2022 elections: Meet the six candidates running for three Melbourne City Council seats

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Six candidates are vying for three seats on the Melbourne City Council on the Nov. 8 ballot, with hopes of helping guide governmental operations of one of the Space Coast's dominant economic communities.

The seven-member City Council will have three contested seats on the November general election ballot: Districts 2, 4 and 6.

Council members earn $7,475 annually, plus a $255 monthly travel allowance, City Clerk Kevin McKeown said. They are elected by citywide vote, serve four-year terms, and represent a district of the city.

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  • Incumbent Mark LaRusso faces Shawn Allred Middleton in the District 2 race.

  • Rachael Bassett and Alison Dietrich are competing for the District 4 seat. The incumbent, Debbie Thomas, is wrapping up her second consecutive term, and cannot run for reelection because of term limits.

  • And Vice Mayor Julie Sanders faces Adam Woodworth in the District 6 race.

This month, council members are voting on Melbourne's proposed $242 million total city budget for 2022-23, among other topics.

Council members also comprise three of the seven members of the Melbourne Airport Authority, which will oversee a proposed $41 million budget next year.

This rough sketch shows the general layout of the proposed Orion180 headquarters building and parking garage on Strawbridge Avenue.

City Hall topics in recent months have included proposed downtown mixed-use developments, ongoing development in the city's Eau Gallie area and lack of affordable housing, among other issues.

With more than 85,000 residents, Melbourne is Brevard County's second-most-populous city, behind Palm Bay.

The Melbourne City Council includes a mayor, a vice mayor and five council members.

Four incumbents — Mayor Paul Alfrey, District 1 Council Member Tim Thomas, District 3 Council Member Yvonne Minus and District 5 Council Member Mimi Hanley — are not on the ballot this fall.

Here is a rundown of the candidates, based on answers to questionnaires from FLORIDA TODAY.

Melbourne City Council District 2

Melbourne City Council Member Mark LaRusso.

Mark LaRusso

Age: 66

Occupation: Founder and owner of Plastics & Paper Direct

Education: Attended Brevard Community College

Political/government/civic experience: 2003-04 Melbourne Zoning Board of Adjustment; 2004-05 Melbourne Airport Authority; Space Coast League of Cities representative to Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization; 2004-12 Melbourne Council Member District 2 (vice mayor in 2006 and 2010); 2013 Brevard County Citizens Advisory Board; 2018-22 Melbourne City Council Member District 2

Campaign email: malarusso2@gmail.com

Campaign phone number: 321-432-3841

Website, Facebook, other social media pages/links: Website under construction

What are the top two to three issues in Melbourne, and what specific actions will you take to address them if elected?

In 2018, I pledged to work toward a healthy Indian River Lagoon. To date, I have been instrumental in working with our Tallahassee representatives to bring back $3 million-plus for water projects to Melbourne.

Additionally, I made a promise to focus on jobs. To date, we can boast Orion180 (300 jobs), Northrop Grumman (400 to 600 jobs), and creating less government for our small-business owners.

Melbourne has experienced much growth in the quality of life, business opportunities and the arts.

If reelected, I will continue to work closely with our partners to build upon the successes of the past four years.

Melbourne City Council candidate Shawn Allred Middleton.

Shawn Allred Middleton

Age: 32

Occupation: Retired

Education: Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from Florida Gulf Coast University

Political/government/civic experience: Member of the Melbourne Citizens' Advisory Board

Campaign email: allred4d2@gmail.com

Campaign phone number: 321-343-9644

Website, Facebook, other social media pages/links: allred4d2.com; Facebook: Shawn Allred Middleton for Melbourne City Council

What are the top two to three issues in Melbourne, and what specific actions will you take to address them if elected?

The top issue is cleaning up the Indian River Lagoon. I support the use of all available tools, including fee-based programs that would be paid for by polluters, but could result in significant savings for our citizens, like septic system improvements, odor control and enhanced water testing.

I also support a public/private partnership between government and private enterprise to create a network of community land trusts throughout the county to provide long-term stewardship and conservation of open space and natural resources. This model has been successfully used in other communities across the country.

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Melbourne City Council District 4

Melbourne City Council candidate Rachael Bassett.

Rachael Bassett

Age: 37

Occupation: Realtor, private investigator, process server, notary

Education: Course study of sociology, with a concentration in forensic psychology, at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Political/government/civic experience: 911 dispatcher; Space Coast Young Republicans; NAACP Legal Redress Team; attends Melbourne Police Community Relations Council meetings; 18th District process server

Campaign email: rachael4melbourne@gmail.com

Campaign phone number: 321-418-1166

Website, Facebook, other social media pages/links: rachael4melbourne.com; Facebook: Rachael Bassett for Melbourne City Council

What are the top two to three issues in Melbourne, and what specific actions will you take to address them if elected?

This campaign’s main areas of focus are in keeping the city government of Melbourne accountable, maintaining the city of Melbourne's reputable business-friendly laws and ensuring lagoon-friendly policies for our residents.

Supporting the mayor's momentum of accountability by voting with the mayor for regular financial audits of city finances.

Maintaining our business-friendly reputation by voting against any proposals or regulations which could be seen as a hindrance/raised taxes to small businesses and middle-class families.

Within our city, I would work to educate residents within the Melbourne utility system about sewer lines in lieu of harmful additives and broken septic systems.

Melbourne City Council candidate Alison Dietrich.

Alison Dietrich

Age: 59

Occupation: Radiologic technologist

Education: Bachelor of Science

Political/government/civic experience: U.S. Coast Guard veteran; educator in radiologic technology; four Afghanistan deployments with the Department of Defense contractor Remote Medical International; Golf Club Estates Civic Association board of directors and treasurer

Campaign email: alison.dietrich@brevardhealth.org

Campaign phone number: 321-604-6569

Website, Facebook, other social media pages/links: None listed

What are the top two to three issues in Melbourne, and what specific actions will you take to address them if elected?     

As our community continues its development, it is crucial to identify infrastructure and resources necessary to support responsible growth.

The top two issues in the community I represent are affordable housing and homeless social issues.

I will work diligently with the council and various boards to direct and focus attention to these significant concerns.

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Melbourne City Council District 6

Melbourne Vice Mayor Julie Sanders.

Julie Sanders

Age: 51

Occupation:  Assistant principal, Brevard Public Schools

Education: Bachelor’s degree in psychology and elementary education; master's degree in educational leadership

Political/government/civic experience: Elected to Melbourne City Council in November 2018; member of the Space Coast League of Cities board of directors; treasurer of the Space Coast League of Cities; appointed vice mayor in November 2021

Campaign email: reelectjsanders2022@gmail.com

Campaign phone number: 321-505-3067

Website, Facebook, other social media pages/links: sanders4mlbcouncil.com; Facebook: Reelect Julie Sanders 2022; Instagram: Juliesanders2873

What are the top two to three issues in Melbourne, and what specific actions will you take to address them if elected?

First Issue: Restoring the Indian River Lagoon. I will support the septic-to-sewer program, install more baffle boxes, encourage the use of low-impact development, and decrease our dependence on Lake Washington as our water source.

Second Issue: Economic development. Attracting and retaining businesses, while improving our infrastructure to keep up with the growth. It is important to maintain our roads before they become a costly problem.

Third Issue: Supporting our first responders. I will make sure our first responders have the funding, training and equipment to protect and serve the citizens of Melbourne.

Melbourne City Council candidate Adam Woodworth.

Adam Woodworth

Age: 44

Occupation: Co-owner/operator at Chez Quan’s

Education: Bachelor's degree

Political/government/civic experience: None

Campaign email: adamformelbourne@gmail.com

Campaign phone number: 321-634-2284

Website, Facebook, other social media pages/links: Facebook: Adam Woodworth for Melbourne 2022

What are the top two to three issues in Melbourne, and what specific actions will you take to address them if elected?

I don't have a top three issues. Melbourne is already a great place, in my opinion.

What I care about is the community of people. What they care about is what matters to me. I've heard lots of folks' concerns to everything ranging from stormwater runoff in the lagoon to age-friendly inclusion in the newly developed downtown areas.

Their concerns deserved to be heard.

Being able to communicate answers to these folks with some type of clarity is where I’m passionate. So let's figure it out.

Rick Neale is the South Brevard Watchdog Reporter at FLORIDA TODAY (for more of his stories, click here.) Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or rneale@floridatoday.com. Twitter: @RickNeale1

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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Six candidates are seeking three seats on Melbourne City Council