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GoToby’s Don Tobin Joins 8 Others Vying to Replace Frank Meeker on Palm Coast Council

| July 18, 2012

Toby Tobin. (

Toby Tobin. (Courtesy of Toby Tobin)

He’s spent the last six years observing, analyzing, lauding and at times criticizing Palm Coast and Flagler County politics from his virtual command post at, a widely read website with a focus on real estate. Now, Don Tobin—best known as Toby—is making a run for the Palm Coast City Council seat being vacated in November by Frank Meeker, who’s running for the county commission.

It’s not quite an election. Or rather, as Tobin describes it, “it’s an election with a constituency of four.” The Palm Coast mayor and three council members will appoint Meeker’s replacement after whittling through a list of applicants, interviewing those on their shortlist, and voting for a top choice, repeatedly if necessary, until they have a chosen one. That will take place in November. Meeker is not stepping down until the Nov. 6 election. His late announcement for the commission seat meant that an actual election to fill the remaining two years on his term could not be held.

Nine names, including Tobin’s, are in the city’s hopper as of today: Joel Rosen, Tony Amaral Jr, Greg Hansen, Norman Mugford, James Bradshaw, John Distler, Nicole Mazie (who is no relation to Ken Mazzie, the accountant and candidate for Flagler County clerk of court), and Joe Rossheim. Mugford is a member of the city’s code enforcement board, the only applicant, so far, serving on one of the city’s boards. Tobin’s name is the most publicly recognizable, if not the most surprising on the list: Earlier this year he fractured a hip and has been recovering since, with orders to stay off his feet until August, though aside from a brief spell, he’s not laid off his 24/7 work habits.

Tobin has several concerns. city-county relations had improved only to begin deteriorating again.

The recent battle over the renewal of the half-cent sales tax is an example, with the county looking to increase its share of the revenue, Palm Coast standing firm on preserving its current share, and no workable compromise from either side, until the county commission conceded on Monday that its own intransigence could mean certain defeat for the proposal at the polls. The county is again pleading with the cities.

Economic development is another top issue for Tobin, as it has been for most candidates and sitting representatives. “That’s an example of an issue that’s been fragmented because of the lack of cooperation,” Tobin said. The city has what it calls Prosperity 2021, but Tobin isn’t convinced of the substance behind the program. “I don’t know, when I was in business, you’d see these great powerpoints, but that’s all they were, great powerpoints.”

He’s more impressed by the county’s approach. “At least the county with Helga has taken a well-defined stand and has moved forward with it,” he said, referring to Helga van Eckert, the county’s new economic development director. “We had a good acquisition with Helga. I think she was a stroke of good fortune for us, I’m impressed with her, and I think the results of her efforts, the county’s efforts, will be good for everybody.”

He’d have rather seen the city hitch its economic development efforts to those of the county, with a more holistic approach to development. “It’s nice for the city to promote economic development, but at the city level I think that’s myopic,” Tobin said. For example: balancing the county’s tax base by reducing its dependence on residential development, increasing commercial and industrial development—and looking to Bunnell as a natural place, geographically, for that growth. Job creation would benefit both cities and the county.

Second, Palm Coast, once it has re-built Bulldog Drive (one of the entrances to Town Center) should look at ending the Town Center Community Redevelopment Agency (a special taxing district meant to develop that particular area, but that the considerable expense of tax revenue for the county). The city approved three other similar, major developments (called developments of regional impact, but not CRAs), but neither those nor Town Center are likely to see the sort of booming development that could build them out any time soon, Tobin said. Meanwhile, the city could do something to encourage at least more active development.

Which leads to his third point: impact fees, which are slapped on top of the cost of a new home or business, could be lifted for a couple of years. The impact fee on a residential home (combining all its components, including transportation, parks, schools) adds up to roughly $16,000. With median home prices now ranging between $115,000 and $130,000, that accounts for 12 percent of the cost of a home or more. “Impact fees are a hidden tax and I think their effect is much more profound than many people think,” Tobin said, describing impact fees as a regressive tax.

Meeker, on the council, has been pushing for an impact fee moratorium. He has support from council member Jason deLorenzo, who works for the county’s homebuilders’ association. But so far the third vote has been elusive.

Fees in general irritate Tobin, particularly when they’re masking a tax: franchise fees on people’s garbage, water or utility taxes, for example, are, in fact, little different from taxes. The city should be more transparent about that when it slaps them on, or proposes them, as it recently did with a utility franchise fee (the council ultimately rejected that proposal).

More generally, Tobin said he’d look to improve transparency and cohesion between governments, pointing at one particular problem. “I think it’s a lot of ego,” Tobin said, with characteristic candor. “I said before we have too many dogs pissing on too many trees.” He’s been pleased with the greater independence of two newly elected council members: deLorenzo and Bill McGuire.

If picked for the position, Tobin would not abandon It’s his income, and what council salary (a little over $9,000) he would make would not be enough to replace it. “I’m kind of a 7/24 worker anyway,” Tobins aid. “The on switch is always on. I frankly don’t see a conflict with my publishing GoToby or a conflict with my being a Realtor anymore than I’d see a conflict with my being in Rotary International or in the Chamber of Commerce. All those things are part of what defines me. My website, GoToby, is a blog, and it’s fairly widely read in a narrow community—people who are interested in real estate. It’s not a political blog.”

Tobin, 69, was born in Springville, N.Y. He has a B.S. from the University of Rochester. He spent the first third of his career in technical management—what was then known as a data processing manager, a title more recently gentrified to “information technology” and its likes. He then worked in sales (selling hardware and software to medium to large companies) until the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000. He then did technology consulting before getting his real estate license in 2004 in Palm Coast, and launching, which has earned him broad acclaim and national attention.


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21 Responses for “GoToby’s Don Tobin Joins 8 Others Vying to Replace Frank Meeker on Palm Coast Council”

  1. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    He would be an excellent addition to the council.

  2. John Boy says:

    Got my support.

  3. tulip says:

    Mr. Tobin’s 3rd comment regarding a moratorium on impact fees on new homes bothers me. First, I think it’s unfair that those of us living here had to pay an impact fee so why should newcomers get a free ride? The new people that buy a new house will have kids in the schools, driving the roads, using the city services, etc.

    Another fear I have is that if this moratorium does go into effect, that leaves builders and developers making more profits because they can “tack on” a couple more thousand dollars on the price of their homes, real estate people and get their friends and family to take advantage of no impact fees at the expense of the rest of us. If the impact fees were lowered by, let’s just say, 25%, that would help the buyer but the buyer wouldn’t be getting a free ride. Also, if a lot of new home contstruction came about, minus an impact fee, those people selling an existing home would have to sell at a lesser price than they wanted to——Why buy existing, when I can buy brand new for such a good price?

    There are a number people who are directly or indirectly involved in real estate related matters that are in office,
    or running for office bothers me in the fact that most decisions made in such matters could be in favor or realestate and developer/builders to their advantage and not to the rest of us. People can say that construction brings jobs—that’s true, but when the construction is done–then what and we could have even more empty buildings and houses.

    Not only that, but if impact fees were totally eliminated, that decreases the amount of money the cities and county get in revenue. Who gets to make up that deficit through higher taxes? The homeowner. JMO

  4. Kendall says:

    I agree with you Tulip. We the homeowners are already being negatively affected by the drops in values and the blighted properties throughout town. We don’t need our taxes to increase to make it easier for new construction.

    For that, Toby may not have my support.

  5. Will says:

    The impact fee question divides thought into two camps”

    What’s the benefit to ME?


    What’s the benefit to the community?

    For a number of Florida communities, the community side has been the winner.

  6. PJ says:


    Toby would be a great help to the board along with Tony Amaral Jr. these folks understand what it is going to take to get the board back on track.

    If not I’d rather vote for a corn broom…………….

  7. JOHN R. says:

    I agree with Tulip. There are too many politicians on the City Council and the Flagler County Commission with day jobs that potentially could present a conflict of interest. I hope the person selected will have no such potential conflicts. BTW, why is the individual being picked by the group that runs the city and why is there not a vote by the people?

  8. Robert Lewis says:

    I would like to know more about all the candidates. I really would like to urge city officials or even Flagler Live to do a small profile on each of the potential candidates.

    One note must be made is that Ronald Reagan Assembly Treasurer and Husband of frequent commenter Linda H.; Greg Hansen is also applying.

    I welcome all of the candidates applying for the job to please post something, tell us who you are and why you want to serve the City of Palm Coast. It is important that the public know who you are. Good Luck to all of the applicants.

  9. palmcoaster says:

    Toby seems very much on the county side….we need a councilman not a county commissioner interest in the city council.

  10. Will says:

    @ Palmcoaster – Toby is a city resident and a self employed business person. How can you say he seems “very much on the county side”? He’s very aware of how county and city issues affect each other.

    @ John R. – It’s good to look for conflicts of interest, however some people seem to confuse experience in business or government with potential conflicts when it simply seems that the candidate is educated on the issues. I like to see council and commission members who 1) know what they’re talking about and 2) have something else to do with their lives than to prolong endless meetings.

  11. palmcoaster says:

    @Will: That Toby is a city resident does not prove anything. So are Hanns, Peterson, McLaughlin and Holland and in too many issues voted only to proceed with Palm Coast residents perpetuation of overpaying this county for services non rendered while approving waste and against our city of Palm Coast residents best interest, while we are the one’s that sustain this county tax basis. I saw Toby thru out the years too enamored with the FCCOC (Chamber of Commerce) and the BOCC, to be a fair city councilman. In meetings I never was able to speak a word to him as he turned away as soon as he could, giving me the impression that he seats in his own pedestal higher up, to lower his attention to this fellow city resident. Maybe because he is used to leave “gated” like he did mostly in Grand Have, where if not invited one can’t get in, until he bought in Tidelands “gated” as well.. Many times the popularity of an individual should not be the best credentials to represent our city resident taxpayers interest. I like councilmen that we can approach and talk to like Mr. McGuire, Meeker even Mayor Netts that has been much more cordial than his predecessor Canfield on his pedestal. We sure don’t need walls of superiority to climb to be heard. Just my personal experience thru the years with Don Toby…The city council seat should not become a prize for a popularity contest.

  12. Will says:


    I’ve always found Don “Toby” Tobin to be very approachable and a good conversationalist too. Maybe you should give him another chance.

    I don’t understand why you say he could not be a fair city councilman because of his involvement with other public and semi public organizations. From my perspective, the knowledge he’s gained from those organizations would give him an advantage in understanding the issues and implications of problems coming before the council.

  13. Waste says:

    Maybe Mr. Tobin and others should realize that if housing is stable the county can move forward. To start building or hold impact fees will not further stabilize the situation. How about reading what a city is doing in CA to stablize their housing? I tend to see that a Japan type housing has been in effect here for the last 6 years and we need to think outside the box to recover.

    Putting a hold on fees does nothing to fix the obvious, it only promotes further growth and less stabilization.

  14. BW says:

    I think Toby is a good candidate for this position. He’s uniquely aware of and very in-tune with the local community. His perspectives are very objective, well researched, and clearly stated.

    In terms of local real estate and the benefit of a moratorium on impact fees, I think some points are being missed. We are at one of the lowest points of inventory of existing houses for sale (under 800) which can negatively impact a growing demand. In fact, we are already seeing some repercussions of that this year. More residents from existing and newer homes means more ad valorem tax revenue and everyone benefits from local residents to local businesses. The argument that new builds negatively impact existing values is misguided in my opinion. New builds tend to be better homes and better brand new homes in your neighborhood actually bring values up. Should we repeat the swath of spec homes built in years past with the “build it and they will come” attitude? No, I don’t think that is best. And builders have learned and we have builders that are working very smart today.

    I give Toby a thumbs up and appreciate all he’s done to keep the local community informed.

  15. palmcoaster says:

    @Will. Regarding your words ” the knowledge he’s gained from those organizations” I will respond with “what kind of learning?” and I would question the following:

    A) Learning from BOCC how to best squeeze taxpayers funds from Palm Coast before and after 1999 incorporation, in order to waste in frivolous astronomically expensive lavish structures like the Taj Mahal, the Justice Center (court house) other than a much needed jail, the showy EMS structure and the armada of red vehicles and the over 80,000/year boss of the boss of the boss, positions to run that show that seat around mostly with their hands on their pockets serving around 20% of this county as each city as its own service. Palm Coast taxpayers paying for the Cakes Across our Pockets and the Ginn Hangar etc, etc. Now shoving the 95 Interchange down our throats during a pathetic disastrous economy and a new millionaire jail as well. All the above to benefit developers and the approving officials on the backs of the overburdened taxpayer on a county with less than 97,000 souls to foot the bill and the highest unemployment rate in the state?

    B) Learn from FCCOC how to best outsource out of this county and even compete with its own paying members. No wonder out of over 5,000 businesses registered in this county only about 22% if so, are Chamber members. Learning from them how to best manipulate our local elections by openly supporting their elite candidates or issues and lobbying hard to be granted more and more taxpayers monies to spend in non proven of success projects? Supporting and cheering projects like the old Palm Harbor Centex Resort against the best interest of the surrounding residents that produced 300 jobs losses never to be recovered in Palm Coast?

    Is this the learning that Mr. Toby could be using as a councilman and to help Palm Coast residents..? May the Almighty help us then. Just my personal concerns.

  16. Deep South says:

    He seems to have a pulse on the happenings in Palm Coast. Enjoy reading his predictions on his website, some of them come through. But sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug.

  17. tulip says:

    @ Deep South——-Paying attention to what’s happening in real estate, housing, new construction is his job in order to inform people on his website. Anyone can keep abreast of this things by reading up on them. However, too many people in volved in Real estate and members, or even trustee members of the Chamber of Commerce sitting on “governing seats” can be a little dangerous in that they can wind up with control of the vote in their favor, or they are influenced by their own peers in their profession or organization. A diversified group is better and less opinionated. JMO

  18. Donna Heiss says:

    Just a clarification. We have received many phone calls on the application of Nicole Mazie. There is a difference in the spelling of the name. We are not related to her and do not know her.

    I am Donna Heiss, wife of Ken Mazzie who is running for Clerk of Court.

    [We’ve made the correction and clarification Donna. Thanks for the alert.–FL]

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