DeLandites won’t get to choose who they want to be their next mayor until 2022, but three candidates —Reggie Williams, Buz Nesbit, and Chris Cloudman are out in front vying for the mayor’s seat. Whomever DeLand selects to be the next mayor may also preside over a very different City Commission.
Also on the ballot in 2022 will be DeLand City Commission seats currently held by Commissioners Jessica Davis, Kevin Reid and Cloudman. Cloudman will have to forfeit his seat on the City Commission to run for mayor.
Beacon reporter Noah Hertz sat down with each candidate.
Chris Cloudman, a current DeLand commissioner, was the first to announce his bid to be DeLand’s next mayor. As the only member of the City Commission running for the job — so far — Cloudman hopes the work he has done on the City Commission will earn him votes.
“I feel like a lot of the relationships I’ve built over the last six or seven years locally, regionally and statewide help to keep DeLand in the conversation,” Cloudman said. “I think it’s important that those … relationships are in place. For us to not miss a beat and to keep going in a positive direction. I’m not saying that someone couldn’t come in and develop that over the next couple of years, but it would be kind of a rebuilding process.”
Cloudman grew up in Port Orange but spent much of his early years traveling to DeLand and DeLeon Springs with his father, who worked on the board of the YMCA’s Camp Winona for 25 years.
After graduating from the University of Florida, where he studied parks and recreation, Cloudman pursued opportunities that took him far away from home to Tucson, Arizona.
“Even as I was interviewing at places in other states, I was comparing that city to DeLand,” Cloudman said. “Finally, one day we saw Stetson [University] had posted a position, and I applied for that and got in. We moved back here in December 2008.”
Once he and his wife were settled back into DeLand, Cloudman took up a position on the city Planning Board in 2010, where he would serve for four years.
When Phil Martin vacated his City Commission seat in 2014, Cloudman sought and received appointment to the commission. He has been elected twice to the commission since then.
“Along that time, I’ve been asked to represent DeLand and sit on different regional or state boards, and I’ve always agreed,” Cloudman said.
Cloudman said he wants to make sure DeLand is well-represented, and especially to keep the city prominent in the state arena.
Cloudman currently represents DeLand on the River to Sea TPO and the River of Lakes Heritage Corridor. He also represents the River to Sea TPO on several regional and state organizations. Cloudman is also involved with the Florida League of Cities, which tapped him to represent east Central Florida on the Central Florida Regional Planning Council.
Normally mild-mannered, Cloudman doesn’t necessarily hold back when he disagrees with others on the City Commission. Often, on the dais, he brings up growth-control solutions being used in other cities, challenging DeLand to keep up with its neighbors.
Cloudman is not alone in expressing concerns about growth and development in DeLand. While he said he would personally love to see growth halt so everyone can take a breather, it’s a much more complex issue.
“Even if I had an opinion on something, I think a good city leader, state leader, county leader, you want them to be able to walk into a meeting and not have a final vote in their head without hearing the evidence,” Cloudman said. “You wouldn’t want a judge to be that way.”
He wants to see more work done to ensure developments are made to be the best they can be, for the sake of the city and the environment. Cloudman believes DeLand can work to ensure younger generations stick around, too.
“We’re finally starting to see the next generation wanting to stay here. For the longest time, there weren’t really opportunities recreationally or jobwise here. They’d graduate high school or college and just go,” he said. “Whether it’s existing policy or existing zoning, what can we do to keep encouraging positive change like that?”
Out side of government, Cloudman works for Cenergistic, an environmental consulting company. In his role, he works to help make Stetson University as energy-efficient as possible.
Cloudman said he hopes voters will give him the opportunity to shape DeLand into a place where people young and old are happy to live. That’s why he’s running for mayor, he said.
“Essentially,” Cloudman said, “I’m doing it to be a community servant.”
DeLandite Reggie Williams has worked a number of jobs from Volusia County all the way to Tallahassee. He’d like his next job to be serving as DeLand’s mayor.
“I think I have a knowledge base there that is unique that would be very beneficial to this community, if elected,” Williams said.
Born in DeLand and raised in DeLeon Springs, Williams has lived most of his life here. He worked in Volusia County government for 28 years, serving as a management director for 25 years. Later, he worked for six years as a district and circuit administrator for the state government.
After leaving the government arena, Williams worked for several nonprofit organizations with a focus on advocacy for children.
Now, Williams serves as a pastor of Emmanuel Christian Ministries Inc., as well as chairman of the board overseeing the African American Museum of the Arts in DeLand.
It’s his government experience that Williams said gives him a different skill set than the other candidates for DeLand mayor.
“It has given me the experience of seeing the system operate from the inside. The things that are necessary that have to be done to help that system to work,” Williams said. “I think that’s unique.”
That experience — as well as his experience as a DeLandite — would help guide the next chapter in DeLand’s leadership, he said.
If elected, Williams would be the city’s first Black mayor. While he recognizes this, he said, laws loom larger than skin color.
“Although I would be the first, the role and the responsibility would be the same, in that I would be responsible for the leadership, and in that leadership capacity, whatever decisions are made, whatever guidance is provided by me as mayor, would be for everybody,” Williams said. “Policies aren’t Black or white when it comes to human beings. Those policies should be developed for the benefit of everyone, every citizen, regardless of race.”
Among the is sues Williams is focused on are better coordination between city and Volusia County governments and holding everyone — whether they’re a home developer or any other member of the community — accountable.
“… there are difficult choices that have to be made sometimes,” Williams said. “Those choices do not always satisfy the masses. It’s about doing the right thing for the citizens and the community, and trying to ensure there’s fairness and equity in those decisions. If I don’t pay my water bill, you shut me off. There’s no question about that.”
And while Williams recognized that the state has made it somewhat difficult to just say no to developers, Williams said he would like to see DeLand revisit its comprehensive plan to ensure it is being properly enforced.
“Not the stuff the state has taken away from us, but those things that are regulatory policies we have control of,” Williams said. “When we talk about fairness — that’s fair to the developer, that’s fair to the community. It brings balance.”
DeLand Realtor and Planning Board Member Buz Nesbit is throwing his hat in the ring to be DeLand’s next mayor.
“My interest in running is to serve the community and to do something that I feel I’m pretty good at, and that is to identify areas for improvement,” Nesbit told The Beacon.
While not a DeLandite by birth, Nesbit moved back to DeLand after a work stint in the late 1990s. DeLand’s uniqueness and “esprit de corps,” he said, are what brought him back.
Working for Time Warner Cable, Nesbit said, he had opportunities to move just about anywhere, but DeLand kept calling him back.
“When we talk about DeLand, it’s the people, it’s the spirit of community, it’s the lifestyle, the quality of life that we have,” Nesbit said. “You don’t have common threads unless people want common threads.”
Some of the “areas for improvement” Nesbit is focused on are increasing transparency so DeLandites know exactly where their tax dollars are spent, promoting smart growth, and solidifying a proper vision for the city’s future.
“My vision is that this is a place where people can enjoy the space, have things to do and feel a real pride in our surroundings,” Nesbit said. “A mayor and a commission work for the people. They work for the community.”
Other interests of Nesbit’s include better integration of Stetson University with the greater DeLand community and the annexation of Spring Hill into DeLand’s city limits.
Annexing Spring Hill is long overdue, he said.
The traditionally Black community of Spring Hill is on DeLand’s southwest side, with some areas in the city and most of the land in unincorporated Volusia County.
“It makes no sense. It creates a bifurcated community,” Nesbit said. “It does not allow us to engage in a homogenized community.”
Nesbit has previously served on the DeLand Historic Preservation Board and currently serves on the DeLand Planning Board. He ran unsuccessfully for the DeLand City Commission in 2016.
In his quest to be mayor, Nesbit believes his business savvy — thanks to experience as a Realtor and working for Time Warner Inc. — will give him insight into how to preserve what makes DeLand DeLand.
If you ask Nesbit, it’s time for a change.
“I want to take my last breath in DeLand,” he said, “and I want it to be one in which … we have maintained the quality of life we have.”