include the “did not answer” line before Monday.
|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
- Method and philosophy
- Critical issues
- Needs and wants
- School concurrency
- Environmental protection
- Heidi Petito
- Public transportation
- Sheriff’s budget
- Background check
Place and Date of Birth: Philadelphia, Dec. 28, 1967.
Current job: Outreach Navigator, Changing Homelessness.
Party Affiliation: Republican.
Net Worth: See Calderwood’s disclosure form here. Resume here.
Website and Social Media:
1. What makes you qualified to be a county commissioner? 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 am the only candidate or Commissioner who has ever worked for Flagler County. First as a Deputy Sheriff and then for five years as a Community Organizer and Program Administrator at the Flagler County Health Department. I also founded and managed the Flagler Youth Center. I am also a small business owner who writes and manages grants.
In your 2014 Live Interview, and again in 2020, your two previous runs for county commission, you said you were “a deputy sheriff with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Department and worked as a School Resource Officer… I then went to work for the Department of Children and Families and then worked for the Flagler County Health Department.” None of those jobs are listed on the resume you submitted. Why not, what was the duration of those three jobs, and what led to your departure from them?
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. 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. Who do you admire most in office today among elected officials in Flagler County—the person you’d consider a model of leadership? Who in the world at large (beyond Flagler), and among the living, do you consider a role model of political or intellectual leadership?
3. How do you describe your governing method and philosophy: how do you (or will you) prepare for each council meeting and workshop, what is your analytical method, issue by issue, and what drives your decision-making? What role do politics, ideology or immovable principles have in your decision-making approach?
First of all I possess a Master’s Degree in public administration and its basic premise is the most effective and efficient use of tax payers dollars. The field also stresses zero based budgeting and total quality management principles and strong planning tools and use of collaborative approaches. Mainly using inter local agreements or consolidation of services.
The three most critical issues are: number one permanent removal of commissioner Joe Mullins immediately for abuse of power and for all the reasons you have stated. He should not be in office now. He is beyond help and should already be in jail but this is Flagler County, we protect the certain few….and he is still our chairperson.
5. Candidates and commissioners hear the phrase “needs, not wants” from many constituents, usually as a criticism of some specific proposal to spend money on a project the speaker considers a “want.” Please give two or three examples of what you consider “needs” and how you would address them as a commissioner, and two or three examples of “wants” that you believe are important enough to justify the required spending.
Ok wants vs needs….does it always require the spending of money? No that is how I am fiscally conservative. Throwing money at things is not always the answer. Is spending a $100 million for beach renourishment a want or a need? It depends on who your asking, but only a few citizens were asked: the beachfront owners not the rest of us. It should have been placed on the ballot for a vote since it is or will impact all of us and our children and maybe even our children’s children for several years to come.
6. 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?
I am against property tax increases, and even using the term going back to the rollback rate is just fancy words for a tax increase since our population is growing or was growing at a fast rate, so all of the current commissioners have raised our taxes and have spent money like we have a lot of it and in realty we don’t . We have over-obligated ourselves.
7. The County Commission has signaled some readiness to scrap the school-concurrency standard that has prevailed for many years—the requirement that development proceed only when there is sufficient capacity in schools to seat students. The commission also appears ready to change the timing on when developers pay impact fees: not up front (as the school district prefers, for planning purposes), but more in a pay-as-you-go approach. Where do you stand on school concurrency, and were you supportive of the commission rolling back the district’s initial ask for a doubling of school impact fees?
The issue with the school board is similar to the issues with the cities. In this example, the County Commission is being a bully and is standing up for the developers and not the kids, who are our future. The developers are here and now only for themselves and that is why they contribute to political campaigns to the level they do-they buy the commissioners’ votes. Why not have them buy or at least pay for the students? Yes, I support the school concurrency standard. Planning and follow through with the plans are the basic premise of strategic planning. We always pay for consultants and then when their reports differ from what the developers want or what they were promised, the plans go by the wayside. The developers need to pay the fees upfront and not kick the can down the road. We have issues right now that we can’t afford to take care of because we are paying for past developers’ agreements which they ignored or abandoned. This type of behavior needs sanctions attached to it but we are too busy going after taxpayers for their minor code enforcement or disagreement issues and paying for excessive outside legal counseling, instead of handling these issues in-house.
8. 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?
Mother nature takes care of itself and man has just caused problems with some of its solutions. Beach protection as far as Flagler’s approach is currently a losing battle since we do not have the adequate funds to pay the bill. This is an example of poor fiscal stewardship coupled with poor planning and a quick fix it plan without thinking about the future cost burden it puts on the taxpayers. I love the beach. I lived on the Beachside and was affected by the poor drainage issue and had to live with it because the Commission at the time didn’t make flooding a priority. I volunteer for Beach clean ups, just like I did when all of the fires consumed our county. The beach is one of Flagler County’s biggest assets but it is not the county’s only asset so it should not consume the county’s budget.
The commission has to be fiscally sound in order to make effective decisions and this issue causes excessive financial strain and it should have been brought to the citizens for a vote on how they wanted to proceed on the issue, especially as you say, it will cost us for the next fifty years. The current commission won’t be around that long to be able to hold them accountable for the decision’s they made that is why it is imperative for all those who understand this issue to get involved. Collectively, we as a community, can make the decision that we are willing to pay for and if not, then we have to live with the consequences of it. Grants come and go with each new federal administration and so does their priorities so that is why we need change on the commission. The officials on it have obligated us to too much.
As far as bonds for the purchase of Big Ticket items and for sick buildings, and now it is the beach. I am a candidate who is fiscally conservative and environmentally and socially responsible. And I am not afraid to hold people accountable for their actions and votes. And mother nature does what it does but we as people of the earth need to have respect for her and what she does or else we all will contribute to our county’s demise as far as its assets. We didn’t have the money to pay for the devastation of all three major fires, 1987, 1989 and 1998 but we survived and found the money and volunteers to pay for and volunteer to fix the damage that was done and those decisions didn’t obligate us for 50 years. We need to bring back common sense.
How, at least so far, have beach-saving efforts “consumed” the county’s budget? The totality of the dune-reconstruction funds that went to rep[airing the beaches in the initial round after Matthew and Irma was drawn from a combination of state dollars and local tourist development tax dollars, leaving the general fund largely unscathed. The Army Corps of Engineers project for that 2.6-mile stretch of beach in Flagler Beach is also funded through federal and state dollars. Putting future, unquestionably unfunded methods aside, would you have opposed all those renourishment efforts, as funded, to date? Was that piecemeal funding approach not a mirror of the way the county piecemealed its recovery from the wildfires with, for example, the spending addition of FireFlight, the emergency helicopter?
I am not sure how to answer this question. Is the county responsible for environmental protection or is it our responsibility to follow the federal guidelines and make sure that we have a safe and healthy local community to live in and that our citizens are protected from environmental hazards that occur from poor planning, over development, and big businesses that manipulate protective orders for their economic gain? As a formerly small rural county we do not have the funds to protect our environment, like the $100 million dollar Beach plan, to the level it needs, but we have the ability to make good decisions in regards to future growth and development and for the responsible purchase of environmentally sensitive lands and for holding developers accountable for making environmentally sound decisions in their developments.
For instance, developers are required to do tree surveys, which the most recent developers have failed to do and we as a county have failed to hold them to doing them. We then allow the developers to ask for and then the commission grants them special exemptions or permanent changes to the existing zoning designations and Future Land Use Map, without regard for what the citizens want and expect. Again, we can look at our neighbor Volusia County. They have dedicated funding sources, like Volusia Forever and the ECHO program to take care of their community and its various interest groups. Flagler only has the environmentally sensitive land fund and that program needs to be closely examined for the decisions it has made in the last few years and for its funding level. (Just like what happened to the economic development department). Is it enough or not enough funding? What is their future plans and what lands have they deemed for future purchase? The citizens haven’t been told in years…thanks to past county leadership and to those on the Commission now who have failed to ask these tough questions.
I would like to hear the sitting commissioner’s answer to this since this is one of their core responsibilities: to hire and fire the two most important county staff–the County Administrator and the County Attorney. Heidi has been a long term employee of Flagler County and she has served the county well in her previous jobs. Is she a capable County Administrator? Only time will tell. Has she spoken much about her vision for Flagler County… No not that I am aware of. Is it her fault? I don’t believe so. Heidi is a doer who checks off boxes to make sure everything is done. Is this a good attribute, yes, but does she know how to lead and set the example or is she waiting to do what her Bosses (the Commission) tells her to do, and if she is waiting for them, then our county is in trouble because this commission is being led by the developers, our county attorney, and by our current, irresponsible county chairperson. Heidi needs to be the leader she can be…she doesn’t need to take anymore lessons from Jerry Cameron, who by the way is still getting paid by our county to teach our future county leaders. This is very troubling. I have had enough of Jerry. We all know how close he was to Commissioner Mullins.
How is County Attorney Al Hadeed running the commission? Can you cite examples? Are you looking to fire him?
11. With the county’s population exceeding 120,000, where do you stand on the county and its three major cities devising a collaborative public, surface, fixed-route transportation system that goes beyond the county’s current limited operation? How would such a system be paid for?
Flagler County’s transportation system is broken and the direct door to door service we offer is the most inefficient service we offer to our residents. I have been an outspoken opponent of it for years and five years ago, the not for profit I am involved with bought a fifteen passenger bus to provide transportation services to seniors and the homeless. And over 24 years ago, I obtained a grant to purchase a van with Transportation Disadvantaged funds to serve the youth of Flagler County. In the past, as a citizen, I used to attend the Transportation Disadvantaged meetings and the TPO meetings to aid in the development of a different approach and as this question eludes, we never did anything differently, so I stopped attending because of the frustration of never talking about Flagler’s needs. And when we had a staff who tried to experiment with a new approach as a test to create a fixed route system, he was fired. Yes, this is just another example of how we are not coming together as a county to address our basic needs. Our community is aging and some of our seniors (and commissioners) should not be driving and a new approach should be tried. Maybe this could be an economic development opportunity to create job. Let’s have a talk with Votran, Volusia County’s public transportation system, and to seek funds to have them extend their service to Flagler County. We can use the money we have for all of buses that sit around as an incentive and there are grants available to address the future and current planning problems we have. But this is a department that has always just done the same thing and we all know that is insanity. Sometimes I wonder if it is not just another way to advertise for a local attorney- a mobile billboard showing that they control our county. We definitely need a diverse committee that includes having representatives from each of the cities and unincorporated Flagler County and some resident experts from the Retired New York City Transit organization we have here to discuss this critical need.
What evidence do you have that points to the sort of ridership that would make a fixed-route system viable and sustainable?
12. The sheriff’s budget plus the capital budget have risen rapidly, with the continuing addition of deputies, the new operations center, and other substantial capital additions such as a new mobile command center and a boat. The budget proposal requests another expansion this year. In light of persistently low crime rates, where do you place the point at which expansions in budgets and ranks outweigh the benefits, or become more burdensome on the county’s overall budget than necessary? Is there such a thing as overfunding police?
Yes there is such as a thing as overfunding the police and as a former candidate for Sheriff, at one time, I was well schooled on this topic. But I have since turned my attention to other more pressing matters such as the homeless crisis and mental health crisis here in Flagler County- which if they aren’t addressed properly will be more of a policing problem as they are now. And we know they have become an issue for the Sheriffs Department with the increase in Baker Acts. Sheriff Staley is doing a good job but like all elected officials he still needs to be held accountable for his budgetary decision making and sometimes it seems he likes to acquire wants verses needs. Did we really need a new mobile command center? Are there critical incidents that the public isn’t aware of to spend so much money on a new mobile center when we have a couple already? These are critical questions that all constitutional officers should answer with local data prior to having their budget approved. Do we really need more traffic enforcement officers when citizens can’t afford to pay for the tickets they are getting now. What we need for example is a better transportation system so some of these driver’s can get off the road and stop driving-for everyone’s sake, and we need more education of driver’s and , better and easier to read signage, not just more of a specialized unit that has nice toys to play with and to make statements that say “Look at Me”- believe me the average citizen sees you, it is too bad that the bad guys don’t. And those bad guys aren’t really listening to the warnings coming from the Sheriff- that the green roof inn has openings. We all know this since we overbuilt it and spent a lot of money on it and the “sick” sheriff’s operations center that we still owe a lot of money on but sold it for only $750,000. I wholeheartedly support deputies, correctional officers and the support staff that comprise the Sheriff’s department and I support the local police departments but something needs to change, maybe more inter-local agreements or shared/consolidated services of some sort but these are hard budgetary questions that need to be asked and answered and no one is doing either…again just a lot of talk and spending of taxpayers dollars.
13. 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, not to my knowledge. I do have a lien on my house for an IRS issue that I am in the middle of resolving and it is a slow process and gotten more difficult to resolve since my husband passed away before it was resolved.
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|