Boldt, Parrish win county commission seats

In a tight three-person race, incumbent tax collector Republican Rick Watson edged out two challengers to claim a four-year term in the only countywide office on the ballot Tuesday.

On the eastern end of the county, in District 2, Republican Bert Boldt secured nearly half the votes to win handily over Democrat Tamara Allen and Mark Nobles, who ran without party affiliation. Boldt succeeds retiring commissioner Cheryl Sanders, who decided not to seek reelection after 20 years on the job.

In the Apalachicola-area District 4 seat, incumbent Democrat Joseph “Smokey” Parrish defeated Howard Wesson, who ran without party affiliation.

Watson, a 71-year-old St. George Island resident appointed last year by Gov. Rick Scott to fill the remainder of the term of Jimmy Harris, the previous tax collector, secured 34.5 percent of the votes, 67 more ballots than Democrat Teresa Ann Martin, 54, of Apalachicola, who gathered 33.2 percent, or 1,811 votes. In a close third was Connie Polous, 54, of Eastpoint, running without party affiliation, who claimed 1,761 votes, or 32.3 percent of the vote.

“I was thrilled to death,” said Watson. “I always knew it would be close and I thought Connie and Teresa Ann would split the vote.

“It was great. I’m really happy about it,” he said.

Watson becomes a rare example of a non-native son to be elected to countywide office, particularly after being appointed by a governor. He attributed his win to the changes he put in place in the office over the last year.

“I hope it was because they thought I’ve done a good job,” he said. “I brought services to the county that hadn’t been offered before, and I did it without raising the budget or increasing staff.”

Watson said on his agenda for the upcoming term will be looking at ending the in-person sale of tax certificates, in favor of going to an internet auction. He also said he plans to follow up on a request from the Tourist Development Council to have the office collect the 2 percent bed tax, rather than the Florida Department of Revenue, which now handles that task.

“Tax collectors have been aggressive about offering additional services,” he said.

He said he also will continue in-service training for staffers, as well as the popular statewide Kids Tag Art program, which annually showcases student artwork designed as vanity tags, and has so far brought in over $1 million towards art education in Florida classrooms.

In county commission District 2, Boldt, 73, of Alligator Point, gathered 49.8 percent of the vote, winning over Allen, 71, of Carrabelle, who gathered 26.7 percent of the votes, and Nobles, 61, of Lanark Village, who gained 23.3 percent.

“I just appreciate the voters of our district,” he said, following an appearance at the Apalachicola supervisor of elections office with his wife, Sheryl. “It gives me an opportunity to provide a pathway for them into county government.

“That’s one of the most important roles I’m looking forward to, to give them access to county government, to be a bridge for them into county government,” said Boldt.

The semi-retired owner of an outpatient physical therapy private practice in Tallahassee, who lives full-time in Alligator Point, Boldt waged a vigorous campaign, going door-to-door, making telephone calls and at times carrying a 3-foot by 5-foot sign as he waved at the traffic going by.

“It was just to meet people that way. I stood in front of the IGA and the Dollar General in Carrabelle and handed out my campaign material,” he said. “I’m very relational and emphatic and personable with people, and I feel that’s going to be a real help for county government.

“This campaign in many ways, sociologically speaking, has been a real ministry,” Boldt said. “I’m listening to the heartfelt needs of our people in our district. I have been thrilled to be part of that process. I just appreciate the confidence that the people have in me.”

Topping Boldt’s priorities will be health care for the county, beginning with careful scrutiny of the upcoming proposals from Sacred Heart and Tallahassee Memorial to partner with Weems Memorial.

“As a physical therapist I knew the mother tongue language of health care. I feel like I can be an asset to our county,” he said. “The most important asset in our county is the health of our people. I feel this is one of the most important contributions I can make to the county commission.”

In county commission District 4, Parrish 57, of Apalachicola, gathered 53.7 percent of the vote, or 498 ballots, to edge Wesson, 64, of Apalachicola, who ran without party affiliation, and who secured 430 votes.

Parrish said the 68-vote margin was not his closest race, noting that he won by just 29 votes in his first bid for the commission seat in 2006.

“I don’t know if it was the negative ads, I don’t know if people were aware of all that I do,” he said. “I’m just doing the peoples’ work and a lot of people aren’t aware of that.”

He said that many of the attacks concerned the actions of the entire board, rather than him personally. “I don’t cast five votes, I only cast one,” Parrish said, “Those are board issues, those are not my issues.

“I don’t know if people know the experience I have and all the things that I do,” he said. “Maybe I need to do a better job of informing the public of what I’m doing every day. But I believe when voters elect you, they want you to do your job, rather than talk about it.

“I’m glad the supporters turned out to support me, and they know what I do every day,” Parrish said.

He said high on his list of priorities for the new term will be the estimated $45 million in BP monies poised to flow into the county from various pots of money.

“You want to spend that money wisely and prudently, that’s just one issue that needs to be worked on,” Parrish said. “And trying to generate jobs out at the airport. Just doing my daily job and doing what I think is in the best interest of the county.”

Voter turnout for the midterm election was a robust 70.8 percent, as 5,510 out of the county’s 7,783 voters cast ballots. The largest chunk of these, 1,817, were cast in early voting at the two supervisor of elections offices, followed by 1,597 voters going to the polls on Election Day, and another 1,539 people voting by mail.

In county voting, voters gave 62.7 percent support for Republican Rick Scott, who won the U.S. Senate race narrowly over incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, who has asked for a recount. They also threw 64.6 percent support to Republican Ron DeSantis, who captured the governorship over Democrat Andrew Gillum.

For Congress, Franklin County voters gave 66.5 percent support for incumbent Republican Neal Dunn, who cruised to victory in the 2nd District over Democrat Bob Rackleff.

County voters gave 65 percent support for Republican Ashley Moody, who bested Democrat Sean Shaw for attorney general, and to Republican Matt Caldwell, who defeated Democrat Nikki Fried, They gave Republican Jimmy Patronis better than 70 percent support over Democrat Jeremy Ring, in the race for chief financial officer, which Patronis won.

County voters gave David Frank 53.8 percent support in the non-partisan race for circuit judge, which he won over Lisa Barclay Fountain.

They voted by a nearly two-thirds margin to retain all the judges who appeared on the ballot.

They also gave majority support for all the budget amendments on the ballot, the strongest support of better than 75 percent going to approve Amendment 3, which gives citizens the right to approve casino gambling, and Amendment 12, which expands ethic rules for public officials.

They gave better than 60 percent support, the needed threshold for passage, to Amendment 1, which would add to the homestead property tax exemption, and which failed statewide; to Amendment 2, which extended the 10 percent cap on non-homestead properties, which passed; to Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to most felons, which passed; to Amendment 5, which raised the bar for the Florida Legislature to pass any tax increases, which passed; to Amendment 6, which expands the scope of victims’ rights, which passed; to Amendment 7, which expands death benefits to first responders’ families, which passed; and to Amendment 10, which limits home rule and creates a statewide veterans office, which passed.

Receiving under 60 percent in the county were Amendment 9, which limits offshore drilling, and which passed statewide; Amendment 11, which eliminates alien land laws, and which passed; and Amendment 13, which does way with commercial dog racing, and which passed.