With four of the five seats on the DeLand City Commission on the ballot, voters had the potential to reshape the city’s governing board in the election Aug. 23.
In two races, incumbents won by wide margins, but a newcomer won the vacant seat, and the race for mayor won’t be decided until November.
The new mayor and the other three elected will take office Nov. 15.
Seat 1 — No new mayor yet
Two candidates — Chris Cloudman and Reggie Williams — will move forward from the three-way contest to be on the ballot in a runoff Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Cloudman, a current DeLand city commissioner, led the pack with 3,792 votes, or 46.97 percent of people who cast their ballots in that race. Williams, a retired Volusia County administrator, came in second with 2,691 votes, or 33.33 percent.
Buz Nesbit, a member of the DeLand Planning Board, came in third with 1,591 votes, or 19.71 percent.
Nesbit won’t be moving on to the November runoff. He’s disappointed, he said, that more people didn’t turn out to vote, especially considering how many people have told him they want change at City Hall. Of the 25,633 people registered to vote in the city of DeLand, 8,336 voted — a turnout of 32.5 percent.
“It is disappointing when elections are decided by such a small number, and yet we have people who voice along the way, ‘This is what we want to see, we agree with your position,’ but they don’t necessarily come out on Election Day or avail themselves to early voting or mail-in voting,” Nesbit said.
Nesbit’s term on the DeLand Planning Board is up in November, and while he said he would be happy to continue to serve, he isn’t sure what the future looks like. He couldn’t say for sure whether he will have political ambitions in 2024, the next time a City Commission seat will be up for a vote.
“Maybe it’s too raw for me to even think of something crazy like that,” Nesbit said with a laugh.
Nesbit is clear about who he hopes his supporters will choose as their next mayor.
“When I have spoken to people who have asked for a change in direction in the community, looking for someone who will try to find common ground between developers and city regulations and zoning requirements, I think that Reggie is the best candidate in November,” he said.
In a speech to supporters and friends on election night, Williams said he hopes to be a leader who represents stability and forward-looking progress for DeLand.
“The goal is to do what we need to do to win in November,” Williams told The Beacon.
Cloudman, meanwhile, spoke to supporters who are hopeful that he will come out on top.
“There’s been a lot of people who’ve come forward to support me that I would never have known would support me otherwise,” Cloudman told The Beacon. “We’ll continue to serve this community no matter what.”
Seat 3 — Davis keeps her seat
In the race for DeLand City Commission Seat 3, incumbent Jessica Davis held onto her seat by a wide margin. Davis received 5,702 votes, or 76.42 percent of the vote. Her opponent, Deirdre Dukes Perry, who works at an Orlando Macy’s department store, received 1,759 votes, or 23.58 percent of the vote.
Davis, the first Black woman to be elected to the DeLand City Commission, first won the seat eight years ago in 2014. With her victory, Davis will begin her third term on the commission.
On election night, Davis said she was happy to get good news.
“I’m excited to just get back to the business, and I’m ready to continue moving things forward in DeLand,” Davis said.
While the loss wasn’t what she was hoping for, Dukes Perry told The Beacon, the campaign was a great opportunity to learn a lot about the political process.
“For me, it wasn’t a loss, it was an experience I really needed,” she said. “A big eye-opener.”
Dukes Perry plans to stay involved in the community in the coming two years, and said she would consider running again.
“I wish everyone the best of luck. Hopefully no one gets complacent in their roles,” Dukes Perry said. “You never know what might happen the next time around.”
Seat 4 — Businessman wins
The remaining two years of City Commissioner Cloudman’s tenure on the commission was on the ballot Aug. 23, and DeLand businessman Dan Reed took home a victory in that race by 888 votes.
To run for mayor, Cloudman had to resign from his seat. Reed will take his place in Seat 4 beginning in November. While the others elected this year will have four-year terms, Reed’s term will be two years; the seat will come up again for election in 2024.
Reed got 4,297 votes, or 55.78 percent, while his opponent, retired Greater Union First Baptist Church Pastor Troy Bradley, got 3,406, or 44.22 percent.
Reed said he hopes to work with Bradley to make sure Bradley’s 44 percent of voters have a voice at City Hall.
For the time being, Bradley said, he doesn’t have any plans to run for office again.
“I was thankful for the experience,” Bradley said. “I’m still here, and I’ll still do like I’ve always done.”
Reed, who currently serves on the DeLand Planning Board, is looking forward to serving the city in an even greater capacity.
“It was an educational and fantastic experience,” Reed told The Beacon on election night. “I very much look forward to serving the people of DeLand.”
Seat 5 — Incumbent Reid will stay
In the race for DeLand City Commission Seat 5, incumbent Kevin Reid had a challenge from political newcomer Matthew Johnson. Reid will keep his seat on the City Commission after getting 64.81 percent of the vote, or 4,891 votes, but Johnson said he was feeling pretty good about his 2,656 votes, 35.19 percent.
“We kind of got into the race late. It was just my wife and I doing the entire campaign, and it was kind of eye-opening to see how much support we got in such a short time,” Johnson said. “It was very encouraging.”
Johnson still has his sights set on the DeLand City Commission, potentially as soon as 2024.
“You haven’t seen the last of me,” he told The Beacon. “You’ll probably see my name on a ballot again.”
Johnson was critical of his opponent, pushing for himself as a new face on the DeLand City Commission.
“Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” Johnson wrote in a campaign Facebook post, criticizing Reid for voting favorably for various development projects.
Reid said he wished people would get involved with city business at times other than the election season, but he’s happy to serve the voters for another four years.
“I’m happy the elections are over,” he said. “I’m happy to hear from the voters.”
BY THE NUMBERS
25,633 — The number of registered voters in DeLand
8,336 — The number of city of DeLand voters who cast ballots by mail, early or in person at the polls in the Aug. 23 primary election. That’s 32.5 percent of DeLand’s registered voters.
261 — That’s how many voters left their choice for DeLand mayor blank on their ballots, or cast an “undervote.” The mayoral race had the fewest undervotes of all the DeLand races. The Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Office reported 632 undervotes in the race for Seat 4, 787 for Seat 5 and 875 for Seat 3.
31.5 — The percentage of DeLand registered voters who are over the age of 66. That age group is overrepresented when it comes to voting. According to 2021 data from the U.S. census, just 21 percent of DeLand’s total population is over the age of 65.
68.7 — The percentage of DeLand’s registered voters who identified themselves as “white” on their voter registration. According to census data from 2021, DeLand’s population is 73-percent white.
12.5 — The percentage of DeLand’s registered voters who identified themselves as “Black” on their voter registration. According to the census, DeLand’s population is 15.6-percent black.
12.2 — The percentage of DeLand’s registered voters who identified themselves as “Hispanic” on their voter registration. According to the census, DeLand’s population is 16.6-percent Hispanic.
At least three of the five current City Commission members will remain on board, despite voters’ clamor for change, especially with regard to growth and development.