Nine players have taken the field for Apalachicola’s upcoming city elections. By the time the World Series rolls around in early October, three will have won.
By Friday’s deadline of noon, three candidates had qualified to run for mayor, four will be on the ballot for city commission Seat 1 to replace Mitchell Bartley, and two are running to succeed Jimmy Elliott for Seat 2.
On the ballot for mayor will be, in alphabetical order, Kevin Begos, 109 15th Street; Amy Hersey, 451 Morris Cannon Street; and Valentina Webb, 255 11th Street.
Vying for Seat 1 with be Despina George, 224 Whispering Pines Circle; Barry Hand, 22 Apaco Street; George Mahr, 212 Avenue C; and Ramon Lopez, 16 Adams Street
In these two races, if no candidate receives a majority of the votes at the first round of balloting Tuesday, Sept 3, then the top two will be in a run-off Sept. 17.
In the race for Seat 2, Adriane Elliott, 129 22nd Avenue, is running against Torben Madson, 40 16th Street, with that election decided Sept. 3.
All votes are cast at the Fort Coombs Armory, and all registered voters within the city limits can vote in all three races, all of which are non-partisan.
All three positions are for four-year-terms, although the new city commission is likely to consider a proposal, floated about six months ago, to amend the terms so that the city can switch elections to even-numbered years, in line with the state and federal balloting, and handled by the county supervisor of elections office.
City Clerk Deborah Gillette, whose office is at the city municipal complex, at the site of the former Apalachicola High School, has the task of overseeing this year’s election.
Candidates paid a fee of $233.60 to run for commissioner, and $270 in the race for mayor.
If you live in Apalachicola and want to be sure to have a say in the election, the deadline to register as a voter, if you haven’t already, is Monday, Aug. 5 for the Sept. 3 general election, and Aug. 19 for the possible Sept. 17 runoff.
That task is handled by the supervisor of elections office at 47 Avenue F. The supervisor’s office will also be where early voting takes place between Aug. 26 and 31.
Mayoral candidate stake out positions
While commission candidates are just getting started staking out their respective positions, mostly by attending the recent city meetings and more than occasionally speaking out, the candidates for mayor are beginning to draw lines.
Hersey, who first announced for the office March 22, became the first to officially complete her qualifying requirements, and proudly points to her becoming the first woman, in city history, to run for mayor.
“It is a real honor, but to me, running is about feeling compelled to do something about the troublesome issues that our city is now facing,” she said. “My Daddy always said, ‘if you don’t like the way things were going, it was your job to change it.’”
In her campaign, Hersey, Aa former Franklin County Schools educator, and a small business owner, said she plans to stress “transparency, accountability, and results.” She has pledged to encourage new businesses, so as to add revenues to the tax base, and to promote “pro-small business policies, secure funding for new sewer infrastructure in the downtown area, and work to enhance revenues through other measures, rather than merely assessing and increasing fee and rate hikes on residents.”
Hersey said she would like “to return the city to a fiscally responsible ‘back to basics’ budget” that will move the millage rate away from the state-mandated 10-mills ceiling.
Following on the heels of Hersey’s announcement was Webb, a retired correctional officer who now works as case manager for CareerSource Gulf Coast.
“The community has a rich cultural tapestry of families, businesses and ambitions that never cease to bring comfort to my soul, as my family’s five generations have woven their strands into the story of Apalachicola,” she wrote in her announcement, promising “to peacefully, economically and efficiently steer this great waterside town to liveliness and sustainability.”
Webb is stressing her willingness to gather diverse opinions. “I will do more than my due diligence to listen to others with an open mind and open heart to communicate the needs and desires of the Apalachicola citizens with my word and conviction. With strength and confidence from the voices of many, I will take action to secure a prosperous and healthy status for Apalachicola.”
Webb is the only one of the nine candidates running who has served on the city commission, having completed a four-year term, from 2005 to 2009.
“During my tenure as commissioner, my focus was youth engagement. I led the effort to create an after school program for the city (Project Impact), and helped implement a Junior Cops program with the police department,” she said.
Citing a lengthy list of community involvements, Webb said that “service is a component as vital to my being as blood is to my body. This trait along with my oath to listen and take action is what will keep Apalachicola great for our remaining years together and generations to come.”
While Begos was the last of the three to file his qualification papers, he is the first to lay out a concrete plan of action he intends to pursue if elected.
A former director of the county’s seafood task force, and a journalist by profession, with a lengthy list of local, state, national and international reporting assignments, Begos has proposed more than $250,000 in spending cuts, with that savings going towards helping citizens pay water bills, speeding up payments on the city’s mullti-million dollar past due state loan, and invest in proactive repair and maintenance.
“Clean streets, clean water, and reliable sewer are vital to our health and economic prosperity,” he wrote. “Apalachicola is nearly bankrupt, and working people, senior citizens, and small businesses struggle to cope with recent water and sewer bill increases and high taxes,” he wrote.
Begos’ plan would eliminate the city’s highest-paid position, eliminate the salary of the director of the Community Redevelopment Agency, reduce the pay of the city librarian, and cut legal fees, lobbying fees, and other expenses.
“I would not cut salaries to workers in the police, water, sewer, or other departments,” Begos said.
If his cuts were enacted, City Manager Ron Nalley’s employment package of nearly $95,000 would be eliminated, replaced with a part-time accountant and new administrator, using the salary budgeted for Administrator Lee Mathes, who retired recently.
“The mayor and commissioners are responsible for overseeing city finances, but extra monitoring by a trained accountant would help speed Apalachicola’s financial recovery,” Begos wrote.
He also proposed to cut out city employment and benefits for CRA Director Augusta West, which would save about $26,000 yearly; reduce Librarian Jill Rourke’s compensation from $61,951 to $22,000, making her a part-time employee; eliminate $30,000 budgeted for lobbyist Patrick Bell; cut the city’s legal expenses from $105,000 per year to $55,000; reduce phone and internet spending by $3,700; cut utility bills by $10,000, in part by shutting down or renting out the old City Hall; and cut the $3,000 budgeted for both the Farmer’s Market and the Community Garden.
“These are great programs but they can succeed with ongoing volunteer support,” he said.