110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Al Everson
posted Oct 17, 2012 - 12:34:11pm
At 46, Tom Premo is making his first bid for elective office.
“I had thought I would run for office at some time in my life. I may not be the quintessential candidate, like a lawyer. My pastor talked with me about it,” said Premo, recounting his decision to vie for the District 4 City Commission seat.
Premo said his pastor, incumbent Deltona City Commission District 5 representative Fred Lowry, had tried to recruit Premo’s wife to run for the post. Lowry is pastor of Deltona Lakes Baptist Church.
Lowry’s service on the City Commission and his encouragement of Premo to run have caused some Deltonans to raise questions about the role of the clergy in politics.
Premo, who serves as a lay leader at Deltona Lakes Baptist, denies there is any conspiracy to pack the commission with church leaders and create a sort of theocracy in the biggest city in Volusia County.
“He [Lowry] was just trying to find good, moral people to run. It was not a sting operation,” Premo told The Beacon. “We didn’t sit in a room and plot anything.”
Premo said the City Commission campaign demands more time and energy than he had imagined when he filed to run.
“As we’re getting closer to the election, the strategizing and the intense pace of getting my name out there, and trying to work during the day. There is a lot of footwork,” he said.
“I am hoping if I get elected, it will get easier,” Premo added.
Premo said he and his opponent, Nancy Schleicher, have decided to set a good example of how politics should operate.
“When I approached her, I said I would like to keep a clean campaign, and she agreed,” he said.
Premo says District 4 residents are quick to say what is bothering them.
“Water and sewage is a very hot topic right now,” he said. “People are beaten up by the economy. They’re tired of the stigma of Deltona. There are people who don’t want to keep up their property.”
The lack of home maintenance hinders the recovery of property values in neighborhoods, Premo said. He offered some advice to those who show little pride or regard for their own property or that of their neighbors.
“If you don’t like it here, maybe you need to move,” he said.
Should he become the next commissioner representing District 4, Premo is pondering the legacy he wants to leave.
“When I step down, I would hope I have made a difference and hopefully for the better,” he said.
Originally from New York, Premo and his wife, Leslie, have lived in Deltona for 19 years. They have five children. Premo is self-employed, refinishing aging bathtubs and countertops in homes.
After losing to City Commissioner Paul Treusch in 2007, Nancy Schleicher began preparing for another quest for the office.
“I’ve been at every commission meeting for four years,” Schleicher said.
Attending the meetings, she said, has given her an in-depth knowledge of the issues and workings of the Deltona City Commission.
Having lived in Deltona since 1973, Schleicher has watched Deltona evolve from a quiet but sprawling retirement village into a vast bedroom community that is also the largest city in Volusia County.
Schleicher is a retired elementary-school teacher and a Pittsburgh native who has a résumé of civic involvement. She formed a Deltona watchdog group in 2008.
“I started the Citizens Action Committee. When I retired, I had the time to devote to the community,” Schleicher said.
She made an unsuccessful run for City Commission in 1995, as Deltona was incorporating. The current campaign is her third try.
As she works anew to become a commissioner, Schleicher is busy canvassing neighborhoods in her district and talking to people, getting a feel for the local issues most important to them.
To her surprise, however, and in contrast to what other Deltona candidates are saying, water rates are not the supreme worry in her district.
“When I go out and talk to people, the biggest issue in District 4 has been code enforcement,” Schleicher said. “How our city looks is the comment I get from almost everybody.”
Many of the complaints about code enforcement — or the perceived lack of it — deal with “overgrown grass or dilapidated structures,” she said.
While most of the residents in her district are not connected to Deltona’s sewage system, Schleicher said she has heard the few who are, and who receive high monthly bills.
“We do need to look at the sewer rates,” she said.
The typical water-and-sewage bill for a Deltona Water residential customer connected to both systems is about $150 per month, according to the city. Of approximately 30,000 customers of city water, only about 6,000 are connected to the sewage system. Most of Deltona’s homes and some businesses have septic tanks.
Schleicher is an ardent supporter of Deltona’s effort to establish a community-redevelopment area (CRA). The proposed CRA includes Deltona Boulevard, and it is supposed to spur new commercial investment.
“I’m very hopeful of that. The thing that bothers me is that you’re not going to see the effects of a CRA for 15 or 20 years. This is not a short-term project; this is a long-term project,” she said.
For a CRA to be successful, Schleicher says “a lot of infrastructure” will be needed, especially new water and sewage lines and improved roadways.
“It covers a little bit of everything. It’s a long-term plan,” she said.
Asked how she would like to be known and remembered if she is elected, Schleicher replied, “I would like to be remembered as a consensus-builder, a positive person, and I would like to think I had made an impact in making the community more attractive and making businesses want to come here ... I would also like to be remembered as one who listened to the residents.”
As Election Day fast approaches, Schleicher is trying to get the word and the vote out.
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