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Some Tallahassee and Leon County commissioners are facing election challengers after controversial votes

Exterior of the Tallahassee City government building
Craig Moore
WFSU Public Media
Exterior of the Tallahassee City government building

Several local city and county commissioners are facing challenges as elections near for Leon County next year. The challengers are running for different reasons, but all have one thing in common: they say It’s time for a change.

A recent decision by the joint city-county Blueprint Commission to give $20 million to Florida State to renovate and upgrade Doak Campbell Stadium solidified Joey Lamar’s decision to challenge City Commissioner Rick Minor.

“Right now, we have a lot of backroom politics going on in Leon County and Tallahassee," Lamar said about the Blueprint commission vote on FSU's stadium.

"That was a done deal as soon as they brought it up for public opinion. And even though they had a public meeting, they already knew, and everybody should've known, that they were going to get the votes. And Rick Minor voted for that.”

Blueprint’s board is made up of both city and county commissioners. And that stadium vote also triggered Damon Victor to jump into the District 3 race against Minor.

“That was the last straw for me," Victor said.

Money, and the way that it is spent, is a big part of the decision by many of the local candidates to jump into city and county races. Terrance Barber is challenging longtime county Commissioner Bill Proctor in District 1. Barber sees Tallahassee as a tale of two cities: with resources and opportunities unequally distributed.

“One of the most important things that I would advocate for is the production of a budget by district," he said.

Similarly, David Bellamy says that rebuilding political unity in Tallahassee is going to be crucial. Bellamy is running for City Commission seat 3 where the incumbent is Jeremy Matlow. Bellamy has taken issue with Matlow’s combative leadership style.

“I think I am better at being able to put together coalitions and compromises than my opponent. I think he takes a little bit more of an attitude of it’ll be done one way or not at all," Bellamy said.

Matlow has bumped heads with local law enforcement leaders over social justice issues. He and Commissioner Jack Porter recently gave city manager Reese Goad a failing evaluation. And Matlow was censured by the local chamber of commerce for writing a column in July that criticized the Annual Tallahassee Chamber Conference set to happen the following month. This was the chamber's first censure in its nearly 100-year existence.

Bellamy wants to improve the public attitude toward local government.

“Well first off we’ve got to return trust and respect to city hall. I think people have to understand that their commissioners are working with the citizens' best interest in mind and nothing else. I think they also have to understand that city hall is going to be effective.”

The remainder of the candidates were either unavailable for comment or could not be reached. Whitfield Leland is challenging Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey. Jeromee Conner and David Hawkins are challenging county commissioner Kristin Dozier.

Jasmine Butler is a Junior broadcast journalism student at Florida A&M University. Immersed in student media, she spends her time perfecting the art of storytelling. She enjoys painting and can spend every day at the beach. She aspires to become a news reporter and anchor and describes her journey as the “road to the anchor desk.”