Vote Aug. 18
Voters in DeBary will elect two City Council members this year. The race featured here, for Seat 2, will be on the ballot in the Aug. 18 primary.
The other race, for Seat 1, won’t be on the ballot until the Tuesday, Nov. 3, election, because there are only two candidates: incumbent Stephen Bacon, and challenger William Sell.
In the Seat 2 race, there are three candidates and no incumbent. The current Seat 2 representative, Erika Benfield, is running for a seat in the Florida House.
DeBary City Council races are citywide and nonpartisan, so all registered voters who live in DeBary may cast ballots in both races.
A resident of DeBary for two years
Born September 1972
Background, experience, etc.: I grew up in a small town called Bartlett, Tennessee, in the 1970s. I am the son of a brick mason and a human-services worker, who both worked very hard until they retired. I have three beautiful children whom I am very passionate about.
I have a bachelor’s degree in business management and a master’s degree in transformative leadership. I have spent the past 29 years of my life honing my leadership skills as well as my business skills at FedEx Express, a Fortune 100 company.
I have managed multimillion-dollar budgets. I have hands-on experience building and implementing policy and procedure. I have worked in management, as well as senior management. I got there by starting in the lowest-paying position in the company and working my way up. I am not afraid of long hours and hard work.
Why should someone vote for you over your opponent(s)? What is required on the DeBary City Council is strong leadership and a “service above self” mentality. I have years of experience in both arenas. These skill sets, combined with the knowledge of how to effectively work with people, make me the right choice for this seat.
Why is this year’s election important? Elections are important every year. We are deciding on leaders who will be making decisions on the direction of our communities going forward. We must ensure we are electing individuals who are focused on legislation and representing the people they serve. Focused on progress and not divisiveness.
What will be your top two priorities during your first term? DeBary is at a major crossroads right now. Balancing development associated with the SunRail and the desires of the citizens is no small feat.
My top two priorities would be:
Establishing a clear direction for our city moving forward. What is the plan for the next five years? How do we want our city to look in the next 10 years? That needs to be defined and communicated. I would work with the other leaders and DeBary residents to create that vision.
Aggressively approach partnering with public and private entities to create better opportunities for our children and a diverse environment for all citizens. A thriving community creates jobs and other opportunities that are critical for the progress of a city. There are private entities that offer services our citizens have to travel to take advantage of. Many of these services fit nicely into the landscape of our city. Exploring those opportunities as well as others that wouldn’t have a negative financial or lifestyle impact on our citizens would be the right thing to do.
What are your basic positions on …
Taxation: The inequality that exists among taxpayers is a major problem. A system that is simplified, transparent and measurable would be more palatable and offer some level of accountability.
Growth and development: We must devise approaches to development that encourage a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing and transportation options, development within existing neighborhoods, and community engagement.
Renewable energy and environmental conservation: Renewable energy provides jobs, is better for the environment and provides energy in places that otherwise wouldn’t have it. We must do everything possible to conserve our environment, and renewable energy plays a major role in that endeavor.
The role of the arts: This is more important than ever in today’s society. It provides the opportunity to experience diversity and its enrichment, as well as encourage tolerance and pluralism.
Criminal-justice reform: There have been some improvements, but there is still work to do. More energy and resources should be put into rehabilitation and education programs.
Poverty in your district and social services: Poverty can be the cause of both mental and physical health problems. DeBary must stay diligent in job creation, and ensure the social services being offered are in line with the poverty level.
Water policy and costs: Sustainable water management is a healthy balance among social, environmental, economic and institutional sustainability. We must continue to find ways to conserve water and maintain that balance.
A resident of DeBary for three years
Born July 1991
Background, experience, etc.: I am a product of West Volusia. I earned my bachelor’s degree and MBA at Stetson University and served three appointments to local-government committees in DeLand and DeBary. My wife, Kaley, is a lifelong resident of DeBary, and what I want to do most is protect DeBary’s quality of life.
I have spent over seven years in corporate finance and strategy, developing budgets worth hundreds of millions of dollars, for global and national Fortune 500 companies. This includes long-term five-year forecasts, companywide staffing plans, and capital-investment plans. Budgeting and fiscal policy are my passions and strongest skills.
My family and I are members of St. Andrew’s Chapel. I volunteer with Stetson University and my church, and I never miss a City Council meeting.
Why should someone vote for you over your opponent(s)? Experience, skills, and vision. I have the government-committee experience and finance skills needed to navigate the mechanisms of government and thoroughly analyze an annual budget. My vision will protect DeBary from irresponsible development that threatens our quality of life.
Why is this year’s election important? DeBary is facing pressure from developers to turn us into a city full of apartment buildings. This dense housing is a threat to the quality of our roads, schools and emergency services. The wrong representation on the City Council can raise our taxes and balloon government spending.
What will be your top two priorities during your first term? My first priority is limiting future apartment development. This past spring, the City Council passed a moratorium to limit residential-plan submissions in the Transit Oriented Development zone near the SunRail, but the moratorium will expire in September. That moratorium must be continued to stop high-density housing development.
We were promised “mixed-use” development, and we have yet to see meaningful progress on anything but housing. We have to remember that such high-density housing will overwhelm our roads, emergency services and schools.
An ongoing priority that I will continually fight for is strict financial management. When the City Council is entrusted with the taxpayers’ hard-earned money, we must be diligent that not a single dollar is wasted. Historically, DeBary has run a very responsible budget, while maintaining sufficient cash reserves that are needed when natural disasters happen. It is important to maintain liquidity for these events and keep debt low.
What are your basic positions on …
Taxation: Maintain our low millage rate. On July 22, City Council approved the maximum millage of 2.9247 mills for the upcoming fiscal year, a decrease of 16 percent from this year. This is a benchmark we should maintain; it responsibly funds city operations, and we can proudly claim the lowest tax millage in Volusia County.
Growth and development: We must ensure that the Transit Oriented Development zone near the SunRail station achieves true “mixed-use” development, as we were promised. That means no more apartments; the promise was a combination of building types, and we need to get the other pieces in place (retail, restaurants, etc.).
Renewable energy and environmental conservation: Between apartments being built so close to Gemini Springs, and Duke Energy burning so much forestry for the solar plant, DeBary has not done much to protect the natural environment. Our decisions need to be more mindful of our environmental assets.
The role of the arts: The Gateway Center and DeBary Hall are our most prominent art venues, and they serve a dual purpose as supplemental educational opportunities for children. It is important that we push for Volusia County’s ECHO-grant program to be renewed so that these programs can continue.
Criminal-justice reform: We have an excellent relationship with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office. DeBary’s crime rate (15.3 per 1,000 residents) is 42 percent lower than Florida’s average (26.6 percent) according to FBI Crime Statistics.
The Sheriff’s Office provides services that align with our needs. If a situation arises where we may need more deputies, then we can adjust the contract far more easily than if we had our own police department.
Poverty in your district and social services: As we enter COVID recovery, it is going to be important to be a resource for workers to find jobs and businesses to find aid. Directing those in need to resources like CareerSource Flagler Volusia and the Relaunch Volusia grant programs will be essential to helping our neighbors and businesses recover.
Water policy and costs: While water is a county utility, local social-media pages regularly have posts of neighbors asking if anyone else is having brown rusty water coming out of their taps. It is frustrating that we pay about 25 percent more than the state median rate to have this level of water quality (data from the Environmental Finance Center at UNC Chapel Hill). A dialogue needs to be started with the county to approach these concerns.
A resident of DeBary for 15 years
Born May 1991
Background, experience, etc.: As a lifelong resident of West Volusia, I went to Deltona High School and Stetson University. In 2010, I was the youngest candidate to run for office in Volusia County. For the past 10 years, I have worked in local government working my way up from a parks attendant at Wes Crile Park for the City of Deltona to my current position as the recreation manager for the City of Longwood.
Why should someone vote for you over your opponent(s)? Simply put, I grew up in DeBary, unlike my two opponents. I am about commonsense decision-making, based on using the people’s voice as a guide and not using the position for personal pet projects or special interests.
Why is this year’s election important? DeBary is in a stage of unprecedented growth that must be managed properly to ensure a balance of quality of life for both its current and future residents and businesses alike.
What will be your top two priorities during your first term? My top two priorities are stopping the taxing-and-spending mentality and focusing on what’s important to the people, not the politicians.
What are your basic positions on ...
Taxation: I would stop the tax-and-spend mentality. It’s all about priorities. We need to decide what’s important to the residents, and spend their money in those areas.
Growth and development: DeBary must find a balance of guiding growth forward that welcomes development that fits its residents’ needs and, at the same time, not to overdevelop to a point where it stresses our infrastructure.
Renewable energy and environmental conservation: DeBary is fortunate to be a pioneer in renewable energy with the new Duke Energy solar power plant being built within our city limits. It is public/private partnerships like this that will make renewable energy something that is here to stay and grow.
DeBary has many green spaces within our city parks department and county parks department. It is imperative we protect the spaces we currently have and expend them only when it is economically and environmentally conscious to do so.
The role of the arts: The arts play an important role within a community as a conduit to bring the community together. DeBary examples include our local farmers market, monthly food trucks, the Youth Celebration of the Arts, and many other special events.
It is our role as a city to ensure our residents have ample access to community events that are both economically feasible and quality in nature. These events can be grown within our Parks and Recreation Department and through public/private partnerships.
Criminal-justice reform: Although DeBary will have very little influence with this, I believe we should support any and all training that proves to be beneficial to policies that promote inclusion.
Poverty in your district and social services: We as municipalities can do our best to support quality programs that further the cause of equality and social justice for all residents of the city of DeBary and Volusia County.
Water policy and costs: Water has been and always will be a cherished and regulated resource. DeBary must find innovative and cost-effective ways to ensure our water supply remains clean and affordable for all of our residents. This will be accomplished through partnerships with both Volusia County and the greater Central Florida area.