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Peterson Draws Commission Challenge From Ericksen, the Man He Introduced to Politics

| February 20, 2012

Charlie Ericksen Jr., left, owes his first spring into politics to Alan Peterson. (© FlaglerLive)

Alan Peterson was the top vote-getter in the 2005 Palm Coast City Council primary and general elections, finally beating out Bill Lewis. Three years later, Peterson decided to run for the Flagler County Commission seat Jim O’Connell decided not to run for again. Peterson won that seat.

At the time, Charlie Ericksen, then 64, hadn’t lived in palm Coast very long, but he’d already become a fixture at council meetings and in local Republican circles. The council was looking for applicants to complete Peterson’s term. “It was Allen that recommended me for that seat, and it was he who pushed me to put my name in,” Ericksen said. Ericksen did, and was among four finalists out of 14 who applied, though he eventually lost out to Lewis.

Peterson might be having second thoughts about jump-starting Ericksen’s political interests: Ericksen, who lost his first election just last summer to another fellow-Republican–incumbent Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts, who won with 54 percent to Ericksen’s 41 percent–will challenge Peterson in the Aug. 14 primary.

Three county commission seats are up this year. Barbara Revels and George Hanns are also running for reelection. Hanns, a Democrat, said he’ll pay the nearly $3,000 qualification fee rather than gather the 671 petitions necessary to avoid the fee. One challenger has filed for that seat: Republican Herb Whitacker, who challenged Hanns four years ago and lost by four points. Revels, a Democrat, has drawn no opponent.

Ericksen said several people approached him immediately after his loss to Netts to encourage him to run for other offices, most recently John Walsh, the Palm Coast Observer publisher (whose paper endorsed Netts over Ericksen). “He just said that every elected official should have some competition and he asked me what my plans were and he never specifically said any one campaign would be better than the other,” Eriocksen said. “He talked about the judicial, the commissioner seats, he talked about the new state, congressional seat, and he talked about the new federal congressional seat but he never specifically said that I should do anything.”

Ericksen’s main concern over another run has been physical: he has a bad ankle that at times keeps him from walking as freely as he wishes, and considered ankle-replacement surgery until earlier this month, then last week opted for another run for office. “I’ve limped around for five or six years, I can do OK for another year,” he said.

Peterson was surprised by Ericksen’s decision. “But as people say, everybody should have some competition in order to explain their goals and objectives,” Peterson said.

Asked whom he’d voted for in the Ericksen-Netts contest, Peterson said: “My choice was Jon Netts because I felt he had done a good job, and I felt that you need to serve on some committees or elected positions prior to running for the top elected job in the city. It’s very difficult for somebody who’s never served to appreciate and understand the compromises essential to government in order to accomplish anything.”

Ericksen is a retired insurance executive. He’s not an ideologue, but fiscal conservatism and running government as a business frame his thinking. Peterson, a retired banking executive, considers himself a fiscal conservative as well, but Ericksen, who has yet to develop his campaign’s themes, criticizes Peterson on two counts: the commissioner, Ericksen said, was too quick to go along with talk of employee raises in the coming budget: “The commission doesn’t tell the county administrator how to run the day to day operation but I still think the county administrator needs to be given direction up front before he goes out to prepare the budget and the commission comes back and reviews it,” Ericksen said. While conceding that the county is spending about $9.5 million less today than it was four years ago, Ericksen asked: “Should we have been spending the $9 million in advance anyway? Maybe these were services that we really didn’t need.”

Peterson’s reply: “That money was spent prior to my being on the county commission. Once I was on the county commission we started to take a hard look at our expenses.” A lot of the previous spending, he said, was geared to the county’s rapid growth and the demands for maintaining a certain level of service.

Ericksen was also critical of Peterson’s signature issue–economic development. “I would have had better control of the economic development summits that we did. I don’t think a lot came out of that other than people talking to each other,” Ericksen said, though he noted more recent progress with the addition of an executive to run the county’s economic development department.

Peterson said the criticism is misplaced. “We have established a committee of eight individuals from the county that have vast experience in economic development, and they clearly can give a credible analysis to these companies that would like to relocate in the county,” Peterson said. “In addition, we’ve hired an individual with a strong record in economic development,” he said, referring to Helga van Eckert, the department’s new chief, “so I think a lot of things came out of that summit, and that the summit accomplished what it was intended to do, which was to establish an entirely new economic development organization.”

Ericksen’s campaign against Netts at times lacked definition, and in joint appearances at candidate forums, Netts easily outplayed Ericksen on several issues, marshaling facts and anecdotes to convey the sense of a sure hand at the city’s helm. But Netts can command an audience as no other local politician can. Peterson is not as sure-footed, and his backing from local Republicans is unsteady.

“It’s difficult any time to unseat an incumbent,” Ericksen said. Looking back at his race against Netts, he said: “I need to be more specific in what my plans would be. I need to critique why I believe the incumbent or what I could do better on issues that the incumbent has handled. I need to get out and meet more people on the street, and talk to more people.”

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17 Responses for “Peterson Draws Commission Challenge From Ericksen, the Man He Introduced to Politics”

  1. Joe A. says:

    I do not care much for Mr. Peterson, he is a Massachusetts Liberal posing as a Republican. On the other hand, I am not that interested in seeing Mr. Ericksen run either. Mr. Ericksen ran for Mayor and now County Commissioner. If he loses this election, what will he run for next year?

    We need people to run for office that will serve the community, not themselves. I really would like to see what other seats Mr. Ericksen will seek next year if he does not win. I believe Mr. Ericksen is too good of a man to become “that guy” who runs for office just to run for office.

    • Linda says:

      Why on earth would you think that Mr. Ericksen is running to serve himself? Did you read the article? He was asked to run.

      Joe A, have you ever served in elected office, run for elected office? If so, were you doing it for you or to serve the community?

      Not sure I understand your statement. For a long time, Palm Coast has held uncontested elections. Do you think that makes for good government? I don’t.

      It’s tough finding good strong candidates to run for office here. I’m just glad we have someone as qualified as Mr. Ericksen willing to give it a go.

  2. palmcoaster says:

    Not needed a banker or insurance former executive in this county. We have already enough of them running the show here. What about a small business owner that resides in that district. Anyone with a small business that employs already some of our local workers and that was intelligent, hard working and competitive enough to survive the ongoing economic crises and is still open for business! What about a lady managing successfully in today’s pathetic economy her household and her very good student children in the family? C’ mon, I know is plenty that good out there, and those are the one’s that make America great!. Don’t be shy we all need you and will give you all our support! We need one of us to represent us.

  3. Gia says:

    Both should take their toys & get out of this area.

    • Layla says:

      Who would you like to see run, Gia? If someone is a former executive, you don’t want them?

      Palmcoaster, “not needed a banker or former executive in this county?”

      Then ladies, I look forward to your candidacies!

  4. palmcoaster says:

    @Linda. Thank you for the suggestion but I have current businesses that are very demanding and barely leave spare time to help in election time our current and past supervisors of elections by working the precints. I am not retired yet. I will consider it then. Between the two I would go for Ericksen, unless that a third better candidate will surface. Hope so.

  5. PJ says:

    Ericksen is a good choice when you compare the talent. He will ask the demanding questions that get results. Ericksen is well organized and can run a strong campain. I like him so far!

  6. Think first, act second says:

    I have a question about Mr. Petersons statement that the economic summit did what it was designed to do, create a new economic development organization. We needed to spend $40,000 for someone to tell them we needed a new organization? Is that what the purpose was of the summit, or is that all that can be defined as coming out of it, just to justify the expense?
    If memory serves me I believe the decision to do away with Enterprise Flagler had been made and a new organization was to be formed. I don’t have the archives to refer to.
    Is this not really true rhetoric!

  7. Beach Goer says:

    Alan Peterson Pack your bags. You need to go back to Mass. You may have been a hero there, but you are a Zero here.

  8. Joe A. says:

    Compared to the incumbent anyone is good.

    @ Linda – who asked him to run? The Republican Party? The Tea Party? Who?

    I would of loved to seen Mr. Ericksen become Mayor. I voted for him last September. I wish him luck in this race. I just would hate to see if he lost, him make an attempt to run for another office next year.

    The point I am trying to make- do not be the guy who runs for office every year just to run. Be the guy who is passionate about serving the community you live in. You lose credibility with the voters when your name is always on the ballot.

  9. Anonymous says:

    (Joe A. says:
    Mr. Ericksen ran for Mayor and now County Commissioner. If he loses this election, what will he run for next year?

    We need people to run for office that will serve the community, not themselves. I really would like to see what other seats Mr. Ericksen will seek next year if he does not win. I believe Mr. Ericksen is too good of a man to become “that guy” who runs for office just to run for office. )

    not sure as of yet who will get my vote but i dontget your thoughts on this? What is wrong with one trying again and again to “sever” us the people of the County or City of palmcoast. We need people who look to serve do we want the same old same old year after year?

    • Joe A. says:

      When a candidate runs for office repeatedly they lose credibility with the voters. What ends up happening is good candidates lose their steam and become unelectable for the future.

      If I ran for Council in 2008, Dog Catcher 2009, Comptroller 2010, Mayor 2011 and County Commission in 2012 – people would say “oh that Joe is running for office again.” They are not excited and they are not motivated to see me run, because they have been hearing me for the last 4 years.

      I am just hoping Mr. Ericksen’s candidacy is one that is spirited and he has the dedication for the job. I want a man of the people to be elected, something that Alan Peterson is not. I believe Mr. Ericksen is a good man, I just would hate to see if he lost, him try and run for another office next year.

      Heck, I would even caution running this year as it is not even a year since his lost last year. I would like to see him run again for Mayor in 4 years.

  10. Jack says:

    Ericksen is a big supporter of the local Chamber, if that sheds any light on who he’ll be supporting.

  11. Will says:

    Both Mr. Peterson and Mr. Ericsen are intelligent and likable men. Both good candidates. Not perfect, maybe, but very good.

    Having said that, I’m wondering about “Jack”s comment about Ericksen supporting the Chamber. Peterson supports the Chamber of Commerce too, on some issues, but not all. I suspect the same of Ericksen.

    The Flagler County Chamber of Commerce and Affiliates do not march in lockstep with either the Florida Chamber or the US Chamber when local interests are more pressing and important on some issues. Why in the world would we want to support any candidate for County BOC or for City Council in several cities here for that matter if they don’t have at least a working relationship with the 850 or so volunteer members of our pro-local-business organization?

    That doesn’t mean agreement on every issue – but a willingness to be involved in finding common ground to solve local problems.

    • Jack says:

      I agree that the local chambers throughout the nation don’t take their marching orders from the larger USC0fC, It’s Ericksen’s unusally CLOSE relationship with the chamber that makes me nervous. That gives me the impression he will be supporting businesses over the community-at-large. I’m not anti-business just anti-cronyism it exists on the city, county, state and federal levels.

  12. Will says:

    Jack, I’m not sure what you mean by “close”? I see Mr. Ericksen from time to time at chamber meetings but not more often than I see the PC mayor or council members or several members of the County Commission, including Commissioner Peterson.

    Ericsen goes to many city and county meetings too – probably more than at the chamber. Many leaders from around the community attend some chamber events. He has a business background, so it’s not unexpected to see him there occasionally.

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