No other topic in Ormond Beach has generated more contention in the upcoming City Commission races than that of development.
It's spawned tears, a protest at city hall, and given rise to two opposing political action committees, Citizens and Neighbors Dedicated to Ormond Beach (CANDO2), which opposes unchecked growth, and Ormond Proud, which backs the incumbents and Zone 3 challenger Susan Persis.
Worries over development have also changed the makeup of city elections when just two years ago three experienced candidates ran unopposed. Now, 12 candidates are vying for the commission's five seats, and all four incumbents face challengers heading into November.
Here's a look at who's running for each seat. All positions carry a two-year term. Voters are eligible to cast ballots only for mayor and the zone in which they live.
Both candidates say they support smart growth, despite having starkly varying views on what that is and how to accomplish it.
Incumbent Bill Partington brings more than 15 years of experience, having served Zone 4 from 2003 until his election as mayor in 2016.
The attorney and former congressional intern cited his ability to listen and build consensus among his greatest attributes.
“I stand for continued slow, planned and controlled smart growth,” Partington said. “If your city doesn’t grow, it is dying. Growth is exploding around our city and we must continue our controlled pace.”
Challenger Rob Bridger is a Vietnam-era veteran and former Florida Department of Health regional administrator who's been endorsed by CANDO2. He's called for restoring the city’s wetland rules, increasing developers’ impact fees, and working to ensure that planning board appointees are not associated with big developers.
“Growth is inevitable, and contrary to my opponent’s assertions, I am not against all development,” Bridger said. “I respect that developers will seek to improve their properties. They have property rights, but so do the owners of adjacent and nearby parcels.”
Commission - Zone 1
Incumbent Dwight Selby has served as commissioner since 2016. The commercial real estate business owner said he supports quality, well-planned development.
He's most proud of his efforts to limit government spending and was the only commissioner to vote for setting property taxes at the rolled-back rate. He believes efforts to improve infrastructure would be better for the environment than a no-growth policy, saying that contaminated ground water from residents’ septic tanks flows into the Intracoastal Waterway. That's part of the reason he wants to replace 4,000 septic tanks on the north peninsula with a city sewer system.
Challenger Kathy Maloney Johnson, an art teacher, is running on the platform of responsible growth backed by CANDO2.
Her top priorities would be to preserve Ormond’s character, increase public transportation to relieve traffic and improve communication between the city and its residents. She said overdevelopment burdens first responders, clogs roads and compromises residents’ quality of life.
“Low impact done right, less sprawling development can improve the aesthetics and culture of Ormond Beach,” she said. “Establishments such as gas stations, strip malls, chain stores, and restaurants don’t do that. To the contrary, restoring historic buildings, such as the properties on Ormond’s Main Street, does.”
Commission - Zone 2
Incumbent Troy Kent faces two challenges in the winner-take-all race. Kent, an assistant principal at Ormond Beach Middle School, has served as a commissioner for the last 15 years. He said his top priority was keeping the city’s tax rate one of the lowest in Volusia County, attracting more businesses to Ormond Beach that pay a healthy salary, and keeping the quality of life high in Ormond Beach.
“I have always supported smart, slow growth and I will continue to support that type of growth,” Kent said. “I was the only Ormond Beach commissioner to oppose the possibility of high-rises coming to our beachside back in 2006. Ormond residents overwhelmingly agreed with me at the polls for that referendum.”
Challenger Joe Dugan, a personal banker, is backed by CANDO2 and says the city’s infrastructure needed to be improved before new development should be considered.
“I believe development and growth are important to a community’s quality of life. However, those prospects come at a cost, to our taxpayers and to our environment,” Dugan said. “I would support low-impact development methods in all future projects and a brief moratorium on future development approvals until we can see how our town’s infrastructure handles the current projects being built.”
The other challenger is attorney David Glasser, who’s running to manage growth, protect the environment, and expand the number of activities for young people.
“I believe growth and development are important. However, development can be too fast. It can tax our roads and transportation, our environment, and the overall environment of the city,” Glasser said. “Development needs to be managed carefully by the city with all of these issues in mind creating balance between new development in the already existing lifestyle and place.”
Commission - Zone 3
Commissioner Rick Boehm’s decision not to run leaves Zone 3 without an incumbent for the first time in eight years and guarantees that the all-male commission will be joined by at least one woman.
Volusia County Deputy Clerk of Court Sandy Kauffman, a self-described “county government watchdog,” is running to manage growth, preserve the environment and unify a divided city, saying her top priority is to restore a decades-old public mandate to protect the city's environment and history.
“I encourage and support environmentally responsible growth and development. If we reinstate the wetland rules prior to 2009, then we can preserve some valuable natural resources and save precious wildlife,” Kauffman said. “This will also benefit our lakes and rivers from dangerous commercial runoffs. We don't need green algae here in Ormond.”
Kauffman also called for increasing developers’ impact fees to pay for infrastructure and lowering property taxes by cutting special interest projects.
Retired Volusia County school principal Susan Persis said her top priorities are a safe and sufficient potable water supply, professionally staffed and equipped first responders, and low impact development. Like Selby, Persis she said she wanted to work to affordably move residents from septic systems to city sewer.
“We must keep our wonderful quality of life and incentivize low-impact and infill development,” she said. “We can balance being business friendly, having high development standards, and protecting the environment. We need to recruit more companies, such as Security First Insurance with 600 high-paying jobs, to move to our area.”
Her husband, Carl Persis, is a former city commissioner, mayor and County Council member who now serves on the School Board.
Commission - Zone 4
Rob Littleton is another incumbent facing two challenges in a winner-take-all race.
Littleton, a small business owner who has served on the commission since 2016, said he’d work to keep property taxes low and preserve residents’ quality of life. He wants to make a priority out of extending Hand Avenue west to South Tymber Creek Road.
“Smart economic development is needed in order to have a vibrant community with the necessary services like police and fire protection provided for and funded adequately,” Littleton said.
Challenger Barry du Moulin said he’s running to ensure responsible growth, better support first responders, and reform impact fees. He's backed by CANDO2.
A Coast Guard veteran and former law enforcement professional, du Moulin said he would work with the county to secure a supplemental, fire-based ambulance service.
Du Moulin said development needs to occur in harmony with the needs of a growing community. He also proposed increasing impact fees that would go to beach enforcement and maintenance to “handle those that visit and don’t respect the environment or safety of others.”
David Romeo, a sales engineer, said he'd work to keep taxes low, enhance the quality of life for residents, and bring positive leadership that would unite the city.
“I’m passionate about bringing our city together," he said. "The disconnect has led to distrust, we must come together and cultivate our ideas as one.”
“I believe in development, and Ormond Beach will move forward with a more sustainable, low-impact method of development that will benefit everyone,” Romeo said. “This type of development will be directed from the commission, not the developers. We will keep our historical small-town feel, keep us primed for local shops, high paying manufacturing jobs.”