110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Joe Crews
posted Jul 31, 2014 - 11:49:40am
Businessman Pat Johnson is staking his campaign for DeLand mayor on what he calls the city’s misguided financial priorities and increasing crime.
Incumbent Bob Apgar says he wants to continue growing the local economy and maintain the city’s strategic relationships with partners such as Team Volusia, the county’s Department of Economic Development, and other communities.
The showdown will be resolved when voters go to the polls Aug. 26 to vote not only for mayor but also for two other seats on the City Commission. The other races feature newcomers Krystal Brown and Jessica Davis contending for Seat 3, and incumbent Leigh Matusick and former Commissioner Scott Price vying for Seat 5.
All the races are for four-year terms, and there are no term limits.
Apgar, 64, is the West Volusia development officer for the Volusia County Council on Aging and a former attorney with Consolidated-Tomoka Land Co. He served two stints totaling 13 years as a city commissioner and has been mayor since 2001.
He’s married to Teresa, and has three children and seven grandchildren.
Johnson, 48, owns the Pompano Pat’s motorcycle dealership and gun shop on South Woodland Boulevard, but he also touts his 10 years as a police officer as a complement to his business acumen. This is his first run for public office.
He’s divorced with two sons: Kiernan, 5 years of age, and Tristan, 19 months.
At a recent candidate forum sponsored by the DeLand Area Chamber of Commerce, Apgar and Johnson responded to questions posed by the organization’s Government Affairs Committee. While both men more or less agreed on what the important issues were, they differed on how to approach solving them.
Johnson said to bring more businesses to town, he would make the economic-development people travel more to make recruitment calls on companies rather than simply sending out postcards to business prospects.
Apgar, while agreeing that growing the local economy is important, said he thinks the city should continue relying on partners such as Team Volusia and the county to do the recruiting. To that end, things like recent renovations at Earl Brown Park will help by offering an improved quality of life.
Apgar said it’s also vital that the city continue to try to find another source of potable water since groundwater sources will probably be too scarce in five to seven years.
When Johnson commented that he thought it was more important to spend money on water issues than $5 million on a “civic center,” Apgar pointed out that water-related funding comes out of a different account than the general fund, where the money for Earl Brown Park improvements came from.
Johnson said the city’s crime rate is increasing, and that he sees prostitutes on Woodland Boulevard every day from his business and finds drug paraphernalia in his parking lot every morning. Lowering the amount of crime also would help attract new businesses, he said.
When a resident has a one-in-seven chance of being a crime victim, he said, businesses won’t come to DeLand.
Apgar said crime rates are reported on a per-capita basis, and while DeLand’s population is 28,500 or so, it swells every day by some 10,500 workers who live outside city limits. In addition, thousands more people come into the city on a daily basis for non-work reasons, he said.
When the increased workday population is considered, the per-capita rate actually is a lot lower, Apgar said.
Johnson said he’s concerned that too few DeLand police officers are actually on patrol. He suggested that since the city’s water-meter-reading was automated, perhaps the reader devices should be put in police cruisers so officers would be forced to drive through all parts of the city. That expanded police presence would also help cut down on crime, he contended.
Apgar pointed out that the city’s water service extended outside the city limits, and again, noted that the water department’s budget was separate from the city’s general fund.
Both men said they endorsed the city’s support of festivals and Downtown events.
Johnson said those events can bring in lots of revenue to the city and be very helpful to its budget, and also benefit businesses such as restaurants and gas stations.
Apgar said the city already has more than 50 events every year and keeps looking for more. The special events serve as attractions for new businesses, and allow outside residents to see the city in a favorable light, he said.
Apgar said he favored strategic partnerships with other cities. He noted DeLand is working with other West Volusia cities to try to find new sources of potable water in a cost-efficient way. And he said DeLand and Orange City, neither of which could justify having a full-time purchasing agent on its own, made a deal to jointly hire one to serve both municipalities.
In closing, Johnson said his campaign is all about making DeLand better, because he doesn’t want to see the town continue to deteriorate while crime increases.
“I want to make a difference here,” he said.
Apgar said if forum attendees feel the town is on the right course and moving forward, they need to support the current administration.
“If you have a successful business, do you let your general manager or top officers go? No, you stay the course,” he said.
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