Ken Mazzie, Flagler County Commission Candidate: The Live Interview
FlaglerLive | August 11, 2016
Ken Mazzie is a Republican candidate for Flagler County Commission, District 1. His opponents in the Republican primary are Charlie Ericksen and Dan Potter. The winner will face Democrat Jason DeLorenzo in the Nov. 8 general election.
Three seats are up on the commission in this election cycle, and a fourth seat, that of the late Frank Meeker, will be filled by governor appointment. That means that potentially, all but one seat on the commission–the one currently held by Nate McLaughlin–could turn over.
This is partisan election. That means only registered Republican voters in Flagler County, regardless of address or district, may cast a ballot in the Aug. 30 primary. The two incumbent Democrats have drawn no opponents in their primaries, so they do not appear on the primary ballot.
Flagler County Commission members serve four years. They’re paid $50,900 a year.
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. Undocumented claims are edited out. Answers are also edited for length, redundancy, 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.
The Questions in Summary: Quick Links
- Critical issues
- Good and bad of county government
- EMS and fire services
- Emergency communications
- County v. Palm Coast
- Civil citations
- Economic development
- Major projects
- Craig Coffey
- Incumbency v. change
- Background check
Place and Date of Birth: Passaic, N.J., April 24, 1957
Current job: CPA; owner/manager of accounting firm that provides assurance services, tax planning and preparation and asset management services.
Party Affiliation: Republican
Net Worth and Financial Disclosure: $447,234. Mazzie declined to turn in his form as requested. You can read it here.
719 signed and validated candidate petitions and Flagler County resident of District 1. More about my education and professional background is available at the website.
Eligibility and resume aside, what qualifies you to be a commissioner?
See the resume for qualifications and experience. As a member of the Ad Hoc Budget Committee, we reviewed each county department individually along with each line item in the county budget. Two recommendations from the committee that were implemented: advertising on county transportation buses to increase revenue and implementation of employee medical clinic to reduce healthcare expenses.
The medical clinic’s $1.5 million hit this year is one reason the county commission is raising taxes. Do you still consider the clinic recommendation a good one? If so, why?
2. Tell us who you are as a person—what human qualities and shortcomings you’ll bring to the board, what your temperament is like: what would your enemies say is your best quality, and what would your friends say is your worst fault? Give is real-life examples to illustrate your answer.
As I contemplate this answer, I am taking time to tend to my mother who suffered a stroke this past weekend. Even though it is considered a minor brain bleed and there are no changes to her physical appearance, mentally she is a different person. I reflect with a heavy heart and the situation puts life in perspective and makes one contemplate one’s own ambitions. This has brought my level of patience to a new level. Searching out affordable care options requires creative thinking and persistence along with the patience necessary when dealing with her situation. When I was a child, a family friend once called me industrious. I didn’t know what it meant at the time. Having found out what it meant later in life, I would say that this may be one of my virtues but may also be one of my faults as I may tend to be too industrious at times. It may have all started when my dad would bring home bicycles that he would pick from the garbage. I would get great pleasure from taking parts and making a bicycle.
No one would fault you or anyone for being too industrious, though many a candidate turns this question about one’s flaws into an attempt to veil a quality as a flaw. Surely you can tell us of a flaw that would become apparent to your fellow-county commissioners.
Each county commissioner with their own personality would view any trait differently and this question would best be answered by them. But I do tend to swing too hard when golfing.
Clever. But not an answer. Judging from other questions in this interview, might evading questions be that flaw?
The last budget workshop I attended left me somewhat concerned because of the questions asked by the commissioners; there did not seem to be enough substance or desire to find revenue streams or identify areas of overspending. Beach erosion in Flagler Beach is also a critical issue facing the county on several levels. We need to maintain our beaches to promote tourism. The cost to replenish a beach as well as the longevity of the repair are concerns that need to be addressed. My family owned a house on the Jersey shore for 30 years and I am familiar with the issues and process. Dealing with this issue leads me to the third critical issue: developing and maintaining a sound working relationship with the city governments within the county.
Where specifically do you see overspending? Can you cite two examples? The county is in the midst of addressing beach erosion with an extensive plan it’s been working on for many years, lining up potential funding sources and methods of doing the work, following a study by the U.S. Corps of Engineers. Do you disagree with the county’s approach? If so, what’s your alternative? What would you offer that current commissioners do not regarding better working relationships with city governments?
The original question revolved around critical issues. The budget is a working document used as a guide for future income and spending. I don’t necessarily see “overspending.” I do see the need for us to continue to be smart about how we spend our money.
The county government is doing well. We are fiscally sound as evidenced by our bond rating. I would work to maintain our fiscal rating and use my experience as a CPA, business and financial manager to improve our position by focusing on redundancy, waste and efficiency.
The question is posed in hopes of revealing your knowledge about what the government is doing well specifically, as well as what it’s doing poorly. Can you cite examples? When you mention redundancy and waste, can you give a specific example of each, and what you would do about it?
Our county government continues to operate well. When I was on the Budget Ad Hoc Committee, there was little room to cut spending without sacrificing services. Partnering with local governments to provide services, create economies of scale and reduce waste needs attention.
You are making large claims without citing examples, so we’re left with statements that may sound good but are not attached to anything tangible. Anyone can make such claims. You’re running for office: can you point to one example of waste? One area where “economies of scale” would work better than currently?
5. What would you change about the EMS, or ambulance, system in the county and in Palm Coast, if anything? Where do you stand on consolidation of fire services with cities, understanding that cities would be resistant: would consolidation save money? To what extent do you think turf and pride as opposed to bottom lines prevent consolidation?
I have lived in the county since approximately 2003 and it was an issue then. I was appointed to the Flagler County Ad Hoc Budget Committee in 2009 and remember standing up and circling all the city and county fire stations in proximity to one another and asking why the redundancy. The old time residents said that will never change and it was not brought up again. The point is that if a discussion was started in 2009, I expect we would be well on our way to a resolution by this time. Formulating a plan to phase out any redundancy over time so jobs and careers are preserved and service not jeopardized should be discussed. It is encouraging to see that the first steps may have been taken with the meeting in early May. Consolidation could possibly save money, but that can only be determined after a plan agreeable to all is formulated.
Redundancy to our knowledge has not been at the top of the agenda of recent discussions, so much as the division of resources: Palm Coast would like to see more ambulances in the city, for example, and both county and city government see an eventual need for additional fire stations, not fewer (in Seminole Woods, for example). How do you define redundancy, and where do you see it specifically?
Consolidation of fire city/county fire services would save taxpayers a considerable amount of money. The county and the city both always respond to fire and medical calls in the City of Palm Coast (although one may be called back when responding). For a medical call, the county sends an ambulance and the city sends a fire truck. Although this is not the county’s problem, as a taxpayer, we should have more efficient use of our tax dollars.
Can you document the claim that consolidation would save “considerable amount of money”?
6. Explain where we are as a county with our 800 mhz emergency communications system and evaluate the county’s approach in updating the system, explaining where you see flaws or strengths in that approach. Palm Coast and the sheriff consider the county’s approach to be laggard. Do you agree?
Current 800mhz EDACS is a proprietary system that will no longer be supported by the manufacturer starting in 2018. We need to transition to the P25 system to be compliant with federal grant funding. Transitioning over the next few years seems fiscally prudent while not jeopardizing the safety of the public. The transition to the P25 units should be accelerated in those agencies that benefit most from the upgrade (sheriff and EMS).
The county’s debt on the current system will not be retired before 2020. Are you willing to have additional debt to accelerate the transition before 2020?
All though the debt may not be retired until 2020, the equipment being financed will no longer be supported by the manufacturer in 2018. The acquisition of new equipment should be financed over its useful life. With the counties bond rating of AA for its general obligation bonds and AA- for its non-property tax debt, we may have the opportunity to roll any unpaid debt on the old equipment into a new equipment financing agreement which may improve cash flow and reduce interest costs.
7. Palm Coast and the county have a sniping, at times competitive, at times antagonistic relationship, as if between fiefs. To what extent are the two elected bodies responsible? To what extent are the two government’s managers responsible? How will you help foster a less medieval relationship?
Each government has a responsibility to its citizens to have their best interests in mind and each will work to protect their interests. I get that. We all know that in the end we pay with our tax dollars for the services delivered no matter which government entity is the provider. Maybe a change in city and county board members may help to break “institutional gridlock” and new individuals can possibly foster a better working relationship. If the current situation is not working, change it.
But in your analysis, where does the current issue originate? Is it a managerial issue? A commission issue? A council issue? And if changing it is the solution, what will you specifically do to that end, beyond holding a seat on the commission?
I love this one! In my opinion, the issue originates with public perception driven by the media. Bad news sells.
It’s confusing. On one hand it’s the media’s fault, but in your original answer you spoke of a change to break gridlock and individuals like you possibly fostering “a better working relationship,” which implies that there is a problem. So, in fact, there isn’t, and Charlie Ericksen and Craig Coffey are doing fine where they are?
Offenders caught with small amounts of pot should be treated as a misdemeanor equivalent to a traffic citation. I can’t see ruining a person’s life for a small amount of pot.
9. Between March 2010 and March 2016, Flagler County residents holding jobs increased by 52 percent (or by 15,000). Only a few dozen of those jobs can be attributed to the county’s $500,000-a-year economic development department, keeping in mind that the department’s most touted job coup—the 300-job promise of Aveo Engineering at the airport—was a bust. Is that department still necessary? Can you point to substantial reasons and examples that make its expense worth the price to taxpayers?
Seems hard to justify. Should be addressed at budget workshops.
Can you be more detailed about your conclusion?
Only that as a department of the county, funded by the county, it should be reviewed on a periodic basis to see if the benefit outweighs the cost.
10. The past four years were dominated by major capital projects: a new sheriff’s operations center, an expanded jail, the taxpayer-subsidized transformation of the old courthouse into a parochial school, and the acquisition of the Plantation bay utility. What, on your watch, will be the next batch of major projects? Rate, in order of importance, the following projects: a senior center, a new library, a west-side fire station
I don’t have any batch or major projects on my mind. We already have a number of major projects either in progress or in discussion. Order of importance would be west side fire station, new library and senior center.
Overall satisfactory job. I worked directly with Craig Coffee when I was a member of the Flagler County Ad Hoc Budget Committee where he was efficient and knowledgeable. In my opinion, one of his strengths is to admit if he does not have an answer and do the research necessary to get answers. In my opinion, an area of concern is his ability to lead or sway the County Commission.
Your last sentence warrants more explanation, or at least clarification: do you see Coffey as leading the commission too much or too little? As a persuasive or non-persuasive administrator?
Mr. Coffey is a very good administrator, smart, quick learner and persuasive, all positive qualities. If he has more knowledge of the facts than a commissioner, if he has a better understanding of the depth of an issue, it may be because he is still active in the working world and exposed to more varied situations as opposed to a retired commissioner that may draw their knowledge from a limited pool of experiences that are 10 years old, or perhaps more.
12. In this election, all three county commissioners are facing challengers. If you’re one of those challengers, and understanding there is inherent value in the experience of an incumbent and the institutional continuity, history and understanding that the incumbent represents, what are three reasons that justify removing him or her? If you are the incumbent, what are three reasons that justify keeping you beyond institutional advantages?
When I first decided to run, the commissioner for my district was not going to run due to medical issues similar to those referenced in question #2 but after receiving “medical clearance” from his doctor, he decided to enter the race. I am staying in the race because I have seen first hand how a minor brain bleed can impact a person cognitively. All the commissioners were new at one time and the commission is doing well so I am not concerned with “institutional continuity.” It will have to be up to the voters to decide the importance of “institutional continuity” vs. clear thinking, new ideas and energy.
Are you saying that Commissioner Charlie Ericksen would no longer be capable of being an effective commissioner? Had he not had his brain bleed, would you not have run?
Approximately a year ago, in July 2015, Charlie Ericksen was uncertain about running and provided an endorsement to Mr. DeLorenzo. It is my understanding that Ericksen decided to enter the race after he received clearance from his doctor in December. Last month, my mother suffered a similar episode. She has no physical signs, but her memory and judgement are impaired. I like Charlie, have known him for years, he is a different person since his episode. I would not be running if I thought Mr. Ericksen could effectively serve out another four-year term.
At this point in my life, it would be hard to mold me into anything; my formative years are in my rear view mirror. I bring with me professional experience in accounting, finance, economics, insurance and investments along with compassion.
You appear to have misread the question. Who on the current commission do you think most closely mirrors your beliefs and approach to governance?
I do not know the commissioners well enough to comment on their beliefs and approach to governance.
But you claim to know them well enough to judge their work, as you do in above answers, and judge yourself more capable at governance than sitting commissioners. How do you explain the contradiction?
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? If so, please explain, including cases where charges did not lead to conviction.
15. Question customized for Ken Mazzie: We’re not getting a clear sense of why you decided to run. By your own account you give the county good marks for its fiscal probity, so it doesn’t seem to need an accountant. You give Craig Coffey good marks. You;d like to see more questions asked about spending and revenue, but you’ve not given us a clear purpose–a vision, if you like–for your candidacy. Going a little further than election slogans, what would that be?
The county commission needs someone who gets involved in pursuing information on issues, gives them thought, asks questions and participates. Some decisions seem to be rubber stamped without being studied and discussed in an unbiased way. I also would be a candidate that is not a realtor, builder, or associated with the building industry on a daily basis and would provide a different perspective.
Can you give us one or two recent examples of decisions that were “rubber stamped without being studied and discussed in an unbiased way”?