For a minute, DeLand City Commissioner Kevin Reid thought he might win a second term in Seat 5 without a campaign.
In a year when four out of the five City Commission seats were up for election, Reid was unopposed. Then, close to the deadline, Carlos Navarro and Matthew Johnson threw in their hats.
Navarro, a Real Radio 104.1 personality, quickly withdrew due to iHeart Radio guidelines that could have limited his time on the air. Johnson remained in the race to oppose the sitting city commissioner.
Concerned by the perception that the same select few names come up again and again for local leadership positions, Johnson decided he could be the change DeLandites need.
“I don’t believe anybody should run unopposed,” Johnson said.
Reid wasn’t disappointed; he said he delights in campaigning.
“I really enjoy getting out and speaking with residents … and meeting the other candidates,” Reid said. “I would have loved to go unopposed, but I realize there’s a process, and I’m happy to go through it.”
Both candidates said they are motivated to improve the community for the sake of their children, but their core beliefs and experience vastly differ.
Johnson, who is registered with the Libertarian Party, values individual freedom above all else. During the height of the pandemic, he and his wife started a garden to engage their son while he was attending school remotely. They thought about raising chickens as well, but were frustrated by all the governmental red tape that involved.
If elected to Seat 5, this would be Johnson’s first term in public office, and Reid said that gives him an edge.
Plus, Reid said, his community involvement has been extensive. He served as president of the Rotary Club of DeLand and also on the DeLand Planning Board, where his interest in local government was piqued.
But Reid said his interest in public service began when he was an Eagle Scout, where the concept of community was a value instilled in his young mind.
But Johnson sees his lack of political experience as a source of strength.
“I’m not a politician. I’m a regular citizen of DeLand, like you are, and I think that puts me at a bit of an advantage, because I care about the things that people of DeLand care about,” Johnson said.
Reid pays attention to which candidates regularly attend city meetings.
“I pay attention to who was at the budget meetings, who comes to the commission’s meetings on a regular basis. Ask yourself, if a candidate can’t invest their time into that process while they’re being monitored in an election period, how are they going to expect to do it when they’re not being monitored?” Reid asked.
But Johnson said who shows up in person isn’t the whole story.
“While I may not necessarily always be able to attend the City Commission meetings in person, for work or family reasons, I definitely watch them [online]. So I see what’s going on,” Johnson said.
Johnson is especially concerned with misleading appearances after an incident earlier this year when he and his team sold T-shirts stating “I no longer identify as unvaccinated, I identify as pureblood.” Some perceived this message as having antisemitic undertones, Johnson said, although he is adamant that nothing could be further from the truth.
“I don’t believe that the government has a right to force you or me under threat of losing your job or whatever else to inject an experimental anything into your skin. So by ‘pureblood,’ what I meant was, there’s no vaccine in me, and that is all I meant,” said Johnson.
Reid said the importance of local elections to the everyday citizen cannot be overstated.
“I know everyone says it, but local elections do matter,” he said.
On this, the two men wholeheartedly agree.
“The closer the government is to you, the more they can affect your life. That’s where the most work can be done that could affect you or me,” Johnson said.
In addition to the Seat 5 race, voters who live inside DeLand city limits will also vote for either incumbent Jessica Davis or challenger Deirdre Dukes Perry for Seat 3, between Dan Reed and Troy Bradley for Seat 4, and for one of three men running for mayor: Chris Cloudman, Buz Nesbit and Reggie Williams.