There are four people in the running for Leon County Commission At-Large Seat One. Tom Flanigan spoke with all of them Tuesday, July 17 on WFSU-FM's Perspectives.
The guy who’s held that seat for the past four years is Akin Akinyemi. He called in from the road on the way back to Tallahassee from Pittsburgh. One of his biggest challenges, he told the Perspectives audience, has been trying to maintain critical county services in the face of a relentlessly shrinking county budget. Such as the special court that handles mental health and substance abuse cases.
“We have cut so much. When I started I think it was around $280 million. The current budget is about $228 million. Again, we have to have a balanced approach to our governance. Mental health has been very, very dear to me. We lost a grant and so we’ve not been able to restore that program fully, but I continue to fight to at least get part of that program funded.”
Keeping up county services and maintaining the area’s quality of life is also important to Mary Ann Lindley. After thirty years as a journalist, she left the Tallahassee Democrat with an eye towards public service and is one of three opponents Akinyemi will face in the August fourteenth primary election.
“I would definitely support both the sales tax – one-cent sales tax extension – and I would also work with the schools for their half-cent sales tax. These are two taxes we’ve been paying in this community all along. They’re very important here since half the property is off the tax roll because it’s government or university.”
Of course government and higher education have been Leon County’s biggest economic drivers pretty much as long as there’s been a Leon County. All four county commission candidates think private sector economic development is critical. Former Leon School Board Member Fred Varn sees local red tape as something that needs changing.
“What happens is a developer or builder will come in and try to build some sort of industry or business and because of the bureaucratic nightmare and hoops that they have to go through, it takes months and in some cases I’ve heard it takes years.”
Streamlining that process, as well as cutting down on city-county service duplication would be a good thing. In fact, the four candidates spent more time agreeing than disagreeing. Emily Fritz, who’s worked in both the governor’s office and private medical field, seemed to capture that spirit of consensus in her remarks.
“I think in many cases we can find common ground. Everybody loves this community. Everybody wants to work together and although there may be different political points of view and different objectives for people, I think everybody wants this county to be a wonderful place to live.”
If none of the four candidates get at least fifty-percent of the vote plus one in the August fourteenth primary, the two top vote-getters will face off in the November’s general election. Next up in our series of political Perspectives is this Thursday’s look at the Leon County Clerk of Court contest.