ORTONA, FLORIDA -- Ortona�s �Meet The Candidates� Political Rally was well attended, with opening remarks by Ortona Community Association Vice President Larry Luckey reflecting that the first rural Glades County community political rally was held in Ortona in 1980.
Travis Dowhen, affectionately known as �Mayor of Turkey Creek, introduced the candidates which included the surprise appearance of three 20th Judicial Circuit candidates, Stephen Kolody for Group 28, Robert Geltner for Group 29, and Frank Mann Jr. for Group 30. All three candidates spoke briefly of their qualifications and desire to serve as Circuit Judge. Geltner had the broadest range of legal experience, Kolody had the most Board Certifications specialties, and Mann�s greatest experience was with domestic law.
District 77 Representative Denise Grimsley (R) reported on her continued efforts and concern for education and health care issues for Floridians, and on her accomplishments for her first term of office, including $11,464,741 in appropriations for Glades County. The Democrat opponent Zane Thomas reflected on his leadership role as a military officer, having recently retired after 25 years in the US Navy. He stressed the need for responsible leadership in government, to serve the people and provide government by and for the people.
Three unopposed school board candidates, Janet Storey District 1, Mike Pressley District 4, and Patti Pearce District 5, thanked the Ortona voters for their support and urged them to participate in the school system programs as volunteers.
Three candidates are vying for the District 2 Commission seat. Incumbent Alvin Ward reflected on the dismal financial situation of Glades County two years ago compared to the brightened present due to increased property values producing more tax revenue; he noted that the last two years have been the brightest because of the hiring of two professionals, County Manager Wendell Traylor and Community Development Director Larry Hilton which improved the services of the County�s Development Department formerly known as Building-Planning-Zoning. He noted this year his peers on the Board chose him as Vice Chairman, and he asked for the chance to continue as a Board member of the business of Glades County. He has elected in 1996 to complete an unexpired term, was unopposed in 1998, and was reelected in 2002.
Republican contender Donna Storter Long, a native of Ortona, spoke of accelerated growth bringing a broader tax base that should then call for a reduced millage tax rate. She offered several suggestions for improving the County government service to the people including enhancing the fire department funding, instituting a viable profitable recycling program, and holding county night meetings at Community Associations at least once a year, and including explanations of codes and application requests for public hearings; she cited a need for the county to conclude projects that have lagged uncompleted for years, including the landfill issue, redistricting, and resolution of outstanding lawsuits. Mrs. Storter-Long served an interim term as commissioner when appointed by Governor Bush in 2004. She will face the winning Democrat contender in November.
Democrat opponent Fran Koebert, a retired paint chemist from Muse, stated his reason for running was to give the people a choice. He cited his experience of developing a company from a small start with no money and being advised by his tax attorney to declare bankruptcy, which he declined stating bankruptcy in not in his vocabulary. His success culminated after 40 years, when he finally sold it to the third offer of a large paint company. He said that Glades County is a �diamond in the rough� and that a landfill would not economically benefit Glades County by creating jobs because not many youngsters aspire to be come sanitary engineers, or trash men. He said he is not spending money campaigning, and needs the people to inform their friends and neighbors that they have a choice.
Voters will have two referenda choices on the September 5 ballot, and Tracy Whirls, Executive Director of Glades County Economic Development Council explained the need for approval of the item that would allow the County to grant tax abatements to new or expanding businesses creating new jobs in Glades County. The tax abatement will not be automatic, but by application to the Board of Commissioners who will determine the merits and range of tax relief. This measure is to restore the former tax abatement ordinance that had been allowed to expire.
District 4 Commissioner Russell Echols, unopposed for his next term, told the voters the purpose of the second referendum. Glades County currently has a one-cent discretionary surtax which means all taxable sales in Glades County produce 7 percent revenue-six to the state and one to the County. The uses of the revenue are limited to capital improvement projects and purchase of land for county use. This tax has been in effect since 1992 but will expire in December unless approved by the electorate. He cited that funds from that revenue were used to purchase the property to site a new Ortona Community Center, and $100,000 of the current balance is reserved for construction when the state allocates funding for the rest.