Community gets the last word on elections before Aug. 30 primary
How do we know elections matter to our readers? We were overwhelmed with letters in response to our offer to publish as many as we could fit in print. Unfortunately, not every single letter will make it to print because we ran out of space, even though we have dedicated more pages to letters this week than we can remember ever doing in the past six years of our existence.
A note on the editing process: In election-related letters, sometimes there are personal insults or other claims that are made without being substantiated. Our policy is to fact check letters just as we would with other stories, and we also don't allow personal attacks. Because of the volume of the letters, some of the claims that were not easily verified simply had to be deleted. The goal in trimming the letters down was always to give the letter writer as much freedom as possible.
— Brian McMillan, executive editor
Flagler County Sheriff
The Sheriff’s Office is already providing the best service possible
Thank you for your endorsement. Quoting our recent accreditation assessors, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office is “providing the citizens of Flagler with the most professional and effective law enforcement services possible.” We look forward to continuing our efforts to reduce the crime rate even further while expanding our transparency and community involvement.
My promise is to continue with this commitment and explore and undertake new ideas and initiatives. However, we cannot do this alone and need our citizens and visitors to join our effort by locking their vehicles and saying something when they see something suspicious.
Before I finish, I would like this opportunity to address the appalling comments Rick Staly made in response to my endorsement by your paper. In his response titled, “I stood up to two ethically corrupt sheriffs,” I can only speak for myself and state unequivocally for all that I am not ethically corrupt and have not been dishonest or been involved in any illegal behavior. The records clearly support my statement and shame on Rick Staly for making this claim.
I made a big mistake by hiring Rick and ask you not to make the same mistake. Staly is a man who says he retired from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office after approximately two years of service. He never retired, rather quit after doing all he could to undermine me and what I was trying to do for the community and my employees. Staly has a sordid history of his own. He was demoted by then Sheriff Kevin Beary of Orange County for his use of his official uniform and his position as undersheriff to hawk a vitamin supplement that garnered him over $60,000. He also was involved in Sheriff Fleming’s 2012 ethics probe as he was the head of security at the Club at Hammock Beach and recommended that Fleming be granted the free membership, the same membership which was at the heart of his ethics violation.
Finally, please do not forget what John Pollinger, Don Fleming and Jerry O’Gara have all said about Staly’s actions prior to his announcement to run for sheriff. While still employed by me at the Sheriff’s Office, he was soliciting each one to support him in his campaign. We all cannot be wrong about Staly as his history and flip-flopping between the Democratic and Republican parties shows he is an opportunist at heart.
I humbly ask for your vote on Aug. 30 so we may continue our vision of making Flagler County the safest it can be for all who live, work and vacation in our beautiful county.
I am proud to run an honorable campaign
Eleventh-hour personal attacks before the Aug. 30 primary upon my record and integrity by one of my opponents is a glimpse into the window of what his administration would look like: a sheriff who uses half truths, deceptive practices, and money to gain a position of personal power above the safety and welfare of our citizens and the men and women of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office who protect them daily.
When I made a decision to run to be your sheriff, I made a commitment to run an upstanding campaign focused on the issues that affect every citizen and law enforcement officer in this county, comparing my achievements with my opponents while treating them respectfully.
I am proud that my team and I have held true to honoring these time tested principals. I ask for your vote on Tuesday, Aug. 30. Thank you.
Fleming has the compassion to be Flagler’s sheriff
What does it take to be a good sheriff? It takes equitable practices, honesty, compassion, tenacity, listening — and most of all to be a good person. Then you need experience, innovation, education, management skills.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Donald Fleming for a number of years. Don is the only candidate that completes the above checklist with a grade of 100%.
As a retired NYPD major case squad and Flagler County detective, I have a unique perspective. The foundation for any “cop” is to be a good person so you can police in a free society objectively.
Donald Fleming was an amazing Sheriff during his tenure at Flagler Courtly Sheriff’s Office. He embodied the qualities that I have mentioned above. He has been dearly missed.
When I was under his command, he tasked me as a detective to start an Economic Crime Unit and in the first year under his tutelage we arrested and convicted fraudsters who preyed upon the elderly and other targeted groups. The convictions and arrests added up to in excess of $1.5 million in losses. Before that time in the history of Flagler County, only about $50,000 in fraud arrests were made. His accomplishments are depicted in ACFE Fraud Magazine Volume 28 No 6. Mr. Fleming proactively came to the rescue of vulnerable members of his community.
I know I am not alone in my belief that Donald Fleming will restore excellence to Flagler Courtly.
In my opinion he is the only candidate that is running for altruistic reasons; he cares for others a great deal.
Please re-elect the best candidate for the position, Donald Fleming. Flagler County needs him.
John M. Gaspar
Fleming: a great man
As a former prosecutor in Flagler County, I can speak with firsthand knowledge of Don Fleming’s qualifications as a sheriff. His command staff was competent and hard working. His deputies were knowledgeable and respectful. Above all, the agency had a “shine” to it. It was a privilege to be a member of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. Morale was high, and employees truly made a difference. Now, as I speak to friends still employed with the agency, there is a noticeable difference. Law enforcement and support staff simply “do their jobs.” The shine is gone.
I have gotten to know Sheriff Fleming as a personal friend over the years. He is a sheriff, cop, college professor, family and businessman, community leader and decorated Vietnam veteran.
Don Fleming above all is a great man. Flagler County will be privileged to have this great man lead our Sheriff’s Office and deputies back to greatness.
Despite what Staly’s false attack ads might say, I do live in Flagler
I’m John Lamb, a candidate for sheriff of Flagler County. Recently Rick Staly sent mailers and made robo calls riddled with misrepresentation and false statements. My pledge to you is to run a clean, positive campaign that addresses the issues and concerns related to safety and security and quality of life in our county.
As is customary for all appointed staff, I resigned my position as a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office assistant chief when the new a sheriff was elected. The new sheriff chose his team, and I reverted back to the rank of lieutenant which I held before being appointed assistant chief.
There is no truth to the claim that I was investigated by internal affairs and disciplined three times. In 23 years of police service, I never was reprimanded or disciplined, and I challenge anyone to prove otherwise.
From the beginning of my campaign, I was open about my children finishing the school year in Jacksonville and that my wife was still employed as a detective with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Today, my children are attending school in Flagler County and my wife is currently employed as a teacher in Flagler County. Reference to our homestead is a misrepresentation as my wife continued to live in the house after I moved to Flagler in 2015.
I have knocked on over 6,000 doors and the one underlying desire of the citizens I have met is that they want an ethical sheriff. I am honored to wear the badge of a police officer, and I have always worked to make it shine brighter and not tarnish it. I hope to continue this legacy as your next sheriff.
Robo calls show Staly is not fit to be sheriff
This evening my phone rang and it was a robo call from the Staly for Sheriff Campaign stating that sheriff’s candidate John Lamb does not reside in Flagler County, among other lies. This is a sheriff’s campaign making allegations which he knows are false. The Lamb family are neighbors of mine. If Staly is not aware they are residing here, it is he who is not fit to be our sheriff.
Shame on you, Rick Staly. If the truth is not important to you in your campaign, how can the voters of Flagler County trust you with the office of Sheriff?
Lamb has credentials we need in a sheriff
Most of the current candidates have ethics violations and/or do not have the credentials to be sheriff.
But candidate John Lamb has worked in corrections, as patrol officer, on bike patrols, community relations, worked his way up to sergeant, lieutenant, assistant chief in charge of 166 deputies, overseeing 192,000 residents. He has administration abilities, worked to oversee a $350 million budget. Has the respect of his officers. A family man with Christian values.
We need John Lamb to lead the future of Flagler County. Yes he and his family are residents of Flagler County.
Vote for integrity: John Lamb
I am supporting John Lamb for sheriff. As a resident of Flagler County for years now, as well as being a law enforcement officer for 31 years, I recognize this county needs a new and fresh approach. The Observer gave Rick Staly the edge over Lamb and Fleming but at the same time admits controversy surrounds Staly with his past.
Staly was the undersheriff in both Orange County and Flagler County, was demoted in Orange County and left Flagler County before his term was up. He ran against the sheriff in both counties after ethical issues on the sheriff emerged. Coincidental? I don’t think so.
John Lamb has the experience, knowledge and temperament to right the agency.
Mark P. Bialkoski
Staly is the better choice over Lamb
I am a Flagler County resident, and a former police officer, federal agent and CEO. I commend you for endorsing Rick Staly to be our next sheriff.
I took the time to travel to Orange County to speak with many OCSO employees who worked with or for Staly. Each and every person I talked with spoke well of him, were proud to have worked for or with him and praised his character and integrity. After that visit, I decided he is the only candidate with the integrity and qualifications to be our sheriff.
Your comments about John Lamb surprise me. Mr. Lamb says that he was assistant chief at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. He neglects to point out that JSO has some 20 assistant chiefs and that assistant chief is five levels below the sheriff.
He resigned when a new sheriff was elected, which is customary. But he did not retain his old job. Why?
Mr. Lamb says he scored first in the sergeants test when in fact he scored second.
Hasn’t Flagler County had enough half-truths, misrepresentations and career embellishments from their sheriffs? Is this the integrity we want in our sheriff? I don’t think so.
Whisenant has the experience we need
I was not pleased with your recommendation on sheriff’s candidates, particularly Rick Staly, who you pointed to as tainted, as is Sheriff Manfre and Mr. Fleming. Flagler County deserves having officials that are honest and not subject to past ethics problems.
The only candidate running of both parties with impeccable honesty and experience is Mark Whisenant. Mark has 25 years of proven experience at local, state and federal and international law enforcement and is the most versed candidate at all levels of counterterrorism. As a chief warrant officer on active reserve with the U.S. Coast Guard, he has proven experience in building a law enforcement capability wherein the officer participants work as a team, not tolerating infighting or lack of training.
He is the man the Observer should be supporting.
John A. and
Margaret A. Russell
How can you endorse Manfre for sheriff?
I am shocked that you endorsed Jim Manfre as the Democratic nominee for Flagler sheriff. You cite Larry Jones lack of administrative experience as your reason while you casually mention Manfre’s ethical violation convictions. This is not a letter for Jones. Manfre is an unethical person who does not deserve the position he has.
Larry Jones is a real officer. A cop. Manfre is an attorney. Larry Jones has faced death with courage and honor. Manfre’s very own sworn testimony during his ethics violation trial was described by the state investigators as untruthful and misleading. Manfre fired a lifelong deputy who needed help and then had the audacity to attend his funeral against the wishes of the Delarosby family and friends. Mr. Delarosby even asked Manfre to leave in the middle of the funeral.
When Manfre came into office this last term, he hired an entirely new administrative staff. Every one of them quit the first year of his term and used their golden parachute benefit package up before they left — every single one except Staly.
Every officer is afraid that they will be fired without cause at any time.
Your endorsement of Manfre ignores all that you believe and know to be true. Shame.
Palm Coast Mayor
Holland has the vision for Palm Coast
Milissa Holland is the only candidate for mayor that has held public office before. She showed strong leadership skills and consensus-building abilities during her terms as commissioner and chairwoman on the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners. Milissa possesses the energy, leadership, and experience that we need in our next mayor.
We strongly support her stance on maintaining our quality of life, including our superior recreational facilities: golf, tennis, waterways, trails, ball fields, swimming pools and city parks. Milissa realizes these community assets are important for all current and future residents.
Palm Coast has been fortunate to have had two exceptional Mayors – Jim Canfield and Jon Netts. We will be batting 3-for-3 by picking Milissa Holland for the next mayor of Palm Coast. She is a longtime resident of Palm Coast who understands our city’s past and has a clear vision of its future.
Joel and Maureen Atwood
Holland is tied to the city’s roots
Both of us strongly agree with the Observer’s endorsement of Milissa Holland for mayor of Palm Coast. We are long-time residents of over 25 years, have watched it grow from 15,000 to today’s population. We were honored to vote for it becoming a city, and realize why the new residents were attracted to Palm Coast.
During these growth years, Milissa was very active in Palm Coast and Flagler activities, including many leadership roles. Her expertise, experience, dedication, and honesty are second to none.
Bob and Carol Ross
Holland knows how to get things done
We agree with the Observer’s endorsement for Milissa Holland on Aug. 30.
Milissa Holland is uniquely qualified to fulfill the responsibilities for Mayor of Palm Coast. She possesses the leadership, experience, and energy that we need in our next mayor.
She is a longtime resident of Palm Coast who understands our city’s past and has a vision of its future.
Milissa Holland has demonstrated strong leadership skills and has proven to be both honest and accountable. She knows how to get things done.
Mike and Joyce Jackson
McDonald’s view is ‘taxpayers first’
I am endorsing Dennis McDonald for mayor of Palm Coast. He has attributes that many Americans have come to embrace in a certain presidential candidate, such as plain-spokenness, self-financing his campaign and a career in commercial real estate development. His experience, dynamic approach and “taxpayer first” mentality will fill the leadership vacuum in Palm Coast so our city becomes more attractive to commercial development. Without commercial growth in or around our city, there is little hope of creating the kinds of jobs that produce more mortgage-worthy salaries, or of growing the tax base. Believe me; businesses have looked at our city and run away.
Dennis has that rare fiscally sound, pay-as-you-go vision for government which appeals to business prospects. He will foster the expansion of private enterprise which provides value-added growth, rather than conjuring more “creative financing” for municipal projects. Dennis does not crave publicity. He is all about results through honest, open and thorough planning. You can expect the festering impasses between the city and its private/public ventures to evaporate when Dennis takes office.
Dennis is dedicated to the taxpayers of Palm Coast. He has been a loyal watchdog of taxing and spending with a keen eye for overreach and corruption. Accordingly, Dennis has salted a few tails by exposing the questionable actions of some of our representatives. This is an exercise of our Constitutional rights in which more of us should partake! It is prudent to watch our representatives closely as they decide how much money to take from us and how it is spent, and Dennis will welcome such scrutiny.
Dennis is ready to lead and will represent us well to all of those interested in sharing our place in the sun.
Palm Coast City Council
Vote for Milissa Holland and Nick Klufas
With the disclaimer that I am not a Palm Coast resident, I congratulate the citizens of Palm Coast for the caliber of the candidates for the upcoming municipal election. I am particularly impressed by Nick Klufas and Milissa Holland. As an eight-year vice-chairman of the Flagler County Planning and Development Board during my residency in the Hammock, I was always impressed by Milissa’s spirit of public service, concern for others, and great negotiating skills, all demonstrated through her work on the County Commission. I believe that Nick Klufas has a fresh, homegrown perspective with an eye for understanding rapid technological changes that will change the face and function of our communities in our lifetimes. His ideas for monetizing FiberNet are timely and exciting.
Klufas: ingenuity for Palm Coast
The choice is easy for city of Palm Coast District 3: Nicholas Klufas. If you care for a council member who will study the facts, understand the issues, do what is right for our city and its residents, maintain our quality of life, be fiscally responsible and think out of the box for alternative solutions, Nick is the clear choice.
He will bring to the council an ability to meet with potential new companies considering making Palm Coast their new home with an aptitude to talk technology, talent of our local work force and the amenities that exist for a younger generation of Palm Coasters.
This is what Palm Coast was intended to be: a thriving community that welcomes all. With Nick’s ingenuity, ability to reach all ages and his gift to be the most courteous young man I know, he truly will be a diplomat for Palm Coast.
There is no doubt that he will be an asset to the City Council working to improve the accountability to its residents and city staff but also improve the working relationship with the Flagler County government and County Commission.
Meet Arthur McGovern Jr.
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Arthur McGovern Jr. Currently I am running for City Council District 1 in our great city, Palm Coast.
You may ask yourself, Why consider someone that you have never heard of or doesn’t have a track record for holding an office? Even though I have not held a public office, I have owned and operated my own successful business for several years prior to moving to Florida.
My education includes a bachelor’s in business management and law. Currently and for the last 20 years, I have been working in and doing special events for Walt Disney World Co. Since our great country is built on people voluntarily giving of their time, talents and finances, it has been my pleasure to say that one of the organizations for which I volunteer is Give Kids the World, an organization that helps families and children with incurable diseases to enjoy their end days.
I’ve been a resident of Palm Coast for over 20 years. In that time, I have seen changes — some good and some that I feel could have been better. It is time to stand up and accept the challenge of encouraging and helping the amazing people of our great city to become even better.
Some of the changes would be to encourage and develop programs that will bring more family friendly businesses. In doing so, it will strengthen our community as well as families. If elected, I will hold the trust you are bestowing on me to the highest. Together, we will put Palm Coast on the map!
Arthur J. McGovern Jr.
Donald is dedicated, hardworking and an individual of integrity. The Observer made the right call by endorsing Donald O’Brien.
O’Brien: integrity and professionalism
Having known Donald O’Brien personally for the past 15 years, I can think of no one more qualified to serve as a county commissioner. His integrity and professionalism will be an asset to Flagler County.
Alexis A. Allard
‘A man of great integrity, intelligence and thoughtfulness’
Three words. They are simple, but they are powerful.
Your endorsement of my father, Donald O’Brien, for the District 5 seat on the Flagler County Commission was spot on. In the endorsement, you stated my father to be “a man of great integrity, intelligence and thoughtfulness.”
Donald is running for the seat because he knows it’s time for some fresh ideas and new energy. It’s time to get someone in office who genuinely wants to make a positive difference in people’s lives rather than run for office on empty promises that we hear every election year but are rarely delivered.
My father cares about the community that our family moved to more than 25 years ago; the community I grew up in and the community my brother now raises his family in.
Flagler County needs integrity, intelligence and thoughtfulness. Flagler County needs Donald O’Brien.
Vote O’Brien on Aug. 30.
Time for change
Time for a change in the County commission, you bet. Donald O’Brien for District 5 is just what we have been waiting for. I have known Don for over 25 years; he has a work ethic that is second to none. He understands the issues and will do what is right for the county and its residents. He has put in countless hours volunteering for many different civic groups within Flagler County, he truly wants to improve the lives of those who live here. Don’s integrity and ability to listen, moderate and be a leader will be a benefit to the County Commission. He will offer accountability and financial responsibly to all residents of Flagler County. My vote and strong support is for Donald O’Brien.
O’Brien has the business acument to help our county
Donald O’Brien is the right man for the job. I have known Donald for over a quarter of a century. In that time I have found him to be hard working, honest, and a person you can count on in time of need. He has been a good friend and a would be a good friend for our county. He has his eye on the future and has intentions to make our home and even better place for all our fellow citizens. Don has the business acumen and experience to be fiscally conservative. He understands how to run a successful business, which can only help our county. The time is right for a change. Please vote for Donald O’Brien for our next county Commissioner.
O’Brien: work ethic
Donald O’Brien is an outstanding candidate who deserves our support. Once elected to office he will work hard to represent the residents of our community. He has a work ethic history based on honestly and dedication to the people he represents. “Above and beyond” only begins to describe the contributions he will make when he is elected to the County Commission.
O’Brien is a man of high integity
I can personally recommend Donald O’Brien. I have know Donald for about 10 years, first as a person in business and then personally. I have found him to be a man of high integrity and a man with a servant’s heart. He will make a great addition to our county government.
Colleen Conklin is an asset to Flagler Schools
When I consider the qualities of a successful elected official, three important traits come to mind: The ability to listen to opinions and perspectives that differ from their own, the willingness to initiate and effect change, and a passionate desire to represent and advocate for those who are unable to speak for themselves. Colleen Conklin has unfailingly demonstrated all of these during her tenure on the Flagler County School Board.
While consistency is important, the dynamic aspects of public education in the 21st century require a significant level of flexibility and a critical yet solutions-oriented perspective. Balancing the needs of students with the constraints and initiatives implemented by state and federal legislators can be a very slippery slope, yet Colleen has always been steadfast in her emphasis on doing what she believes is best for the children of Flagler County. Most importantly, she remains accountable to her community when shaping and reshaping policies.
As the parent of two children who spent their K-12 years in Flagler County schools, the most outstanding quality I have observed in Colleen Conklin is that she never forgets she is a mom. That perspective guides every decision she makes. She has never given the impression that she views public education as a business, political or P&L-driven entity. While those things do significantly impact policy and decision making on the School Board, Colleen has always been the voice (sometimes the lone voice) of parental concerns and priorities ensuring that the best possible outcome for the students remains the focal point of every initiative.
Colleen Conklin is an asset to the children and parents of Flagler County.
Supervisor of Elections
Beware the ties and history with Weeks
Before you endorse a candidate, you should look into the history of the office of Supervisor of Elections. I have been a resident of Flagler County for 23 years (retired here after serving in the Army for 21 years). When the retired SOE was in office, we enjoyed 18 years of harmony. We never had a problem getting out to vote, we never had to stand in long lines. When Kim Weeks took over, she closed down some precincts and reduced it to a point that voters were discouraged to go vote because of traveling distances and the lines were so long.
Kaiti Lenhart worked for Kim Weeks, and Weeks recommended her for the appointment in her resignation letter.
In addition, members of the radical RRR group have contributed to Lenhart’s campaign. It’s public record; go check it out. Kim Weeks was also endorsed by the Observer four years ago.
If we want a true professional in the office that has a clear vision and plan for the future, we will elect Abra Seay. She is the only candidate that never worked for Kim Weeks and the only candidate that has a proven history of excellent leadership.
Kaiti Lenhart has given us new confidence in the Elections Office
Your endorsement of Kaiti Lenhart is the right choice. I have worked as a poll worker since the year 2000 in Flagler County. I haven’t felt this confident about the election process in a long time.
Kaiti Lenhart brought stability to the Elections Office during difficult times. She is by far the most qualified candidate running for Supervisor of Elections. She has earned the respect our poll workers have for her. She runs a tight ship and has surrounded herself with competent and well-trained staff that she can depend on. As a poll worker, I feel much more confident when I have to call the office for clarification of an issue.
Kaiti has creatively reduced the budget for Flagler County. She has researched and acquired thousands of dollars in federal grant money for much-needed voting equipment. The implementation of Ballot on Demand in this last early voting has reduced the cost of ballot printing. She was appointed to the Committee for Online Voter Registration to implement online voter registration in October 2017. She has worked hard to communicate to the public, “Your vote is your voice.”
I am currently the elections clerk of a very busy precinct in Flagler County. I have had the pleasure to work with Kaiti Lenhart for the past almost seven years. I love my job and the people I work with. It is so nice to have a team that leaves the polling place after a long day with a smile on their face and a thank you on their lips. Things have changed over the years.
With Kaiti there, we have, as her website states, a “hands-on supervisor, leading the elections team in all aspects of the operations.” This truly sums up the story behind Kaiti in the office of the supervisor of elections.
I look forward to working with her in the future and do truly hope she is elected this year and can continue her “mission and vision” for the Flagler County Elections office. She has been a breath of fresh air within the election office and is a pleasure to work with.