Three years ago Jane Mealy and Rick Belhumeur had the easiest time winning their elections to the Flagler Beach City Commission: Mealy was re-elected to her fourth term without opposition. Belhumeur was elected to his first term also without opposition, once incumbent Steve Settle opted not to run again.
Neither will have as easy a time in the March election. They are among four candidates who filed to run by the time qualifying ended today at 5 p.m. Paul Eik, who first ran two years ago and is a fixture at commission meetings, is running again. So is Deborah Phillips, a retired banker living in Flagler Beach for the past year and a half, and running the The Pink Turtle Gift Shoppe on South Daytona Avenue since last year.
Belhumeur had a direct hand in spurring Phillips to run: this week he reported to the city’s code enforcement division a sign in back of Phillips’s shop that does not comply with the city’s sign ordinance. Code enforcement turned out to speak to Phillips about it. She speculated that it was Blehumeur’s doing. Belhumeur confirmed it in an interview today.
Phillips, who’s only been to one commission meeting since moving to town, then decided to run against him and went to City Hall to file papers, saying Belhumeur is “not small-business friendly.”
“I thought it was an anonymous complaint, but if that’s how it is, that’s how it is,” Belhumeur said: he had not made the complaint because she was running against him, since she hadn;lt yet decided to. He didn’t even know who she was. “I could walk right past her on the sidewalk and have no clue,” he said. But during an initial interview this afternoon, he described her candidacy as that of a “disgruntled” person who had a code enforcement issue. That led to more questions both to Belhumeur and to Phillips, who, after some reluctance, spoke of the issue more openly.
“Well, that’s what I signed up for,” Belhumeur said, “I mean I drive around town all the time, I’m not picking on any one person. I bring up issues all over town. I drive more miles around that city than police probably. I’m always bringing things to staff’s attention.”
Beyond the code enforcement issue, Phillips has not yet formulated a campaign platform. “I just applied today so I haven’t really thought too much through on it,” Phillips said. “The city or the commission needs more involvement with small business, I thought running for commission would be a good way for me to help with that.”
Phillips says she was in banking for 37 years in Chicago before deciding to move to Flagler Beach to enjoy the small-town feel and have a small business.
Belhumeur says he’s running again “Because I enjoy what I’m doing, I think I’m helping make a difference, and speaking for the people that for whatever reason can’t do it themselves, whether they’re still working or don’t know how it all works, whatever the case may be.”
He cites several priorities, among them continuing beach management, including getting toa decision on a U.S. Army Corps of Engineer plan to renourish more than 2 miles of beaches in town, and making a decision on paid parking in the city. “That needs to be put to bed one way or the other, it’s been going on too long,” he said. He also wants money secured to upgrade the city’s sewer plant.
“Right now the biggest thing I’m concerned about is being able to get along with the county and whoever they pick as the administrator, as somebody we can have good communications with,” Belhumeur said. County government just accepted the resignation of Craig Coffey, the administrator for the past 11 years. He added: “I want to keep going in the path that I’m going. Somebody new is going to take a couple of years to get geared up again and know what’s going on.”
Mealy, who was first elected in 2006 and hasn’t lost an election since, says “there’s still lots of things I’d like to keep working on. I still think I’m doing good for the city, I’d like to continue doing that.” She sees the two projects on State Road A1A as top issues this year. One is the reconstruction of a segment at the south end of town, the other the construction of a sea wall at the north end of town, both by the state Department of Transportation. The projects will take all year. “Hopefully we can make life as painless as we can for the businesses and the residents that are going to be affected,” Mealy said. That can be done through easing such things as business-entrance regulations (allowing openings on Central Avenue, for example), [providing proper signage, working with the chamber of commerce “and letting everybody know that the city is open and that the businesses are open.”
Mealy also will seek to secure more state money for the city’s sewer plant–and to continue doing the city’s citizens academy. “I enjoy doing them and getting people to know how the city is run and all that’s involved in a small town,” she said.
Eik, a former member of the city’s Planning and Architecture Review board, says “not a whole lot has changed” since his last run two years ago as far as his intentions: “One of the things I’d like to accomplish is to bring the city into the 21st century so far as their budget and budget process goes,” Eik said. “You have to actually sit through all of the minutiae that all the budget contains, and I think that can be simplified.” He concedes that generally speaking, getting more readable budget documents isn’t at the very top of most residents’ concerns, but it could help residents better understand their city.
He cites two other issues: “A good and strong business community is essential to the city’s economic life, if you will, and looking at what is the city doing now in order to attract new and different business to the city,” he says, “or are we just kind of sitting back? We have this great little town here, come and start your business here. There is more and better work that can be done there.”
And he wants more attention paid to environmental issues. He is concerned about sea rise and the broader effects of climate change, but would like to see the city commission have a more active conversation about it.
Asked about what would compel him to unseat either Mealy or Belhumeur, Eik was candid: he essentially endorsed Mealy while taking on Belhumeur: “Jane has been on our city commission for quite some time,” Eik said, “she has a tremendous amount of knowledge and understanding, she has relationships with a lot of other people that can help the city, there’s not that much there that she does and has been doing that I happen to disagree with. She often times is the voice of reason, but at the same time she’s knowledgeable, she’s like myself, she doesn’t mind doing the research on an issue and is well prepared. Mr. Belhumeur on the other hand is a relative newcomer, he got his seat in an uncontested election, and so far as his leadership, how he goes about running the different meetings and things”–Belhumeur is currently the chairman of the commission–“I find myself a little uncomfortable with that. Exactly why, I’m not going to say at this point because I haven’t formulated my thoughts to put them out there.”
The last city commission meeting may be a clue: the commission received a presentation of a controversial parking study. It was not slated to make any decisions. Eik asked several questions the commission couldn’t readily answer.
“I said, ‘Paul, we’re not here to make conclusions or have discussions about it necessarily, we’re just accepting a presentation,” Belhumeur said he told Eik. “Paul never liked me anyway, I’m not worried about that. He gets up and asks questions about things we’d just been talking about, if he’d been paying attention, he’d have the answer.”
The Flagler Beach election is on March 5, the same day as the Bunnell election, which has drawn six candidates for three seats, including one incumbent. The top two vote-getters in Flagler Beach’s election will be seated.
The Flagler Women’s Club will host a candidate forum for Flagler Beach candidates on February 19 at 7 p.m. at 1524 South Central Avenue. The forum, open to all, will feature the candidates making three-minute statements each then taking written questions.
Concerned Citizen says
@ Rick Belhumeur
You’re starting to show the same “you make enemies” attitude Coffey had. And it’s not very flattering. Perhaps you’ve been in Office to long and forget you represent all constiuents of Flagler Beach.
Not just those you like.
When I see politicians use Code Enforcement for personal issues and make comments like I Don’t Care if he likes me it just shows you are only out for yourself. My vote will go to someone new.
Looks like a bunch of real highly qualified Ivy League educated candidates.
Time for change says
Mealy needs to go!!!!!! not good for the city. We no longer need a career office holder.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Go Jane go !
Nobody could give Flagler Beach more live than you
Rick Belhumeur says
Rules are rules whether you’re a business, a resident or a visitor. It’s not fair to all of those who are compliant to allow anyone to break those rules. Ignorance of the rules is not an excuse no matter who you are. I’m not targeting small businesses.
Electing the same will get more of the same. I have watched this city slowly deteriorate. We do not need life long career office holders. Sorry Jane, it is time for you to go. Every politician always says they want to get elected again to complete projects and get more done. Bottom line is we need new fresh ideas, and need people in office that are not self serving and represent the voters. We need people that clean up the image of our city and not office holders who play cop, and sic code enforcement on its residents. The woman from Chicago would probably do better than her opponent. I am tired of this current leadership and the downward spiral.
Are these two FB incumbents the one’s that came with the idea of wasting taxpayers monies without asking first the residents in a public agenda item meeting (if so, as I am not sure about it) about contracting the costly consultant to plan for those parking meters? This is the one question to be asked to them and the new candidates and depending their answers y’all know whom to vote for. Ask also how much the consultant for the parking meter cost. Sometimes candidates that run uncontested become insensitive to their constituents pleas and start wasting hard earned taxes in new unneeded plans and projects (parking meters, IT or Fiber Optic Tech etc. etc.) getting ahead of themselves putting the cart before the horse just to get a personal historical certificate of leadership while in office. We are still a small county with small cities and when our elected one’s get into these activities shoving all these plans and consultants down our throats and pockets is when they increase our taxes and change the small cities environment that we moved here originally. Just remember the millions wasted by Palm Coast , the county and other cities and counties in the famously failed Desalination Plant in late 2,000’s as the quarter billion needed cost to build it I knew from the start had nowhere to by found and no revenue to support it. https://flaglerlive.com/4325/desalination-palm-coasts-costs/
Be very aware whom FB is going to vote for…
Concerned Citizeb says
@ Commisioner Belheumur
On the topic of signage.
1.) You have re-election signs posted all over town. Some are on vacant lots. Did you obtain permission from all property owners? I also noticed no other Commisioners have signage up.
2.) Also in regards to signage compliance the Golf Course has 2 big and gaudy temporary signs posted. Just wanted to bring that to your attention so we have uniform compliance.
I too drive Flagler Beach a lot and want to make sure we have Commisioners evenly enforcing regulations.
A. Newman says
It’s nice to see some new faces getting involved in Flagler Beach government. Flagler’s small town charm has been replaced with divisive politics and back stabbing. It’s becoming a place that’s only good for leaving.
The last thing Flagler Beach needs is an elected official who drives around and pretends to be a backup code enforcement inspector. I’m quite sure the staff can handle their jobs without assistance. I’d prefer my council members focus on the bigger issues. Getting involved in day to day minutia is not productive.
Time for some “new” creative ideas and fresh thinking on our city commission. Career politicians always get stuck in their own agendas and ride the wave of their cronyism for too long. There are many good reasons for term limits. The same hold true for our county commissioners.
New faces getting involved for revenge is not a good idea for the community. I understand the frustration and share in the concern. Rick Belhuemer needs to look at his own properties here in Flagler Beach. Not sure if he is conforming to code. 15th and Daytona is a rental shack with boats in the driveway. I do not think that is up to code. If it is let me know.
Flagler Beach Resident says
Yes vote for the woman from Chicago. Her name is Debbie Phillips. She is kind, smart and committed to the residents of FB.
Flagler Beach Resident says
Yes vote for the woman from Chicago. She is kind, smart and will be an advocate for the residents. Her name is Debbie Phillips.
Let’s put this into perspective. The woman who owns the Pink Turtle took an eyesore that had junk stored all over the front lawn, cleaned it up and created a very pleasant looking business. Meanwhile, the rolling code enforcement officer allows the HC Builds property to welcome people into our community with the appeal of a third world country And, circles the trailer park on a daily basis and turns a blind eye to the serial amount of code violations that could someday implode, burn half the park down and endanger it’s residents. Can we please get someone on the commission who has a life, a pleasant personality and understands how to manage the inevitable change that is coming. How about someone who understands redevelopment? I’ve seen this bully speak down to employees at the pier and ask for individual homeowner’s information at the permit counter at the city. Something has got to give, we deserve better.
Concerned Citizen says
It occurred to me that perhaps one of the reasons Commissioner Belhuemer is so chummy with Code Enforcement is to keep them distracted. I have seen several questionable issues on his properties in town.
Along with boats in driveways and his election signs all over the place I’d like re quote his comment above
” Rick Belhumeur says:
January 18, 2019 at 3:09 am
Rules are rules whether you’re a business, a resident or a visitor. It’s not fair to all of those who are compliant to allow anyone to break those rules. Ignorance of the rules is not an excuse no matter who you are. I’m not targeting small businesses. ”
This does apply to City Commissioners as well yes?
Rick Belhumeur says
Yes, I have permission for my signs that are posted. Businesses such as the golf course are allowed “temporary’ signage, but I’m not sure exactly what the parameters are. When Baynes BBQ had to remove part of their mural because it was considered “signage”, they replaced it with a temporary banner.
Boats are allowed in driveways, however the tenant was told to remove it even before I saw your post… not because it isn’t allowed, but because I don’t want any of my rentals viewed as “shacks”
Shirley B says
Might as well be living in Palm Coast! Look at the mess they created. Who needs those problems? Not a great place to live.
Yeah, I know the parcel. Boat still there.
Local here over 40 yrs says
I have owned businesses here as well in Flagler Beach(3)…Bulhiemer we have enough wannabe code enforcement officers here…you need to chill and get a real grip!…I was always being harrassed for sign issues…to big wrong color..etc…let small business alone we need them…we should be looking at bigger and more important issues! Such as A1A…getting completed…the fishing Pier…that is the heart beat of Flagler…! Drainage on road ways…cleaning of the beach such as trash cans on the beach…and porta potties..for such events as 4th of July…4 wheel lil vehicles can pick trash up once a day…like the life guards play around in…I used to drive on beach in Flagler beach…lot more important issues….just saying…good luck to the small business owner…she has our vote…
Chuck Bird says
Speaking as the former Director of Building and Zoning (which included Code Enforcement, Floodplain Management and Environmental Impacts) for a municipality in Northern Virginia, I can’t help but comment on Mr. Belhumeur’s position. He is a City Commissioner, and should be assisting City Staff in acquiring the necessary tools to do their jobs as well as being part of our representatives in local government to develop a vision and direction for our community. Our Commissioner’s should be developing policy and the City Manager as head of Staff should be facilitating the administration of this policy.
In Mr. Belhumeur’s own words about his presence in the Code Enforcement division: “Well, that’s what I signed up for,” Belhumeur said, “I mean I drive around town all the time, I’m not picking on any one person. I bring up issues all over town. I drive more miles around that city than police probably. I’m always bringing things to staff’s attention.”
Really?….Really? This is nothing more than micromanaging City Staff, not to mention circumventing the City Manager, potentially creating a decline in morale and productivity among staff. Then there is a question of whether or not he has the authority to perform any Code Enforcement duties. I wonder if he is in the FBPD’s office every day reporting crimes. I doubt it. The FBPD has an excellent department, as does the Building, Planning and Zoning department. There are well trained knowledgeable staff in place who are capable of getting their job done without being micromanaged and strong armed by a Commissioner. Certainly if a code violation exists it should be addressed. I’m sure there are numerous complaints, and each has to be prioritized and investigated.
Let the staff do their job. They report to the City Manager. You have much more important things to do. Maybe educate yourself on different grants that would help us maintain and expand our infrastructure, our floodplain management incentives, expanding manpower if needed…..Even better, take some time and visit sister cities/communities, even out of state to see how they cope with the pains of a small city. It seems to me that if you signed up to be the oversight of Code Enforcement, you may have overlooked your primary responsibilities as a commissioner.