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Palm Coast Thursday, Jul. 23, 2020 2 weeks ago

Observer Endorsements: Publisher John Walsh picks four out of five incumbents

Walsh also votes for Mucciolo over incumbent Conklin in School Board race.
by: John Walsh Publisher

Since 2010, the Palm Coast Observer has endorsed political candidates every two years when elections are held. Our process has evolved, and this year, in the spirit of transparency, I am putting my name as publisher on the endorsements.  

My endorsement process starts with establishing priorities: public safety, quality of life and diverse tax base through responsible development. I then looked to see which candidates have the best vision.  

I would like to start by congratulating four constitutional officers, who were re-elected to their respective offices. The fact that they did not face any opposition is validation they are deserving of another term. I also want to mention my sincere appreciation that none of these four were in headlines for activities or behavior distracting from the oath they took. 

Job well done to Property Appraiser James E. Gardner, Clerk of Courts Tom Bexley, Tax Collector Suzanne Johnston and Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart. 

And now my endorsements for the other local races on your August Primary ballot:


County Commission

In both District 3 and 5 respectively, I endorse the re-election of incumbents Dave Sullivan and Donald O’Brien. For the last three-and-a-half years, these fine gentlemen have provided great leadership in changing the direction of our county. The messes they have had to deal with, some man-made and some delivered by Mother Nature, seemed insurmountable. But many of those issues are now in our rearview mirror.

They identified the poor performance of and voted to fire County Administrator Craig Coffey. One week later they accepted the resignation from Sally Sherman. Coffey’s exit reminded me of Fibber McGee’s Closet (Google it, kids) where problem after problem seemed to cascade from a closet when the door was opened. 

Each time, Sullivan and O’Brien showed great leadership individually. 

The issue that confirmed my support of Dave Sullivan was how he had the courage to follow protocol and reversed his original vote on the Bings Landing-Captain’s BBQ lease debacle. The issue that stood out to me for supporting Donald O’Brien was the defunding of the office of Economic Opportunity and ending an operation that had little to show for its efforts and, by doing so, freeing up nearly $500,000 in the county budget. Both O’Brien and Sullivan agree that, even though crime rates have dropped, we must continue to support the Sheriff's public safety  budget. Both are dedicated to holding taxes level and will do all they can to avoid raising property taxes. 

I endorse Dave Sullivan, Flagler County Board of County Commission District 3.

I endorse Donald O’Brien, Flagler County Board of County Commission District 5.


Palm Coast mayor

As I mentioned above, the lack of opponents for our four constitutional officers could be considered confirmation of a job well done. The race for mayor of Palm Coast has five candidates, which could indicate dissatisfaction of the job Milissa Holland is doing during her term as mayor.

John Brady is steadfast in his views of what is best for our community. Unfortunately I do not agree with his view of growth and development of our community. I believe that certain aspects of our commitment to our quality of life are in fact killing our quality of life. A lack of commercial and higher density housing places more tax burden on our residential citizens. Growth in both of these areas will provide a more balanced tax diversity and do great things to preserve our highly valued quality of life.

Donald Greene and Alan Lowe are newcomers to our local political landscape but have little record of local involvement. 

Also new to the local political landscape is Michael Shottey. I met Mr. Schottey one day before his employment with the city was severed. He boasted of his “out of the box” approach to his job of communications manager and how it was overwhelming to his boss City Manager Matt Morton and the entire City Council. 

He was terminated by the city the very next day.

After announcing that he was running for mayor of Palm Coast, he requested another meeting with me, and he addressed his severance with the city. Publicly, he stated he resigned. He even submitted a signed letter of resignation to the city. But he told me he was forced to resign. In my opinion, he lacks courage by his action of resigning when he truly believed he was doing an outstanding job. 

Schottey is now a whistleblower with accusations against Mayor Holland, but I am sorry, being a whistleblower does not alone make you qualified to lead the city. Being mayor or holding any other elected post is not an easy job — especially with all we are now facing with pandemic and civil unrest. Now more than ever, we need a strong leader.  

Speaking of a strong leader, that describes Mayor Milissa Holland. To some, she is too strong.  

But when I think about the need for a more balanced tax diversity in our community, one opportunity stands out as transformative and a real game changer: MedNEX, the public-private partnership that will be institutional development to Palm Coast. Two candidates, Lowe and Greene, are opposed to the city making an investment in MedNEX. That alone eliminates them from my endorsement. Both Holland and Schottey support the investment in MedNEX. But the fact that Holland has successfully navigated state funding all the way through the state’s most challenging budget year proves her ability to get big things done.

I endorse Milissa Holland for re-election as mayor of Palm Coast.


Palm Coast City Council, Seat 1

When we compare the positions of Ed Danko, Sims Jones and Lou Salvagio on the issues of public safety, quality of life and diverse tax base through responsible development, it is easy to eliminate Ed Danko as a candidate for Seat 1. Danko is opposed to investing in MedNEX. He is against higher density, including diverse housing. And he is in favor of reducing our quality of life amenities. 

Jones and Salvagio are aligned in most issues. Both are long time residents. Both have demonstrated leadership within their professions. But one candidate has been living the life of a servant leader: Sims E. Jones. In 2014 we recognized Jones for his creation of People Helping People and God’s Love Ministry. In addition, Jones has been providing mentoring to students of the Flagler Schools. Jones gives of himself to better our community.

I endorse Sims E. Jones for Council Member Seat 1.


Palm Coast City Council, Seat 3

This race has three candidates: incumbent Nick Klufas and challengers Cornelia Manfre and Zack Shapiro. 

Shapiro is new to the political scene. He is a man of few words which could be refreshing when many politicians say too much. 

I value Manfre’s expertise in commercial development, but Klufas has done well in his first four years. He voted to change city managers. He has been a strong supporter for increased street lighting that adds to our safety and quality of life. He applied his expertise to the FiberNET owned by the city and has even promoted it as an incentive to businesses interested in locating here. Klufas is young, bright and willing to work hard for issues that provide solutions to our issues for public safety, quality of life and tax diversification.

I endorse Nick Klufas for Council Member Seat 3.

Flagler School Board, District 1

Primary issues facing our school district and students are safety, equality and health.  

The two candidates for District 1, Vincent Lyon and Jill Rena Woolbright, are both new to campaigning for an elected position. Lyon has political experience as he was appointed to fulfill the vacant City Council seat when Steve Nobile resigned. Lyon did a fine job in that post. 

Woolbright’s experience and expertise gives her the edge to serve on our School Board. She has lived here for 31 years, 20 of which as a respected educator in Flagler Schools. She will work to improve student learning with emphasis on ESE and minority students. She is dedicated to student safety. And she is committed to recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers.

I endorse Jill Rena Woolbright for Flagler County School Board District 1.


Flagler School Board District 3

Carol “Mother Elizabeth” Bacha, Colleen Conklin and Paul Mucciolo are running for School Board District 3. Conklin is the incumbent. She has served on our School Board for five terms, 20 years in all. 

We know what we get with Conklin on our School Board, good and bad.  

If this job was based on who is the most loving and compassionate person, Bacha should be elected. 

But this job requires more. I admire the humble approach Paul Mucciolo has taken in this race.  He never mentioned that he is an MD. He never mentioned his extensive education and professional experience. He never mentioned his success in managing and directing our local hospital ER. He never mentioned that he is faced with life threatening emergency situations every day that require a skill set to identify, understand and prescribe solutions. 

As we live today with the COVID-19 pandemic, challenges are coming fast. Paul Mucciolo is up to the challenge.  

I endorse Paul Mucciolo for Flagler School Board District 3.


Flagler School Board District 5

Cheryl Massaro is challenging incumbent Maria Barbosa for Flagler School Board District 5.  Both list experiences in education as qualifications to serve in this position.

The main contrast is their positions on two issues: gender identity protection and the Health Department’s administration of vaccines on campuses to students and families who voluntarily accept them. Massaro strongly supports both issues, and so do I.

I endorse Cheryl Massaro Flagler School Board District 5.

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