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Palm Coast Races: 3 for Mayor, 4 for Council, 2 Elections, No Partridge, No Pear Tree

| August 9, 2011

First up, the candidates for mayor: Incumbent Jon netts (left), Charlie Ericksen and Joe Cunnane. (© FlaglerLive)

First up, the candidates for mayor: Incumbent Jon Netts (left), Charlie Ericksen and Joe Cunnane. (© FlaglerLive)

The comedy of errors known as this year’s Palm Coast municipal elections crossed its first certain milestone: Qualifying closed at 5 p.m. today, and the first election, a primary, will be held only for mayoral candidates on Sept. 13. Two council seats contested by four candidates will be decided on Nov. 8.

No new names had jumped in by 5 today. Two once vaguely interested names had previously jumped out (Charles Ballard, a member of the city’s Leisure Services Advisory Committee, and Ray Minami, whose tassel has yet to settle since his graduation from Matanzas High School a few weeks ago).

That left three candidates for mayor, the same number as four years ago, and almost the same names: Incumbent Jon Netts, Charlie Ericksen Jr., who is taking his first run at elected office, and Joe Cunnane, without whom no Palm Coast election would be complete. Cunnane has been contesting elections since before Palm Coast was a city. His dislike of Netts has kept him, despite his 76 years, young in a field where youth is beyond memory. Netts and Ericksen are both 68, though Ericksen bikes between 10 and 20 miles a day, usually in a race with dawn, while Netts logs his mileage on four wheels, traveling the four corners of Northeast Florida as a member of councils and commissions with very long names. That’s when he’s not at his part-time job towing boats in distress on the Intracoastal. (Ericksen keeps his meeting attendance, also copious, in-county.) Netts is a retired school administrator, Ericksen a retired insurance executive, and Cunnane a retired IBM manager.

If history holds, Cunnane’s chances are minimal. He got 10 percent of the vote when Netts trounced the field in the 2007 primary, taking 67 percent of the vote. That made a run-off in the general unnecessary. Two years earlier Cunnane managed to get less than 6 percent of the vote in a council-seat race (won at the time by Alan Peterson, now the chairman of the county commission, with Bill Lewis, now on the council, a close second). So it’s really a two-man mayoral race that quite possibly will be decided on Sept. 13. To win, a candidate needs just one vote more than 50 percent. Failing that, the top two vote-getters go to run-off on Nov. 8.

The race is ostensibly non-partisan, but none of the candidates is playing it that way. Ericksen and Netts are both Republicans. They’ve been doing their best to woo fellow-Republicans, which has been difficult given the fracture of Republican Party politics in Flagler County. Ericksen has been cultivating tea party ranks, without whose support he would have little chance. Netts isn’t fond of tea party rhetoric and banks on core supporters who’ve known him and been electing him since he beat Jerome Full for a council seat in 2001, his last relatively close election–if you call a 57-43 percent win close–, seven days before the 9/11 attacks.

Two council seats are being contested. Incumbent Holsey Moorman, a Democrat, is facing an outright tea party challenge from Bill McGuire in the District 1 contest. McGuire has never run for office before, just as Moorman never had before 2007.


In District 3, the seat being vacated by Mary DiStefano, who’s term-limited, Dennis Cross is running against Jason DeLorenzo. Cross had originally qualified for the race, then was booted out when the city’s redistricting commission picked a map that redrew voting districts in such a way as to disqualify Cross. An outcry followed, particularly over the redistricting commission’s shoddy handling of the its job. The city council reversed the commission’s decision. Cross’s candidacy was restored.

Cross, running from Grand Haven–the precinct that usually turns out the most, or close to the most, voters in any election–would like to think he has tea party support, but the tea party itself is divided on this one, with its chairman, Tom Lawrence, ironically supporting the Democrat in the race, Jason DeLorenzo, the government affairs director for the Flagler Home Builders Association. DeLorenzo is the youngest man, by decades, in this municipal election. Also, among candidates or sitting council members, only DeLorenzo is gainfully employed at a full-time job and not on government dole of one sort or another. He alone isn’t drawing Medicare, Social Security, VA or unemployment benefits.

Every other candidate or council member is either retired, employed part-time or, as is the case with Frank Meeker, soon-to-be jobless: Meeker, until last month the council’s last great employed hope, was among the 139 people either fired or who lost their jobs from the St. Johns Water Management District on orders from Gov. Rick Scott. Scott required management districts in the state to slash their property tax rates, reduce their revenue and cut the scope of their responsibilities and oversight. The St. Johns district was among the hardest hit. (In all, 24 employees took an early retirement offer, 20 vacant positions were eliminated, 95 people were fired. Meeker’s job ends Sept. 30. An earlier version of this story had incorrectly put the number of job losses at 170. That had been an estimate in July, before the actual notices went out.)

One other certainty about the next Palm Coast City Council: it will once again be a men-only club in a city where women and girls account for more than 52 percent of the population.

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13 Responses for “Palm Coast Races: 3 for Mayor, 4 for Council, 2 Elections, No Partridge, No Pear Tree”

  1. PJ says:

    Give the Mayor position a huge raise so we can get some folks that are young enugh to understand the other needs of the city. I’m disgusted even to vote. We will never leap forward whith this lot.

  2. Will says:

    Condolences to Frank Meeker. I hadn’t heard that he had lost his job. Frank’s a good man and I hope he will land on his feet quickly.

  3. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    That’s the down side to having a part-time elected board… for the most part it eliminates people who aren’t retired from being able to run. I also send my condolences to Mr Meeker, he’s by far the only one that makes any sense on Palm Coast City council.

  4. Anon says:

    PJ .
    The city charter should change to a strong mayor form of government. Pay the mayor a salary around 75K. According to PayScale.com the average yearly salary for a mayor in the US ranges between $35,000 and $83,000 per year. The city should not be paying an inflated salary to a city manager, and then try to justify it by saying that’s what everyone else makes. Or if you listen to the mayor he claims that you have to pay more to get better quality. That is the same empty argument the Banks and other financial businesses used to over pay their CEO’s and we saw what happened to those industries.

    I do agree with you that these folks (with one exception) in office don’t relate to the working classes of the city. Those who have to meet a mortgage or rent, raise a family and commute to work in another locale because these leaders can’t or don’t know how to generate business development. This group of politicians worry about their pension, cost of living increase, and if Medicare is being cut.

    As long as there continues to be an imbalance between residential development and commercial / industrial development this city will continue to decline.

    Unfortunately there won’t be any leaps with this lot even baby steps would be a monumental accomplishment for them.

    I am also in a voting quandary for this election cycle. Netts should be overturned by the voters as well as Moorman. However, I would rather jump out of a high-rise and cut my throat on the way down than vote for anyone from the racist tea party organization.

  5. SAW says:

    So, the Tea Party is divided huh ?

    Read the article above very carefully, and it becomes clear why this is the case, as the party chairman Mr.Lawrence a divider, often appears more interested in supporting the chamber, and their agenda, than working for we the people.

    While I do not know Mr.Cross, it seems someone or some group, tried to railroad him, and never wanted him in the race in the first place, for reasons only they know.

    Now that Mr.Cross fought to overcome that obstacle, Mr.Lawrence decides to go with, and to support a candidate favored by none other than the chamber.

    It’s time for the Tea Party membership to wake up, and to make a non connected person their chairman.

    Don’t be fooled, connect all the dots, and you will see, that for good or bad Mr.Lawrence is joined at the hip with this group, check it out at the following site.

    http://www.corporationwiki.com/Florida/Palm-Coast/thomas-lawrence-P3312394.aspx

  6. Val Jaffee says:

    …”Netts logs his mileage on four wheels, traveling the four corners of Northeast Florida as a member of councils and commissions with very long names. That’s when he’s not at his part-time job towing boats in distress on the Intracoastal.”…

    Makes one wonders how he finds the time for meeting his duties and obligations as mayor, and which would explain the state of affairs in our community, even with his hiring of a city manager, at another outrageous cost to taxpayers, to actually do his job. Forget the fact that the city manager has himself proven to be incompetent by repeating the very same mistakes that his home state of Texas did several years ago when it fell victim to a housing bubble. One would think he would have learned from this mistake rather than repeating it.

    Now us taxpayers are face with cleaning up their mess. Would an new mayor have to abide by the decisions and contracts made by the previous mayor or can he change these? Regardless of the answer, I feel that Mr. Ericksen deserves the opportunity instead of more of the same.

    Mr Netts is a retired school administrator. Well that also explains the overblown salaries of school administrators in this district even though the income demographic of the citizens of this community cannot afford these individuals.

  7. Jack Howell says:

    Yes, it is time for Nett’s to step down. Charlie Ericksen will bring soild leadership to the council. Charlie is the only one that has the intestinal fortitude to send “No Bid” Landon packing!

  8. Just 1 Vote says:

    This city has grown and prospered with Jon Netts as Mayor. What more can we ask for? And he does it with a smile. Vote for Jon Netts as mayor…it won’t be a vote wasted!

  9. Layla says:

    Love the way that everyone here lambasts the Tea Party and their so called “candidates”. The Tea Party here has yet to run or endorse ANY of the candidates running for office, local or otherwise.

    I wonder why that is so difficult to understand?

    The other comment I take issue with: “that these folks (with one exception) in office don’t relate to the working classes of the city. Those who have to meet a mortgage or rent, raise a family and commute to work in another locale because these leaders can’t or don’t know how to generate business development. This group of politicians worry about their pension, cost of living increase, and if Medicare is being cut.

    As long as there continues to be an imbalance between residential development and commercial / industrial development this city will continue to decline. ”

    Really? Can’t identify with any of what it takes to be Mayor? Couldn’t agree with you more. Palm Coast has a good assortment of politicians who have fantastic experience in all these areas.

    While I am not always happy with the decisions made by our manager and think he is overpaid, I like the fact that our council positions are parttime. Why should salary make a difference in who is elected? It certainly isn’t helping us in Congress!

    Run for office, if you don’t like the way things are being done. The more candidates, the merrier!

  10. Layla says:

    Meant to say “couldn’t DISAGREE you more.” Geesh!

  11. JO Losturo says:

    I agree with the first comment made by PJ. Obviously, the incumbent mayor knows very little about the,real. needs of the present population opf Palm Coast. These, “retired,” individuals do not have the best interests of young working families with children, and their education at heart. The men who look to run this city are still living in the past, where this was created for the retired crowd. This is NOT the Villages and this city needs REAL representation!

  12. palmcoaster says:

    Saw, you got it all clear and right! Though I am not a Tea Party fun,member or supporter I will vote for Mr. Cross simply because I found out the same reason you mention here. The railroading. Lawrence is one of the elite around town as well member of some of these same influential boards and FCCOC circle of exclusives. FCCOC gives full support to DeLorenzo…though not made public obviously yet. His wife Rebecca managed to get a VP job from Dough Baxter Chamber CEO, (head or whatever). The connection net is pretty thik and close as you all can see. Would not surprise me that Greg Rawls Enterprise head will end up getting a job “invented” in Flagler County by Manager Coffey as he brought him to Enterprise two years ago. That was what happened back when past county commissioners hired one of then Daytona News Journal employees writer editor Carl Laundrie creating his 63,000 position of county spoke person were he shows himself all the time on the county channel, taxpayers funded as well.
    Outsourcing alive and well.

  13. Bob says:

    In response to those saying they will vote for Mr. Cross simply because of Mr. Lawrence’s support for his opponent need to realize there is a reason Mr. Cross lost his last Grand Haven election by a land slide. I had the unpleasant experience, as did Mr. Lawrence, of dealing with Mr. Cross. There is a reason 61% of Grand Haven felt he was a detriment the their community. There are very few individuals I would prefer to work with less than Dennis Cross.

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