Election Day looms: Two city commission seats and one water district seat at stake

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By The Staff

Cedar Key will go to the polls Tuesday, May 6 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. City Hall, located at Second and C Streets, will be the polling location. The Cedar Key Beacon asked candidates to respond to the questions below so that voters and citizens may gain a more complete view of the commission.

With the exception of incumbent Mayor Paul Oliver, who asked to make his statements in an interview excerpted here, and opposing candidates Heath Davis and Bryan Skarupski who conducted their own press conference (See Inside) the candidates responded on their own and we have reproduced the responses in their entirety.

Candidate Questions

1. How can Cedar Key work with the county and state to make the city and district's needs a realizable priority?

2. How would you prioritize funding of local projects involving the following: schools, law enforcement, historic preservation and local infrastructure, such as roads, water and sewer, docks and beaches?

3. What is your position on traffic, transportation and parking management in the city, including the use of cars vs. golf carts? (City candidates only)

4. How do you see Cedar Key best balancing its infrastructure needs with its economic capacity?

5. What in your character, background or experience makes you the best candidate for the seat?

Paul Oliver, City Commission Seat 4 Incumbent

1. In the past three years, we have established a very good relationship with the county and school board. Part of that is personalities; a lot is realizing that we have common interests.

The state is an entirely different animal. Typically you don't deal with elected officials because you're dealing with many layers of a bureacracy. My approach is to go to the person nearest to the project, then go up the chain of command until you get to a person who's willing to at least give you time to explain your priorities. The state typically does not respond to small towns very well.

I think it's important for people to understand the function of the CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency). The CRA is designed so that the city can take a portion of ad valorem taxes paid from the city to the county and, under very strict guidelines, allows the city to prioritze the use of that money. Whereas the county may not understand what we need, we can prioritize via the CRA.

2. I could not prioritize funding for local projects ahead of time because they're all important. It depends on the current need as to how you fund them.

This year, I consider infrastructure extremely important, but that doesn't mean schools or historic preservation are any less important.

The city has to be able to allocate rather than prioritize.

3. You've seen over the last three years what we've tried to do at the marina, purchasing property - all that is part of traffic and vehicle management. What people don't always understand is that, if 500 more parking spaces were available - we're an island - in a year, we'd probably need 500 more.

There's not an infinite amount of land available, nor an infinite amount of land that people are willing to give up for parking lots. If we want to maintain the character of Cedar Key, we can't have eight-story parking lots.

As for golf carts, I think Cedar Key is uniquely suited for them. They're clean, quiet and give adequate speed to commute around the community.

4. How do you see Cedar Key best balancing its economic needs with its cultural standards?

To me, they're not mutually exclusive. I think the charm and fishing village atmosphere is what brings people to Cedar Key. Obviously the rental properties and restaurants would like to see higher traffic, but sometimes you have to think beyond tomorrow. Of course, it can be hard to think beyond tomorrow because that's when the mortgage is due.

We don't have beautiful beaches, amusement parks or a wonderful zoo. The uniqueness and charm of Cedar Key - a working fishing village - is why people come here.

5. What in your character, background or experience makes you the best candidate for the seat?

I have no agenda for being on City Commission - I consider it to be community service. I mean that I have no preconceived notions when I take my seat as commissioner. I listen - I think that's one of the reasons I have been somewhat successful as a commissioner - because no one can say they've come to talk to me about a problem and been told I have no time. If they come to me at Fishbonz, I may miss a tackle sale, but I will hear someone out, because I know it's a big thing to them.

In my background, I worked for a large company for 30 years, starting out as an engineer. I got into production management and then was sent to the corporate offices. At one point, my supervisor gave me $40 million to take a fiberglass plant that had been mothballed for eight years, put it back on line and make it efficient. In some ways, that was easier than dealing with city budgets.

The only real thing I have issues with is micromanaging. I like to give commissioners and staff people the tools they need to get things done and turn them loose. I say, "Call me if you need a barrier knocked down."