News

Wed
18
Jul

Trio try for County Council at-large seat

The three candidates running for the at-large seat on the Volusia County Council

The three candidates running for the at-large seat on the Volusia County Council

A retired white Republican sheriff, an African-American pastor who’s a Democrat, and a Republican Party activist and retired painting contractor go into a bar. The sheriff pulls out a fistful of cash.

Wait, they didn’t go into a bar. They’re on the ballot together, each hoping to win one of the highest-profile elected positions in Volusia County — the at-large seat on the Volusia County Council now held by Joyce Cusack, who has served the maximum allowed terms.

Well, sure, John Casaburro, a former district coordinator for the Volusia County Republican Executive Committee, would like to win, but he’s realistic. He’s a write-in candidate without much name recognition or money in his campaign account. 

Casaburro will be happy, he said, if he draws enough votes to prevent Ben Johnson — the other Republican — from winning.

The third man in the race, Dr. L. Ronald Durham, is a Democrat.

“I have nothing bad to say about a pastor,” Casaburro explained.

Wed
18
Jul

DeLand’s budget: Making the math work

Sitting through hours of hearings on the financial wants and needs of DeLand’s various city departments is not many people’s idea of a good time. 

Yet, that’s what the DeLand City Commission did last week, and as dutiful watchdog reporters, Beacon Publisher Barb Shepherd and I witnessed the excitement. A handful of residents attended.

Budget hearings are a yearly ritual in DeLand and other cities around this time of year. 

Weeks beforehand, City Manager Michael Pleus finishes a draft budget, which typically includes what he views as the city’s most pressing needs. 

For the leaders of the city’s various departments, Pleus’ version typically leaves much to be desired.

So, over the span of a few days, the head of each department — from police and fire to parks and recreation — appeal to your elected officials for a larger slice of the taxpayer’s dollar. 

Wed
18
Jul

DeLand runner is oldest on DSC women’s cross-country team

NICE FINISH — Finishing 15th out of 219 participants in the Jacksonville Triathlon Sprint last weekend, Bego Lopez, 50, of DeLand proudly displays the “Overall Female” award she earned. Lopez is a student at Daytona State College, studying business and accounting.

NICE FINISH — Finishing 15th out of 219 participants in the Jacksonville Triathlon Sprint last weekend, Bego Lopez, 50, of DeLand proudly displays the “Overall Female” award she earned. Lopez is a student at Daytona State College, studying business and accounting.

PHOTO COURTESY COACH JUDY WILSON

ENROLLED — Bego Lopez, a 50-year-old competitive runner from DeLand, enrolls as a student at Daytona State College in order to compete on the school’s cross-country team. Here, last March, Lopez meets with DSC admissions counselor Greg Campbell to determine her course of study. 

ENROLLED — Bego Lopez, a 50-year-old competitive runner from DeLand, enrolls as a student at Daytona State College in order to compete on the school’s cross-country team. Here, last March, Lopez meets with DSC admissions counselor Greg Campbell to determine her course of study. 

PHOTO COURTESY COACH JUDY WILSON

RUNNING BY THE WATER — Bego Lopez, a 50-year-old competitive runner from DeLand and a member of Daytona State College’s cross-country team, runs along the shore in New Smyrna Beach during a July 1 race. 

RUNNING BY THE WATER — Bego Lopez, a 50-year-old competitive runner from DeLand and a member of Daytona State College’s cross-country team, runs along the shore in New Smyrna Beach during a July 1 race. 

PHOTO COURTESY COACH JUDY WILSON

Being prohibited from team sports during her childhood in Spain motivated a DeLand woman to move at a competitive pace throughout adulthood. 

Now, at 50, Bego Lopez is one of the oldest cross-country runners at the National Junior College Athletic Association level, according to her coach and friend, Judy Wilson.

Lopez has added going back to college and joining the school’s running team to her credits. 

In November, Wilson became the head coach for Daytona State College’s men’s and women’s cross-country teams. 

Wilson discovered a dearth of female student runners, and realized the NJCAA does not have an age limit. The only requirements: enrollment in college and no previous college cross-country experience. 

She thought of her friend Bego Lopez.

Wed
18
Jul

DeLand commission seeks 5th member

VACANCY — Jeff Hunter, left, stands near his seat with its former occupant, former DeLand City Commissioner Charles Paiva in November 2016. Paiva has expressed interest in filling Hunter’s now-vacant seat, two commissioners said July 16. 

VACANCY — Jeff Hunter, left, stands near his seat with its former occupant, former DeLand City Commissioner Charles Paiva in November 2016. Paiva has expressed interest in filling Hunter’s now-vacant seat, two commissioners said July 16. 

BEACON FILE PHOTO

Commissioner Hunter suspended by governor while he awaits trial

With one of its five members suspended after getting embroiled in a drug-related charge, the DeLand City Commission is short-staffed. 

Now, the remaining four members on the board are looking for someone to fill the seat left vacant by the suspension of City Commissioner Jeff Hunter, who was arrested June 27 and charged with selling or delivering hydrocodone, an opioid painkiller and a Schedule II controlled substance.

On July 13, Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order suspending Hunter from office. Florida law gives Scott the discretion to suspend municipal officials accused of crimes, and to remove them from office if they are convicted.

At the City Commission’s July 16 meeting, City Attorney Darren Elkind laid out the process for filling the seat.

Mon
16
Jul

Foodie File: OC has a new hometown diner

COMFORT-FOOD DELIVERY — Alyssa Hogue dresses a slice of cheesecake before delivering it to a customer. Her mom owns Rhonda's Kitchen, newly opened in Orange City. Rhonda's Kitchen has its own pastry chef, Pat Labarbera, who comes in four mornings a week to make homemade baked goods, such as this cheesecake and other offerings, including cobblers, parfaits and pies. 

COMFORT-FOOD DELIVERY — Alyssa Hogue dresses a slice of cheesecake before delivering it to a customer. Her mom owns Rhonda's Kitchen, newly opened in Orange City. Rhonda's Kitchen has its own pastry chef, Pat Labarbera, who comes in four mornings a week to make homemade baked goods, such as this cheesecake and other offerings, including cobblers, parfaits and pies. 

BEACON PHOTO/RYAN ROUGEUX

RHONDA’S KITCHEN TEAM — The kitchen and front-of-house staff stand underneath one of the humorous signs at Rhonda’s Kitchen, which reads “Your crazy is showing. You might wanna tuck that back in.” From left are Rafael Torres, Rhonda Hogue, Gary Creegan, Wayne Troina, Alyssa Hogue, Ashlyn Weidemiller, Steven Kasper and Ann-Marie Boyle. Kneeling in front is chef DeJuan Duncan. The service at Rhonda’s Kitchen is personable and relaxed, and customers are treated like family.

RHONDA’S KITCHEN TEAM — The kitchen and front-of-house staff stand underneath one of the humorous signs at Rhonda’s Kitchen, which reads “Your crazy is showing. You might wanna tuck that back in.” From left are Rafael Torres, Rhonda Hogue, Gary Creegan, Wayne Troina, Alyssa Hogue, Ashlyn Weidemiller, Steven Kasper and Ann-Marie Boyle. Kneeling in front is chef DeJuan Duncan. The service at Rhonda’s Kitchen is personable and relaxed, and customers are treated like family.

BEACON PHOTO/RYAN ROUGEUX

FRESH NEW LOOK — The former Jade Garden Chinese Restaurant in Spring Hills Center in Orange City has been completely remodeled to open as Rhonda's Kitchen. “We wanted our restaurant to be very handicap-accessible when placing chairs and tables in the remodel,” Rhonda Hogue said. One of the stars of my three-course lunch there was the mac and cheese created by chef DeJuan Duncan. 

FRESH NEW LOOK — The former Jade Garden Chinese Restaurant in Spring Hills Center in Orange City has been completely remodeled to open as Rhonda's Kitchen. “We wanted our restaurant to be very handicap-accessible when placing chairs and tables in the remodel,” Rhonda Hogue said. One of the stars of my three-course lunch there was the mac and cheese created by chef DeJuan Duncan. 

BEACON PHOTO/RYAN ROUGEUX

FOODIE FILE: RHONDA'S KITCHEN

Comfort food is one of life’s simple pleasures. Childhood memories flood in as you bite into steaming home-cooked biscuits-and-gravy or warm cobbler.

Memories of Sunday meals after church, the feeling of being held in your mother’s arms, and other happy thoughts come to mind as you dig in at Rhonda’s Kitchen in Orange City.

On May 29, after Jade Garden Chinese Restaurant closed after many years in business, Rhonda Hogue and her business partner Robert Gingerich opened an American comfort-food establishment in its place.

Hogue was born in Rhode Island, and has been a DeBary resident since 1996.

“I’ve been working in restaurants for 20 years, and Robert and I decided it was time for my own place,” Hogue said.

The new restaurant in the Spring Hills Center at 2487 S. Volusia Ave., Unit 101, is open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week.

Fri
13
Jul

Letter to the editor: Inconsistency now reigns in our government

Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor

Editor, The Beacon:

I grew up with parents who were consistent in their words and actions. That provided me with a sense of security and trust, not only in them, but also for others. I realize I was fortunate in that many children do not have that experience in their formative years.

If parents are not always present or are in an altered state of mind or are simply not conscious of what their role is, the child will obviously lack a sense of security and trust.

In applying this concept to our nation, I expect our political leaders to function as surrogate parents for the citizenry. We put our trust in them to make right choices in a consistent way. We do not have this in our nation at the moment.

We have a president who is inconsistent in actions and words, and we have a majority of our congressional representatives who provide no support for us in keeping a check on the president and even members of his Cabinet.

Fri
13
Jul

Governor suspends DeLand City Commissioner Jeff Hunter

Jeff Hunter, during a public appearance earlier this year.

DeLand City Commissioner Jeff Hunter, shown during a public appearance earlier this year, has been suspended from office.

BEACON FILE PHOTO

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has suspended a DeLand city commissioner arrested by state agents on drug-related charges June 27, his office said Friday afternoon.

The governor issued an executive order suspending Commissioner Jeff Hunter, after Hunter was charged with selling hydrocodone, a Schedule II controlled substance.

Wed
11
Jul

Stranded missionaries returning from Haiti

ALL SMILES — Students, adult leaders and Haitian support-team members pose for a photo. Their happy smiles speak volumes about how good works lift spirits. The group from The Journey First Baptist Church includes Orange City and Sanford residents, who were delayed from returning to the U.S. by civil unrest in Haiti.

ALL SMILES — Students, adult leaders and Haitian support-team members pose for a photo. Their happy smiles speak volumes about how good works lift spirits. The group from The Journey First Baptist Church includes Orange City and Sanford residents, who were delayed from returning to the U.S. by civil unrest in Haiti.

PHOTO COURTESY NANCY SHAFFER

SOME ABOARD — The bus carries some of the first members of a mission trip to Haiti from Saint-Marc to the airport in Port-au-Prince Wednesday, July 11. Onboard are Orange City and Sanford residents who traveled to Haiti as part of The Journey First Baptist Church Orange City’s student ministry effort. Their return was delayed by several days due to violent protests around Haiti’s capital.

PHOTO COURTESY NANCY SHAFFER

SOME ABOARD — The bus carries some of the first members of a mission trip to Haiti from Saint-Marc to the airport in Port-au-Prince Wednesday, July 11. Onboard are Orange City and Sanford residents who traveled to Haiti as part of The Journey First Baptist Church Orange City’s student ministry effort. Their return was delayed by several days due to violent protests around Haiti’s capital.

Missionaries representing The Journey First Baptist Church from Orange City and Sanford are making their way home after their trip from Haiti was delayed this week.

Civil unrest sparked by the government’s plan to raise fuel prices 50 percent, according to the U.S. State Department, resulted in chaos, violence and road blockages, preventing passage to the airport in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

“The Haitian government canceled the increase amid protests that left several people dead and prompted airlines to cancel flights to the impoverished country,” according to an article published July 9 in The Washington Post.

Wed
11
Jul

He can see clearly now: Gene therapy helps boy see the world

DREAMS REALLY DO COME TRUE — Sarah and Creed Pettit marvel at the sight of a rainbow. Before undergoing a new gene therapy in March at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Creed, 9, who was legally blind from birth, could only imagine what a rainbow might look like. Now, with prescription glasses, he has 20/30 vision in his right eye, and the left eye is steadily improving, according to his mom. 

DREAMS REALLY DO COME TRUE — Sarah and Creed Pettit marvel at the sight of a rainbow. Before undergoing a new gene therapy in March at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Creed, 9, who was legally blind from birth, could only imagine what a rainbow might look like. Now, with prescription glasses, he has 20/30 vision in his right eye, and the left eye is steadily improving, according to his mom. 

PHOTO COURTESY SARAH PETTIT

BRIGHT FUTURE — Visiting his favorite Miami eatery is Creed Pettit of Mount Dora. According to an article published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Creed is the youngest person in the United States to undergo a new gene-therapy procedure for a rare condition called Leber congenital amaurosis, which causes near-blindness. Since having Luxturna injections in March at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Creed’s vision is 20/30 in his right eye with prescription glasses, and steadily improving in hi

BRIGHT FUTURE — Visiting his favorite Miami eatery is Creed Pettit of Mount Dora. According to an article published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Creed is the youngest person in the United States to undergo a new gene-therapy procedure for a rare condition called Leber congenital amaurosis, which causes near-blindness. Since having Luxturna injections in March at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Creed’s vision is 20/30 in his right eye with prescription glasses, and steadily improving in his left, according to his mother.

PHOTO COURTESY SARAH PETTIT

Nine-year-old Creed Pettit has been discovering details of the world that were previously shrouded for him in a deepening darkness. 

Before undergoing a gene-therapy procedure in March at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Creed was going blind. 

His rare genetic condition, called Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), affects the retinal cones and rods that detect light and color, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. It typically causes severe visual impairment in infancy.

When Creed was a baby, the setting of the sun prompted him to scream and cry, according to his mom, Sarah Pettit. Only streetlights or bright store fluorescents calmed him. 

He wouldn’t look at his food and was missing every milestone, his mom said. 

“The only place he was happy was outside,” she said. “He kept staring at lights; that’s all he would do.”

When he started crawling, then walking, Creed would bump into things and fall. 

Wed
11
Jul

Four seeking County Council seat

CANDIDATES — Clockwise from top-left are Jeff Brower, Barb Girtman, Pat Patterson and Eddie Molina, the candidates for the District 1 seat on the Volusia County Council.

CANDIDATES — Clockwise from top-left are Jeff Brower, Barb Girtman, Pat Patterson and Eddie Molina, the candidates for the District 1 seat on the Volusia County Council.

Pat Patterson faces three challengers in his bid for re-election to a second four-year term in the District 1 seat on the Volusia County Council. We introduce you to all four candidates today.

Patterson and Jeff Brower, Barb Girtman and Eddie Molina will be on the ballot in the Tuesday, Aug. 28, primary. If one of the four gets more than 50 percent of the vote that day, the election is over.

If none of the four wins a majority of votes cast in the primary, the top two advance to the General Election Tuesday, Nov. 6.

The Volusia County Council sets policy for the operation of county government, hiring the county manager and county attorney, adopting spending priorities and policies and approving a budget, and making county law and land-development rules.

The Volusia County Council has seven members — two elected at-large by voters across the county, and five elected by voters who live in particular districts.

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