Voters will have four candidates on the ballot in August's primary election.
Volusia County voters have four candidates to choose from in the upcoming County Council At-Large race, an open seat as incumbent Councilman Ben Johnson is not seeking reelection.
Former Port Orange City Manager Jake Johansson filed to run on Dec. 21, 2021. He is a retired captain of the U.S. Navy, where he had a 35-year career. He resigned from the city of Port Orange in 2020, and said decided to run for County Council because he started seeing "dysfunction" on the governmental entity.
"When I start hearing council members talk about, 'I want, I need,' I know that those council members have lost focus on who they work for," Johansson said. "We work for the citizens and I've been a lifelong public servant."
Johansson said he wants to bring "the four C's" to the council: Cooperation, collaboration, communication and common sense. Some of the key issues in his platform include supporting public safety, such as increasing the number of firefighters per truck; a responsible budget, where while he can't pledge to never increase taxes, he said he would fight to get to rollback every year; and protecting the environment. One of the environmental achievements he's proud of is Port Orange's reclaimed water lakes that allow no effluent to be pumped into the Halifax River.
When it comes to growth, Johansson said he's a fan of infill development, higher densities in smaller areas to allow for more acres in conservation, and that he would like the county to work better with the cities on development. He's hopeful that the soon-to-be-formed Environmental Resources Advisory Committee is a step toward coming up with compromises.
"I'm not gong to be one of these people that sit up on the high dais up at the county and wait for people to kiss the ring," Johansson said. "I am a very network-centric, communication-minded individual and I look forward to getting up to all the cities, talking to mayors, talking to elected officials and talking to the citizens about what matters the most to them."
A former Volusia County employee is also in the race. Sherrise Boyd, who previously worked for the county's emergency medical services division where she also served as its diversity and inclusion representative, filed to run on Feb. 2. Boyd, who is the founder and CEO of her own consulting firm Sherrise Boyd Enterprise, has run for office in the past; in 2020, she ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry.
"I'm definitely not a politician," Boyd said. "I'm a candidate, a community advocate, someone who understands. ... An educated community is a threat to poor leadership and an educated voting community is just what everyone needs. We can change things with that."
There are various issues that she's interested in, such as looking into community redevelopment area districts that she feels are not being funded for the public's benefit and should be sunsetted, making local government more accessible to its constituents, creating a more family-friendly brand for the county to bring in visitors and tackling income-based housing. Some of the other issues she's interested in include targeting the rates at which criminals reoffend and the county's high human trafficking statistics.
Boyd added that she's also keeping a close eye on development, and how campaign funds appear to impact which projects are approved. Volusia is growing quickly, and natives are getting priced out as a result, she said.
"Nobody wants to stop and mitigate," Boyd said. "Everyone wants to sweep things under the rug, but we can't. We don't have the infrastructure. We don't have the funding available to do a lot of the things that people want to do."
Doug Pettit, of Ormond Beach, is also in the running for the At-Large seat. Pettit is a retired lieutenant colonel of the U.S. Marines, having served for 26 years, and retired high school teacher. He coaches football at Spruce Creek High School and participates in Scottish Highland games.
He's lived in Volusia County since 2007 and said he decided to run because, having seen what is going on in the county both environmentally and politically, he is a believer of stepping up for change.
"I want to serve the people of Volusia County," Pettit said. "And then when my service time is finished, I want to return to my community and that's really what I want [voters] to know — that I'm trying to fulfill what our forefathers wanted in their community, of people being active in the community and not being a class of professional politicians."
Overdevelopment is the number one issue he's concerned with. People in the county are frightened right now, he said, and it's because they believe nothing can be done about it.
"We're not going to stop development," Pettit said. "We just think it can be done better and done smarter, and the people need to know that there's a control mechanism on it."
Other issues on his platform include not raising taxes nor instituting a sales tax initiative once again and getting a handle on the critical nature of the state's waterways. If elected, he would also advocate against zoning changes, which he believes have contributed to the current state of development, and said he would be in favor of looking at increasing impact fees. He also wishes to restore trust with the constituents, and would like to see at least one council meeting a quarter held at night so more members of the public could attend.
Among the candidates is also a familiar face to the Volusia County Council. Former District 1 County Councilman Andy Kelly filed to run for the At-Large seat on April 29. Kelly, who was born and raised in DeLand, was elected on the council in 2007 and served until 2012 where he unsuccessfully ran for Supervisor of Elections. He ran for District 1 again in 2014, but lost the election to Pat Patterson. In 2018, he was elected to the Soil and Water Conservation District.
"I am the only At-Large candidate who has lived here in Volusia County my entire life," said Kelly, an accountant of 45 years who owns Betty W Kelly Accounting in DeLand with his wife. "And throughout my entire life, I have seen change. In the last few years, I've seen drastic change, concerning change."
Kelly served on the council during the recession and said that many of the issues he ran with in 2007 remain the same today. He is against tax increases, wishes to protect Volusia's natural resources, and while he said he was on the "losing side" of the council back then, he learned to show his passion for issues and continue sharing it slowly in the hopes people come around. He described himself as an "open-door" kind of person, and he is looking forward to speaking to residents and listening to their concerns.
One of those is growth. Kelly said dense growth doesn't pay for itself, and instead puts the burden on the taxpayers. Growth has been allowed without considering its overall effect, Kelly added.
"If growth is a big issue, it's not funding it," Kelly said. "We have to slow it down and in the county, we have to stop the sprawl."
The primary election is Tuesday, Aug. 23. Early voting runs from Saturday, Aug. 13 through Sunday, Aug. 20.