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Volusia Chair candidates spar at Stetson debate
By Pat Andrews
posted Jul 30, 2012 - 6:57:43am
A July 26 debate among the three candidates for Volusia County chair turned into a heated sparring match between candidates Carl Persis and Ted Doran, while candidate Jason Davis tried to keep above the fray as an amused commentator.
The candidates and an audience of 125-150 people came together in the Carlton Union Building at Stetson University. Candidates in numerous other races showed up with signs and brochures, and to be seen and heard.
Doran, a Daytona Beach attorney, took every opportunity to slam the County Council and Persis in particular, on the budget, on fire-rescue transport and other matters. Persis just stepped down from his County Council District 4 seat after almost eight years.
Persis counterattacked Doran’s service as an appointed — never elected — chairman of the Halifax Area Advertising Authority, who publicly humiliated Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Janet Kersey and fired her, sparking a divisive controversy.
Persis said he didn’t know if Doran treats everyone that way, or “just middle-aged women.”
A murmur ran through the crowd. Davis arched his brow and said, “Ah, well.”
The political fur really began to fly over the topic of anti-Doran fliers mailed by Persis supporters.
A political action group sent out a flier attacking Doran as a “hypocrite” who made $10 million in taxpayer money representing government agencies.
Persis said he knew nothing about the mail piece in advance. He said he got a call from Brown & Brown Insurance , which helped fund the flier, only after the flier had been mailed.
“We’re not asking your approval,” Persis said he was told.
Persis said he was assured the flier made only factual statements, but Doran estimated he might have actually made perhaps 60 percent of the $10 million figure through government work.
“It’s quite shameful,” Doran said.
Persis asked why Doran’s yacht is named “Top Billing,” as stated in the flier, if he hasn’t made a lot of money from billing tax-funded agencies.
Doran said the name is a term for fishing billfish. This drew groans and titters from the audience.
The two also sparred over the County Council’s approval of the Plantation Oaks development, which substituted manufactured homes for site-built homes in Ormond Beach.
Doran accused Persis of being bought by developers.
Persis shot back that he has support from groups as divergent as the Sierra Club and the Volusia Homebuilders.
Doran called that “a cute little stump speech.”
Moderator Pat Rice, an editor at The Daytona Beach News-Journal, which co-sponsored the debate with Stetson University, asked the candidates how they would address money problems at the Ocean Center, which is currently eating up $1.3 million a year in county funds.
Davis said his goal would be to privatize the Ocean Center and quit subsidizing it. Perhaps Donald Trump would be interested in buying it, he suggested.
Doran said the Ocean Center hasn’t had proper oversight by the County Council. He would transfer its day-to-day operations from county staff to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Persis said the Ocean Center is a “first-class facility” that gets rave reviews. The subsidy comes from tourist tax dollars and sales taxes, not property taxes, Persis said.
Davis, meanwhile, defended his lack of governmental experience. “It’s part of my strength,” the decorated Iraq war veteran said.
“It’s about leadership,” Davis added, noting he learned leadership as a squad leader serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq.
In closing statements, the candidates made their final points:
Doran said it’s a question of making a change in direction or staying the same course.
Persis said, as an educator for 35 years, he’s spent his whole life in public service. He wants to help people, and that’s why he got into serving in local government.
Davis questioned electing the same people to the same jobs — directed at Persis — and said Doran has also served in government as School Board attorney, representing several cities, and representing the state.
“I’ve been a leader,” Davis reminded everybody, “in the U.S. Army.”
Moderator Rice thanked everyone for a “spirited debate,” and thanked Stetson professors Bill Ball and David Hill, and Stetson public-relations specialist Cindi Brownfield, for coordinating the debate.
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