With DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar and City Commissioner Jessica Davis each winning four-year terms without opposition, the 2018 election season has been a bit boring for DeLand, with the exception of one competitive race.
Three candidates filed to replace Vice Mayor Leigh Matusick, who is retiring after serving in Seat 5 on the DeLand City Commission since 2005.
After the primary, two of the trio of Seat 5 candidates remain: Kevin Reid, an investment adviser and member of the city’s Planning Board; and Markesha James, a teacher and political newcomer.
Voters will decide between them Tuesday, Nov. 6.
James, 32, and Reid, 36, are both young professionals and longtime DeLandites, but each has some different ideas about what’s best for their city.
As of campaign-finance reports ending Sept. 14, the two were neck and neck in fundraising. Although she entered the race late, James had a slight advantage, with a war chest of $5,060, while Reid had raised $4,625 for his electoral effort.
In the Aug. 28 primary, Reid garnered 40.4 percent of the vote, while James received 34 percent. Former DeLand City Commissioner Phil Martin, who was eliminated from the race, got about 25.6 percent of the votes.
Any registered voter who lives within DeLand city limits will be able to vote in this race, as the City Commission seats are not apportioned into geographic districts.
READ THE CANDIDATES’ ANSWERS TO OUR QUESTION ON THE NEXT PAGE
Q: You’ve been involved in the community for a while, and you’re a member of the DeLand Planning Board. What made you want to run for elected office?
A: “When I went through Leadership West Volusia, that kind of spurred an interest in getting more involved in city government. As I got more involved with the Planning Board and around town through Rotary and whatnot … it just made more of a desire to want to serve the community.
“On top of that, I feel that my professional background is a great asset, something that is missing on the current structure of the [City Commission]. With Leigh stepping down — she came from a background with the Planning Board — I think that’s a pivotal piece she offered to the [commission].”
Q: Given that you’ve been so involved in the community, what would you say to someone who thinks you’re too much of an establishment candidate?
A: “I would say for those people who say ‘Well, the City Commission, they’re just gonna do whatever the money tells them to do,’ I’ve got a history of not doing that. With the Victoria Oaks project, I was the only member of the Planning Board to vote it down.
“I’ve demonstrated that I’ve kind of gone against development when it doesn’t meet what is expected of developers, or it isn’t something that is going to add to the value of DeLand.”
Q: Speaking of development, over the past year, the Automall has been a controversial issue that caused a lot of friction between DeLand and Lake Helen. What’s your take on it? Do you think anything could have been done differently throughout the process?
A: “As horrible as some view the project, there has been some good about it. It gives DeLand a seat at the table for development. The second thing it’s done is it’s now created an agreement between Lake Helen … where it’s kind of said where annexations are going to be. A lot of future issues are going to be resolved through that.
“We’re able to require certain standards [for the Automall], whether it’s the 8-foot wall, or noise requirements.
“There’s a lot of pros and cons to it. I think no one’s 100 percent happy with the project, but … there’s a lot of requirements built into it that I think will safeguard the Victoria [Park] community.”
Q: Are there any specific issues you are passionate about, and would like to see the City Commission work on, if you are elected?
A: “There are two things that I feel that are critical to moving DeLand forward.
“One is being able to retain employees, whether it’s in our public-safety sector — police and fire — or whether it’s engineering, or in the utilities department
“A lot of those positions have a very large training cost associated with them, and we’re really good about bringing people in and training them, but not so good at retaining them. We’re essentially training people for other municipalities.
“The other issue that I spoke of in 2016, and I’m speaking about it again now, is streamlining the permitting process. Currently, we’re still on a paper system. We still do not have the capability — although the software has been supposedly purchased — to do online permitting.
“When a citizen has to come in and have an attorney to get a permit … there’s an issue there.”
Q: Could you talk a little bit about how you made the decision to get into city politics, and to throw your hat into the ring for this election?
A: “As a former employee, I witnessed a lot of decisions and actions that impacted our city. I felt that I could play a vital role in the City of DeLand and its future development.
“As a resident of DeLand, I feel it’s important for the citizens to get engaged politically to ensure the greatest impact for our children are considered.”
Q: You’re going up against an opponent who is already involved in city government to some extent. What sorts of things are you doing to get people to know you, and do you feel at all like it’s an uphill battle to get your name recognized?
A: “I understand my opponent has been engaged in various community initiatives; however, there are more community needs outside of city government and local clubs, such as many grassroots community efforts through my church and other community organizations such as the NAACP, and the various unincorporated institutions.
“I intend to ensure the needs of the community and people are met by meeting people where they are and assisting with those needs.
“Boardrooms don’t always prove to be most effective.”
Q: Over the past year, the Automall has been a controversial issue that has caused a lot of friction between DeLand and Lake Helen. What’s your take on it? Do you think anything could have been done differently throughout the process?
A: “I monitored the Automall, and I wanted to ensure I understood what was best for not only the citizens of Victoria Park, but also what is best for the city overall. I do believe the city staff could have done a better job at securing the property early on before the interest of an investor became an issue; however, looking at the situation, I believe DeLand addressed this issue effectively.
“The only thing I would have done as an elected official throughout the process is demanded more of an opportunity to receive more input, outside of the few times citizens were provided. The people of DeLand always come first, and I want to ensure that as development takes place, it’s not my opinion [that matters], but the opinion of the people.”
Q: Are there any topics or issues that you’re especially passionate about, which you would like to see the commission work on, if you are elected?
A: “I want to ensure that as development takes place we are smart and strategic for long-term impact. This is my passion because I am raising a family, and I want to ensure my children will know DeLand to be their home.”