It’s a big year for the largest city in Volusia County, as five Deltona City Commission spots are up for grabs — a solid majority on the seven-member City Commission.
Deltona elects six of its city commissioners from geographic districts, with only residents of the districts allowed to vote in those races. The seventh member, the mayor, is elected citywide.
The District 1 race boasts two candidates — Brandy White and Tom Burbank — both newcomers who say they didn’t really plan to run for office.
The two candidates, each in their own way, want to help solve the many problems Deltona residents have faced recently, including infrastructure issues, stormwater management and city taxes.
Who is she?
White, a local small-business owner and mother of four, has lived in Deltona her entire life. Since 2018, she has been the topic of news coverage of her lawsuit against the City of Deltona over a criminal charge lodged against her for videotaping inside City Hall. The state attorney never charged her. The case came to a close in 2021 when Deltona paid White a settlement.
White prides herself on being a watchdog for the residents of Deltona, along with being openly critical of the City Commission.
Her discontent with the City Commission, she said, is her main reason for running for office. She said the City Commission has shown a continual lack of follow-through on its comprehensive plan and pays insufficient attention to the concerns of the city’s residents.
“I’m just not so sure a lot of it is well-thought-out,” White said.
She expressed significant concern about what White said are near-constant deviations from the comprehensive plan that is supposed to govern growth and development.
White said the City Commission has lost connection with residents. She said the main role of a commissioner is to be the voice of the people in the commissioner’s district.
“When you have a large amount of residents coming and directing their voice to say, ‘This is what we want you to do’ and they just turn around and do the opposite, I think there is a disconnect,” White said.
One of her priorities, if she is elected to office, she said, would be to involve the residents more to identify problems the City Commission needs to solve.
Priorities, White said, are taxes and widespread city flooding. She says her first act in office would be reviewing the city’s top five expenses to determine if costs could be cut to reduce taxes.
Furthermore, White takes issue with the way that stormwater is currently managed. She said the city’s strategy needs to change from “dumping” to “pumping.”
While this is White’s first run at city politics, it’s not her first experience more broadly. White served for nearly a year as a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee for the West Volusia Hospital Authority.
CAC members are appointed by members of the Hospital Authority, and White was hand-picked by former Hospital Authority board member Brian Soukup, a vocal opponent of the Hospital Authority.
While serving in that role, White was an outspoken opponent of using West Volusia property taxes to support a number of the agencies contracted with the Hospital Authority to provide health care services to West Volusia’s indigent population.
White left the CAC when Soukup resigned from his Hospital Authority seat in September 2021.
Who is he?
A Deltona resident since he was 16, Tom Burbank, like his opponent, is new to running for office.
However, he has been active throughout the years, serving on the Deltona Municipal Services Advisory Board, the Deltona Planning and Zoning Board, the WMFE Community Advisory Board, the Volusia/Flagler YMCA corporate board of directors, and the Volusia County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors.
Before retiring in 2010, Burbank worked as a carpenter, surveyor, cartographer and, most recently, Deltona’s planning manager, from 2007 to 2010.
He cites his career experience as a foundational reason he is a good fit for the city commissioner job.
He said his engineering background and knowing how to “speak the language” of utilities, as well as understanding growth and development, will serve him well when navigating the water problems Deltona residents have faced.
“The single largest complaint the people in Deltona have right now is their utilities,” Burbank said. “That’s a problem, and somehow maybe my engineering background and knowing how to talk the language, I can be involved with that somehow.”
Burbank said he wasn’t planning to run for office, but made the leap because he is “something of a figure in town,” and many people have asked him to.
On the topic of growth management, Burbank said Deltona has an abundance of potential for further growth. He values making Deltona a place people want to live to facilitate that growth.
“Everyone talks about how we need more jobs, jobs, jobs. Well,” Burbank said, “these are the same people who say we don’t need more traffic, traffic, traffic. I’ve long held the opinion, if you make Deltona a place people want to live, the jobs will follow.”
What they have in common
Both candidates say they are motivated, at least in part, by their lack of confidence in their opponent to represent District 1. In response to a question of what made him the better candidate, Burbank cited his previous experience and his opponent’s lack thereof.
“As a city commissioner goes, I’m the better of the two choices, hands down. I have more experience, I’ve got a better background, I’ve lived there longer, I know the inner workings, and know where the skeletons are buried,” Burbank said.
White said she wouldn’t feel comfortable keeping her unofficial role as Deltona’s watchdog if she did not take the chance to run against her opponent, who, she believes, wouldn’t adequately represent her.
“I wouldn’t feel right continuing to stand at that podium pointing out the problems and the concerns and voicing my opinions and telling him, my opponent, that you’re wrong, if I knew that before the election and I didn’t do anything about it,” White said. “If I know that nobody else is running for the seat and I know that he’s not going to speak for me, then I should sit down, shut up and accept it, or do something about it.”
The voters will decide Tuesday, Nov. 8.
According to the Volusia County Elections Office, as of Sept. 23, Burbank had $2,058.30 in his campaign war chest, and had spent $1,931.89. As of her last report on Sept. 9, White had a campaign war chest of $336.50, and had spent $237.20.
Who’s running for Deltona City Commission?
With so many seats up for grabs, the Deltona City Commission could look a lot different after Nov. 8.
Heidi Herzberg (incumbent)
City Commission District 1
City Commission District 3
Maritza Avila-Vazquez (incumbent)
City Commission District 5
City Commission District 6
Jody Lee Storozuk