Tom Goodson, Dontavious Smith square off in general to decide County Commission District 2
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After winning a four-candidate Republican primary in August for the District 2 Brevard County Commission seat, Tom Goodson will now face no-party-affiliation candidate Dontavious Smith in the Nov. 8 general election. There is no Democrat in the race.
District 2 includes Avon by the Sea, Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Kennedy Space Center, Port Canaveral and Snug Harbor, as well as most of Merritt Island, and portions of Cocoa, Rockledge and Patrick Air Force Base.
The seat has been vacant since April 1, when then-Commissioner Bryan Lober, a Republican, resigned.
Goodson, a former Florida House of Representatives member and former Canaveral Port Authority commissioner, received 41.76% of the vote in the primary. The other primary candidates and their vote percentages were former Cocoa Beach Mayor Dave Netterstrom (23.85%), then-Cocoa Police Officer Christopher Hattaway (21.65%) and Realtor Joey Cholewa (12.74%).
Goodson, who is a business owner, said he wants to leverage his prior experience in public government to woo potential voters to his camp.
“I want to bring back the government that is closest to the people,” he said during a Brevard Federated Republican Women’s candidate event this summer. “When I am elected, I cannot be a good county commissioner without your help. I am looking for your input and advice.”
For Goodson, he sees many of the issues facing the county in terms of the budget, in the revenues the county generates versus where it will allocate money to fund its priorities.
He said there will continue to be a conflict between land conservation and development, but added that, “by the same token, your infrastructure, your buildings, both commercial and residential, are a driving factor to your budget. So, therefore, you are going to have to watch that closely.”
“That being said, accountability, knowing how to read the budget, are where I will be good,” Goodson added. “Those are the things that I can help you with.”
When asked how he would ensure the health of the Indian River Lagoon, Goodson said he would look to the state for additional funding through grants.
When he was asked about the 3% limit to increases in property taxes, he told the audience that he favors it.
“You voted for the 3% cap,” Goodson said, referring to a voter-approved provision in the Brevard County charter. “I would not vote to remove that unless it goes to the ballot for your vote.”
Goodson, however, warned about tough choices that will need to be made in the coming years when it comes funding the county’s operations.
Goodson offered his perspective on what he wants to prioritize.
“You have services in your county — the sheriff is part of that,” he said. “Are you going to eliminate those or cut those back? We are going to have to look at the budget in many ways. We are going to have to look at it to support the crime-fighting agencies and the protection agencies that protect us at all times.”
In the end, Goodson tried to bolster his conservative credentials by telling the crowd he is a fiscal conservative.
“I can tell you that, until we manage our money, we can’t expect to get more money,” Goodson said.
“All that being said, we cannot expect to print money in Brevard County,” he added. “We have to ask everyone in the county: ‘Can we do better? Can we outsource. Can we do more to serve as much or greater than we are serving right now?’ ”
Smith’s perspective is shaped by the different businesses he started.
“I go by ‘Duh Mayuh,’ ” Smith said during the FLORIDA TODAY candidate forum in July. “I bought that name, trademarked it, after I ran for mayor of Cocoa in 2008, after graduating from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida."
Smith operates a clothing line business, along with being an author. He also operates a foundation that offers students the opportunity to tour the different universities and learn about Florida government at the capital.
When asked about the problems plaguing the county, Smith pivoted to marketing.
“Brand management,” Smith said. “The brand for the commissioners, for Brevard County, is not hot right now. Regardless of if it is policymaking or decisions being made or not made, or the politics being played behind the decisions that are being made or not being made.”
Unlike some of the other candidates, Smith supports the County Commission’s decision to approve a $30 million marketing grant for Driftwood Capital's planned Westin hotel and conference center development in Cocoa Beach.
“Actually, I have to commend the current commissioners and Chairwoman (Kristine) Zonka for the deal with Westin," Smith said. "Really stopping, looking at all the money the residents are going to be in charge of paying within the next 30 years. I want to commend them for really sitting down and analyzing the structure of the negotiations of the contract, what we are getting, what we are offering, what they are getting, what they are offering.”
Smith said he wants to invest in employee salaries and public works.
He also laid out several priorities, should he be elected to the County Commission.
One is the create affordable housing for county residents.
“You have to have leniency to the Planning and Zoning Board for developers to develop,” Smith said. “You have to have some kind of agreement to where these developers are coming into certain areas to develop. We have to negotiate a fixed rate plan for these affordable-housing issues.”
To deal with the homelessness issue, Smith wants to provide direct assistance to vulnerable populations.
“This program allows you, first of all, an education and working voucher to ensure that you get a job and to ensure that you get an income to suffice,” Smith said.
As for growth and development, Smith wants to modernize the area.
“When you come here, there is nothing to do,” he said. “It is a very stagnant, unmodernized environment to live in. I can say that, as a Brevard County native. We need to work on our beach maintenance, with weather, hurricane and a lot of tornadoes.”
He also said he wants to ensure the roads are well-maintained and infrastructure projects updated.
Smith ran for Cocoa mayor in 2008 and 2016.
Goodson has raised $155,645 in cash contributions and $1,000 in in-kind contributions for his primary and general election campaigns. He has spent $113,449.25.
Smith has raised $3,255.84 in cash contributions and $204 in in-kind contributions for his general election campaign. He has spent $3,165.09.
Lober said his resignation in April was related to the death of his grandmother.
But it also came at a time when questions were raised about spending practices in Lober's County Commission office.
An anonymous email was sent to members of the County Commission, detailing the amount he had spent on his purchasing card, a type of corporate credit card.
Lober has denied any wrongdoing.
The Brevard County Clerk of Courts Office is in the midst of an audit of spending by all five County Commission district offices.
District 4 race
Republican Rob Feltner will face write-in "ghost" candidate Joseph Michael Aiello in the Nov. 8 election for County Commission in District 4.
Feltner, a political consultant, won a four-candidate Republican primary on Aug. 23, receiving 55.05% of the vote. Feltner previously worked at the Brevard County Property Appraiser's Office as the director of governmental affairs and public relations.
The other Aug. 23 Republican primary candidates in District 4 and their vote percentages were Sandra Sullivan (22.59%), David Armstrong (19.32%) and Margaret Mary Steciuk (3.03%).
Aiello's last-minute entry into the race sparked controversy when he admitted to FLORIDA TODAY that he didn't plan to campaign for the seat, and only entered the race to close the primary, shutting out Democrats and independents from voting in the Aug. 23 District 4 primary election.
There was no Democratic candidate in the District 4 race.
District 4 includes all or part of Indian Harbour Beach, Melbourne, Palm Shores, Rockledge and Satellite Beach, as well as sections of unincorporated Brevard, including Suntree and Viera.
The current District 4 commissioner, Curt Smith, could not seek reelection this year because of term limits. Smith has served two four-year terms.
The term of office for a county commissioner is four years, and the position pays $58,145.36 a year.
The four sitting county commisioners all are Republicans.
Ralph Chapoco is government and politics watchdog reporter. You can reach Chapoco at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @rchapoco.
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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: District 2 County Commission race has Goodson, Smith in running