Volusia County Council

The Volusia County Council unanimously ratified the ballot language for referendums on Volusia Forever and ECHO for the Nov. 3 general election ballot at their June 2 meeting. From left, Deb Denys, Ed Kelley, Fred Lowry, Heather Post, and Barb Girtman.

The position of Volusia County chair is equivalent to county mayor.

In Volusia’s case, the chair is a mostly ceremonial position, consisting primarily of presiding over meetings of the Volusia County Council and representing the county and its people at official events.

One of those special events occurs annually, when the chair delivers the “State of the County” address, summing up accomplishments and successes and speaking about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

The chair also wields political clout and influence, setting the tone for the seven-member County Council. He/she may be instrumental in helping attract new businesses to the county.

All the candidates vying for chair are transplants from elsewhere in the U.S. Deborah Denys, who is currently the County Council representative from District 3, is originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Gerard Witman hails from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, not far from Philadelphia. He served on that county’s school board.

Jeff Brower is the closest to a native, having lived in Volusia County since age 3 when his family moved from Pennsylvania. Brower, who serves on the Soil and Water Conservation District Board, ran unsuccessfully for the District 1 County Council seat in 2018.

Each of the three hopes to win outright in the Tuesday, Aug. 18, primary. If one receives at least 50 percent of the votes, plus one, he/she becomes the victor and chair-elect, ready to assume office in January 2021.

If none of the contenders receives a clear majority of the total vote in the primary, the two candidates with the largest numbers of votes advance to the Nov. 3 general election.

The race for county chair, like the races for other County Council seats, is a nonpartisan contest. Any eligible and registered voter in Volusia County may mark his/her ballot for the county chair.

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Jeff Brower

1. Why are you running?

Just being raised here, as I look around and see the growth at any cost monthly, and almost twice a month there is a [comprehensive plan] change and land-use change and a discussion about building in areas where we said we would never build in. We’re dredging and paving over wetlands.

With the amount of building we’re doing, there’s not enough water for everyone. Water is a real problem. I serve on the Soil and Water Conservation [District] Board. We’re getting saltwater intrusion. I don’t want to be like Fort Lauderdale.

I want to help our core neighborhoods and core downtown areas. I want to focus on our existing infrastructure that we’ve already invested in, rather than building new. You’ve got Margaritaville, and you’ve got Avalon, with 10,000 homes. We just keep adding on. We need to maintain the infrastructure of our current residents and their neighborhoods.

I have a Volusia-first approach. Let’s take care of what we have. We’ve got to maintain our own house.

2. What are one or two of the big issues?

The water is the biggest one for me, and changing our spending priorities, instead of always raising taxes.

Do you remember the [half-cent local-option] sales tax? They said the sales tax was for the infrastructure. We need to change our spending priorities.

3. Why are you the best candidate?

Because I am a lifelong resident, and I know what we look like at our very best, and I want to return us to that Volusia County-first approach.

This race is about the quality of life for our residents. The growth at any cost is cannibalizing us. I’m not going to lie to the people and change my vote because of campaign contributions.

I’m committed to giving honest government.


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Deb Denys

1. Why are you running?

I think it’s a crucial time for Volusia County. We are in the transition with Amendment 10. We have financially challenging years ahead, and this transition is going to require leadership and experience.

2. What are one or two of the big issues?

What’s becoming really clear is maintaining our financial stability and diversifying the economy for jobs.

We have some pharmaceuticals in Volusia, and DaVita and B. Braun, and we need to strengthen that supply chain. If we diversify the economy, we’ll shift the tax burden from homeowners and balance it with the commercial and industrial markets.

3. Why are you the best candidate?

Because of my leadership experience, I have served as chair of the Central Florida Metropolitan Planning Organization. I have served as chair of the River to Sea Transportation Planning Organization and the chair of the Indian River Lagoon Council. I have served as chair of the Early Learning Coalition of Flagler and Volusia Counties, and I serve on multiple boards of directors of nonprofits and Chambers of Commerce.


 

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Gerard ‘Jerry’ Witman

 

1. Why are you running?

I’ve always been interested in politics. I’m a former elected official.

There are things in this county that we need to attend to. The COVID-19 pandemic is a problem.

My second plank is about social justice, and I have some thoughts about what we need. With COVID-19, we should have a citizens review board for all of the first responders and make sure that all of the people are getting the same services.

My third plank is infrastructure. People I’m hearing from have trouble getting across the streets. We have people with disabilities.

2. What are one or two of the big issues?

From all I’m hearing, the COVID-19 is the big thing. Some cities say you have to wear a mask or get penalized, and I don’t know that you ought to penalize them.

The masks are going to help, because they do stop droplets. Aerosols are 0.5 microns, and droplets are large. The cloth masks are effective.

3. Why are you the best candidate?

I do know I have the experience to do it, because I have the experience as a board president. The board sets policy.

I’ve negotiated with the [U.S.] Department of Energy, the Department of Defense. I have experience in intelligence training. I have experience in getting things done.