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HIGH SPRINGS – On Nov. 6, voters will elect a new commissioner to fill the soon-to-be vacated seat of Mayor Dean Davis.  The two candidates running for that seat are Pat Rush and Byran Williams.  Commissioner Scott Jamison’s seat was also up for election, but his opponent, Edward Riess, withdrew from the campaign, leaving Jamison unopposed. Here voters can find the remaining candidates’ responses to a selection of Alachua County Today questions.

Candidate Pat Rush

Age:  55

Family:  Wife Robyn; daughter Caitlyn, 24 years old; daughter Shannon, 14 years old

Education:  Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering, University of South Florida

Occupation:  Electrical Engineer for the University of Florida

Time in High Springs:  Eight years

Political experience:   Member plan board City of High Springs; Campaign manager brother, Brian Rush, State House of Representatives, Tampa

Questions

What is the main issue that needs to be addressed in High Springs?

High Springs suffers from financial problems arising most largely from poor decisions and mismanagement. Information presented to the commission and outside agencies such as the USDA for the sewer system included erroneous figures. Our city commission presented to the USDA that the sewer system would be funded in part by impact fees of $3,500 per household, which the commission then voted to suspend. The people of High Springs were told that they would be put on this new sewer system at no cost, and to charge $3,500 to be hooked up would have been met with outrage. With 700+ users on our system at present, and at $3,500 each; this amounts to about a $2.5 million shortfall.

Are there other issues facing the city that also require commission attention?  If so, please identify.

The city has numerous issues which plague its operation: No plan for economic development, poor coordination between our charter officers, etc.

As a commissioner, what would be your short-term and long-term goals?

My short term and long term goals are one and the same. Divide up our tasks and duties according to the charter. Put our city manager, finance director, clerk, and attorney in charge of their tasks, and keep the commission informed as to what each is doing. Then we can get our finances and our plans for the future on track. At present our operations are paralyzed.

The commission is in the process of looking for a new city manager.  What would you be looking for in a candidate for that position?

The city is looking for a manager with experience, and a proven track record. That person must also have a strong financial background.

What should High Springs do to gain strength economically?

High springs has not only failed to promote economic development, but has in fact interfered with it. For years businesses which wanted to locate in High Springs, or expand were met with burdensome requirements from our city planner. It is the duty of the city building official to make such determinations. In fact Florida statute 489 prohibits anyone else from interfering in the building officials duties. As such, we were discouraging good clean businesses with unnecessary costs, not called for by our building department. We have earned our reputation as a “business un-friendly city.”

What budget process would you employ to create a budget for the next fiscal year?

Our budget process was flawed by inaccurate figures which changed at every meeting. The procedure was not at fault. I also propose modifying the budget dynamically through the year. This will be particularly important as our budget has very little room for error this year.

What are your core political principles?

I am a monetarily conservative person. Whenever we spend the taxpayer’s money we have to say “This is their money… Is this the way they would spend it.” I think in so many cases in the past we would have to answer no.

What made you run for city commissioner?

Very simply I love High Springs. It is my home, and I want the best for its citizens and for my family. I hate to say it, but anyone who has attended the commission meetings, served on its boards, or met regularity with its officers as I have, knows that this city is a mess right now. I hope the voters will give me the chance to serve them, and improve the conditions we live under.

What would you bring to the commission that other candidate would not?

I work hard, I educate myself and will show up ready to do business, not just talk about doing business. In past campaigns my opponent has said that we need to educate our city residents. Let me say this: Our residents are more educated than the residents in any other city I’ve been in. I’ve been meeting hundreds of voters at their homes, and they know what’s going on and they don’t like it. Rather than trying to school them. We should listen to what they are asking for.

If you have been on the commission before, what would you do differently this time and why?

I have not served on the commission before.

What is something residents do not know about you?

I would rather get work done than argue about it. There is a surplus of talk which is not followed up by action. I will work with everyone on the commission, and know that we will be judged by the merits of our actions.

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Candidate Byran Williams

Age: 54

Family: Single, father of four, four grandchildren

Education: 2011- Currently enrolled in Emory International Theological Seminary, Atlanta Ga.

Florida League of Cities Institute for Community Housing, 2007

Advanced Institute for Elected Municipal officials, 2006

Institute for Elected Officials, 2004

Santa Fe College, 1983

Graduate of Santa Fe High School, 1976

Occupation: Pastor of Mt Carmel United Methodist Church, High Springs; Owner of Byran’s Car Wash and Wax

Time in High Springs: Lifelong Resident

Political Experience: High Springs City Commissioner (2003-2009); Former Vice Mayor/ Mayor (2005-2006); Former member of the following organizations: Florida League of Cities, North Central Florida Regional Planning Council, Growth Management and Transportation Committee.

What is the main issue that needs to be addressed in High Springs?

High Springs is a weak mayor, city manager style of government by charter. We must go back to funding and selecting a professional proven city manager with the experience to manage daily operations of the city.

Are there other issues facing the city that also require commission attention?

I feel there are four critical issues. 1) Funding local dispatch; 2) Completing the sewer project; 3) Improve city employee morale; 4) Infrastructure review and improvements.

As a commissioner, what would your short and long term goals be?

Short term would be finding a professional city manager, improving employee morale and citizen communication with commission at commission meetings.  Long range would be enhancing economic development opportunities that can provide economic stability to the city by bringing clean industry that provides jobs and a complete review of infrastructure needs.

The commission is in the process of looking for a new city manager. What would you be looking for in a candidate for that position?

I would be looking for a person with proven professional experience in managing the daily operation of a city.

What should High Springs do to gain strength economically?

Improve economic development efforts through eco-tourism, be more business friendly and reestablish full time planning department.

What budget process would you employ to create a budget for the next fiscal year?

I would insist that the city manager, finance director, and department heads create a balanced budget that is within the guidelines set by the commission, as required by charter.

What are your political principles?

I will be open minded and will listen to the concerns and desires of the citizens. My political principles are simple: I believe in fairness, honesty, and open communication with all people. I will listen to and will work hard for the citizens of High Springs.

What made you run for city commissioner?

I am proud to have served as city commissioner and mayor. I am now a candidate for city commissioner because I love this city and I am saddened by the direction that the city has taken under the present leadership.

What would you bring to the commission that the other candidate would not? I would bring seven years of experience and I am a lifelong resident of High Springs. I think I know this city very well.

If you have been on the commission before, what would you do differently this time?

I will be more assertive in expressing my opinions on the issues after consulting with the citizens. At the present time citizens are intimidated by the present commission and will not speak at the meetings. I will try to set up community meetings to bring the city to the people and insure that we have direct communication with all of our citizens.

What is something residents do not know about you?

I served in the United States Army and was stationed in Germany, Fort Campbell Kentucky, and had the privilege to serve as an instructor at the United States Military Academy at West Point New York.