Swiftly after Milissa Holland’s 6 p.m. resignation as mayor Tuesday, David Alfin and Alan Lowe, both Republicans, said they would run in the special election the Palm Coast City Council is expected to schedule at a hurriedly-called special meeting this morning. The proposed date for the election is July 27.
Lowe, a self-styled inventor, ran against Holland in a bitter, often fact-challenged campaign last November, falling short by barely five points and soon after announcing a run for the council seat Victor Barbosa won in a special election.
Within what seemed like moments of Holland’s announcement Monday, Lowe issued a video statement on his Facebook page, as he drove: “Well, I guess everybody has heard the news and if you haven’t, I’ll tell you: Mayor Holland has resigned, and although I have signed up to run for city council District 2, I am now switching my seat, and I will be running for mayor of Palm Coast.” He delivered a longer statement shortly afterward.
Holland had drawn four challengers in last year’s election–Lowe, Mike Schottey, Donald Greene and John Brady. Schottey said this morning he was not running. Brady said he was thinking about it. “I want to see what the field is, who is in the field, what the requirements are, petitions, money-wise, so yes, it’s still a consideration,” he said. “You know, I did come in third.” (Brady got 18 percent of the vote but was eliminated before the runoff.)
Greene in a text wrote: “No, I will not be running again. Not happy with the direction the city was going, we sold our house and moved out of Florida at the end of last year. Best wishes and good luck with the election.”
The council this morning will consider dispensing with the petition requirement or qualifying fee that normally attaches to city elections. Otherwise, a candidate will be required either to gather 497 signed petitions or to pay a $1,140 qualifying fee to get on the ballot.
There’d been murmurs of Council member Ed Danko having some interest in the mayorship. He doesn’t. There are louder murmurs about him having interests in a legislative seat. Monday evening, he confirmed that he wasn’t running for mayor. “I fully support Alan Lowe for mayor. I need Alan Lowe on the city council.” He said that he and Lowe together would stop the “foolish” spending (he’s opposed to the council’s recently approved expansion of the municipal tennis club) and not raise taxes.
Alfin, a commercial Realtor, ran in the four-way, special election in November that had been scheduled after Councilman Jack Howell’s resignation at mid-term, due to health reasons. Unlike a regular election, there was no runoff, so the spoils went to whoever got the most votes. Alfin drew 21 percent of the vote, behind Bob Coffman’s 25 and Barbosa’s 38, with Dennis McDonald in fourth. (McDonald said today he was not running, joking in a text–unless he was perpetrating the lie of a stolen election–that “Lowe was the winner in November 2020.”) Coffman was the only Democrat. (On Thursday, Coffman said he was considering a run for mayor “a distinct possibility.”)
Barbosa, Danko and Lowe had run as a bloc, but Barbosa had a falling out with Danko and Lowe soon after the election and have been rather bitter opponents since, though Barbosa’s enmity isn’t limited to Lowe and Danko: he’s in a running, public and vulgar feud with Acting Mayor Eddie Branquinho, has called for City Manager Matt Morton’s firing in a slanderous attack at the end of a meeting, has publicly shamed homeowners around town in vigilante code enforcement excursions, and uses his Facebook page as a score-settling battering ram. In many ways mimicking that of his ally, County Commissioner Joe Mullins, Barbosa’s behavior in his brief tenure has largely contributed to the degradation of discourse and respect for the council, and to Holland’s resignation.
“I’m not happy with the way local government is operating, I’m not happy with the way its projecting itself to the community,” Alfin had said in an interview last week, after he had taken part in the Flagler County Sheriff’s annual memorial to fallen law enforcement officers. Alfin’s son, Daniel Alfin, an FBI special agent, was murdered last year in South Florida while serving a warrant. The sheriff included David Alfin in last week’s ceremony. “So when I say we can be better and we can do better I really mean that, and for me personally, I will think about my tragedy every day to set a tone.” He had faintly intimated in that interview that he might have interests in reentering public service, and as it turned out, he plans to.
“My vision is very simple: I’d like to re-instill the confidence the citizens of Palm Coast should have in our city government,” he said in a 6 a.m. interview today, not long after he’d completed his 4:30 a.m. daily ritual: shoveling manure in his eight-horse barn. “I think they have lost some confidence certainly this past year, I think it’s been building for some time, and I really think they need to be reassured that city council is a unified front” in meeting the expectations of Palm Coast. “That same projection needs to flow out to those that bring us great opportunities in terms of some of the initiatives we’re all aware of,” he continued, citing AdventHealth Palm Coast’s plan to build a new hospital on Palm Coast Parkway, the University of North Florida’s and Jacksonville University’s opening of satellite campuses in Town Center this fall, and other developments. “All those organizations are watching our local governments very carefully because they’re nervous and insecure about what direction it may take.”
Alfin, who describes himself as a “data-driven executive,” said he’d developed a close relationship with Holland over recent months, with Holland mentoring him. He did not see her decision to step down as a result of recent conflicts on the council or with the public–he defended her decision for family’s sake–but saw those issues as a recurring problem. “I think there’s been emotional blips, and I think the interaction between council members has not been as professional as it needs to be,” Alfin said. “There are other groups within the community that are fueling or feeding the emotional fire and I think we have to take a step back, tamp it down and do what we are elected to do, which is to fill the expectations of our citizens, do the work of our municipal government.”
Lowe had sought to define his race against Holland by accusations of “corruption” and claims, never proven, that she was under investigation by the FBI and state law enforcement agencies. He continued to make the claims even after the State Attorney’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement all said there were no such investigations. (An ethics complaint had been filed against Holland by a former city employee. The complaint has yet to see light of day.) Baseless or not, the claims severely damaged Holland’s standing–as did factual revelations that Lowe had previously
renounced his citizenship and declared himself a “sovereign citizen.”
The race with Alfin is bound to be very different: Alfin has had a spotless record locally as a businessman and Realtor and has been immersed in local civic, business and community organizations for a decade. More specific issues rather than abstract claims, such as the tennis center expansion, are expected to shape the coming race.
“This is not going to be an easy run,” Lowe said in his longer statement last night. “I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of things that they’re going to try to play again. And, but you know what, I’ve been to every city council meeting, minus one, every workshop, since the last election, I know everything that’s going on with the city, I’m well versed in it.”
Lowe spoke what may well be his kindest words yet, if not his only kind words, about Holland: “I know that Mayor Holland resigned because of, I guess, potential health issues with her daughter, and I don’t blame her. I would put family first if I was in that position as well. So I think we all know that that’s something that just needs to be done. So I am shocked. I’ve been completely–I’m tongue tied and that doesn’t happen very often, but I do wish and pray for the best health possible for Mayor Holland’s daughter, and that Mayor Holland finds herself in a good position for her future. But I’m ready to jump into the city, and let’s stop the frivolous spending, you know, let’s be transparent to the point where we actually answer people’s questions.”