City Residents: Please Vote in the April 2 Special Election
The Chamber posed a series of eight questions to those running for the vacant Winter Haven City Commission Seat. We present their answers here for your review.
1. What city commission decision in recent years do you most agree with, and why?
Brad Dantzler: The commitment the city has made to downtown. For at least the last two decades the city commission has taken steps to turn the downtown area into an attractive, bustling center of activity. This has brought the community closer, generated economic development and created jobs. I will continue these efforts.
Joe Garrison: I agree with the decision to not privatize trash service because the city sanitation department generates 1.4 million dollars a year, which is deposited back into the general fund. These sanitation workers are model employees and run their department efficiently, and should be rewarded accordingly.
Barry Nottle: Not only does the CSX sale bring dollars into the city coffers, it also promises to enhance our local economy far into the future through new jobs and ancillary businesses.
Debbie Ogzewalla: The recent Commission decision I most agree with is the move to dissolve The Landings project. This was a misguided endeavor from the start. Within one year it became painfully obvious the plan was completely un-workable. The choice was to get out with the least amount of damage possible.
Philip Van Winkle: I am not going to look back and talk about the good and bad things that have already occurred in the past. Past good decisions don’t need me or anybody else to glad slap the commissioner’s backs for doing the right thing we elected them for in the first place.
2. What Winter Haven city commission decision in recent years do you most disagree with, and why?
Brad Dantzler: The Landings. I am generally opposed to the city selling its assets, especially real estate. Despite the city commission’s good intentions, selling at the height of the Great Recession without a defined plan to re-locate Theatre Winter Haven and the pool was imprudent.
Joe Garrison: Decisions that have been made that were not put on the agenda: severance package for former City Manager David Green, the withdrawal of the Landings Contract and the sanitation issue. Also, rewarding contracts outside of the city, when we have capable businesses here that are able to perform same work.
Barry Nottle: All the preparations that preceded The Landings did not preclude unintended omissions, leaving the existing facilities in limbo to this very day. A project of this complexity must consider all aspects and consequences prior to moving forward.
Debbie Ogzewalla: The recent Commission decision I most disagree with was the move to go forward with The Landings. The Commission sold the property for much less than it was worth. The Commission grossly underestimated the Southwest Complex relocation costs. The Commission was poorly informed and made a very bad deal.
Philip Van Winkle: I am not going to point fingers and nitpick ridiculous past decisions as they always come back to be dealt with later, then it’s just a matter of how much money it’s going to cost the tax payers and our children to back track and buy our way out.
3. What is the number-one opportunity facing Winter Haven?
Brad Dantzler: Blending the energy created by Florida Polytechnic, Winter Haven Airport, downtown redevelopment, LEGOLAND and CSX Intermodal into a cohesive strategy that improves the quality of life for all Winter Haven residents.
Joe Garrison: Winter Haven is in a unique position for growth; this can be seen with the new polytechnic college (satellite office down town WH), CSX railroad, along with tourism from LEGOLAND. This in turn has a snowball effect on local businesses and the community.
Barry Nottle: Economic development. With CSX and Legoland moving forward, the employment opportunities , and their effect on existing and future small businesses, will help drive our local economy for many years to come. Additionally, public and private support for the EDC is crucial at this point.
Debbie Ogzewalla: For years the City has disregarded the financial reality that revenues continue to decrease while spending continued to increase. Our number one opportunity is to reverse years of poor decisions and bad deals made based on this fantasy. We need rational, reality based decisions supported by facts – not wishful thinking.
Philip Van Winkle: I think PROPER development of the CSX Rail Road switching yard and terminal is the most important thing to Winter Haven and the most likely thing to be bungled. Lego Land, although equally important, is a fantastic well oiled machine, will require less critical care from the city for success.
4. What is Winter Haven’s greatest challenge?
Brad Dantzler: Preserving its quality of life as it transitions into a more populous city. Transportation improvements (including public transportation access), more parks and recreational areas, and taking care of our lakes are important components of the blueprint.
Joe Garrison: Our greatest challenge would be to get the commission and staff on the same page, working together as a team. The city commission must get more involved, be better informed and take more initiative into issues. This will help earn back the respect from our citizens and business community.
Barry Nottle: First, we must face the 21st Century incorporating 21st Century ideas, technology, and attitudes while throwing off the 20th Century burdens of governmental bureaucracies. Second, we must balance the budget so as not to descend further into debt or raid other City funds just to pay our daily expenses.
Debbie Ogzewalla: Balancing the budget is our greatest challenge. Our deficit is over 85 million dollars. The City borrowed 3 million dollars in 2012 just to keep operating. Spending is more every year while we take in less. This is not sustainable. Attention to details and tight focus are required for success.
Philip Van Winkle: Reevaluate the city’s priorities to match the city’s revenue stream. Additionally, programs like the “Police Athletic League”, that gives much needed guidance to our most vulnerable children, should be funded properly. Educated children is good business and good for the future of Winter Haven.
5. If elected, what will be your principal priority, and how do you propose that the city pay for it? In your response, please consider the needs of business – particularly small businesses – and their importance to our community.
Brad Dantzler: Simply put, my principal priority will be good government. That means treating people fairly, budgeting and administering properly, investing in the future, thinking long-term and knowing when to slow down or even stop.
Joe Garrison: It is crucial for the commission and staff of Winter Haven to create a positive atmosphere for growth, while gaining the trust and respect of citizens and business owners. When the citizens of Winter Haven have more confidence for the commission, I believe this will lead to many positive results.
Barry Nottle: We must foster economic growth. All services for our residents are dependant upon favorable economic conditions. Such conditions rely on the creation of more businesses and more success for established businesses.
Debbie Ogzewalla: Balancing the budget without raising taxes or cutting services will be my principal priority. Tightening our belts will not cost a dime. We should review the budget line by line to identify where spending is up and take action. I will not support new spending without sound financial planning.
Philip Van Winkle: Balancing the budget which will allow the promotion of tourism, attracting retirees and setting up multiple programs to engage our kids in skills that are not taught in schools like honesty, fair play, respect for themselves and others, basics of entrepreneurialism, etc. It takes a village to raise good children.
6. Everyone wants low taxes, but great communities invest in amenities that enhance the quality of life. Businesses that relocate or build new facilities look for such communities. How will you balance the desire for low taxes with the desire for better civic amenities?
Brad Dantzler: Leadership involves bringing people along by educating them of their options, so my approach will be to make sure the citizens of Winter Haven are fully informed. People want to do the right thing but there is a problem of trust in government. Transparency is the key.
Joe Garrision: The city staff and commission must practice due diligence in regards to spending and budgeting. Also I believe if we all communicate and work together effectively, we can find a solution and solve the issues with new facilities and taxes.
Barry Nottle: We must take a hard look at our entire tax and fee structure, and our debt. We cannot invest without the funds to do so, yet we can ill afford to place undue burdens on future generations of our City. A fine line exists; we need to tread delicately.
Debbie Ogzewalla: The City should invest in our community, but it must be financially healthy to do this. Who would relocate into a failing City? Our focus must be getting our finances in order while maintaining existing amenities and facilities. Amenities also includes infrastructure and we must do better keeping these up.
Philip Van Winkle: Winter Haven appears to be on a path of employing multiple SHORT SIGHTED “get rich quick schemes” to raise revenues by SELLING CITY ASSETS with little regard with what it costs to replace them. This is no way to enhance our quality of life and lower taxes.
7. What areas of the City’s municipal operations do you feel you best understand?
Brad Dantzler: I’ve chaired the Library Board for at least the last eight years and have been integrally involved in numerous city recreational endeavors, so I would say it would be in those areas.
Joe Garrison: I feel very comfortable in all areas of municipal government, given my eight years previous experience as Mayor and Commissioner of Dundee. My strong points are budgeting, Sunshine Law and open government.
Barry Nottle: I have a Citizen’s view of municipal operations, with heavy emphasis on organization and meticulous planning. The municipal operation I consider most important is the participation of fellow citizens. I have the time and the desire to devote to their involvement, and I will take all suggestions to heart.
Debbie Ogzewalla: I have decades of experience in business management and marketing. I worked in the retail, real estate and tourism industries. I studied City budgets going back 10 years. I bring a wealth of experience to solving issues. I will take time to gather facts and solicit taxpayer input before acting.
Philip Van Winkle: I have a business background in multiple areas that I feel will allow me to understand almost all aspects of the different city departments. I will say that I would be OPPOSED to selling or deleting almost all of the existing city departments including our profitable garbage collection and police department.
8. The City is promoting a “One City One Vision” concept. What can you tell us about the “One City One Vision” plan, and do you agree with it?
Brad Dantzler: It is important to have a single planning document that incorporates the good work of the various citizen planning efforts of the last decade. One City One Vision does this, our new City Manager supports it and so do I.
Joe Garrison: I will support programs that are positive and beneficial to the citizens. I only question how the program was conceptualized and did we reach out to citizens and local businesses for input? Sometimes this is more effective when we go out and visit the citizens and businesses, rather than call a meeting.
Barry Nottle: I agree wholeheartedly that the public should be more involved providing input to The City Commission. The “One City” concept should be continued on a regular basis and even expanded. We can and must control our own destiny through sincere effort and teamwork.
Debbie Ogzewalla: I believe the concept is to communicate the City’s long term goals and directions to its citizens. However, we must remember there are many visions and voices within this community. All deserve to be heard and considered. Our path must be driven from the bottom up, not the top down.
Philip Van Winkle: Not aware of this catchy slogan but it doesn’t seem to be serving our city very well with what I see that is going on. “Feel Good Slogans” don’t fix things, competent people do.
You can download the candidate answers here … Candidate Answers Spring 2013
The Chamber will host a candidate forum breakfast on Wednesday,March 6 beginning at 7:30 a.m. in the Chamber’s second floor Coleman Auditorium. The breakfast is open to the general public. Cost is $10 per person. Tickets must be purchased in advance online or in the Chamber Lobby. Deadline is 3:30 p.m. Monday, March 4.