Unopposed, re-elected commissioners speak out

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City Commissioners Sue Colson and Gene Hodges are unopposed in the May 3 Cedar Key election, thus winning automatic re-election to their seats.

It's a situation which begs the question: Does this happen very often?

According to long-time City Clerk Frances Hodges, while there have been unopposed candidates, there have only been two or three years without any elections.

The electoral process costs the city approximately $2,000 per year and when the water board also has open seats, they split the costs. This year, $2,500 is budgeted to factor in the contingency of a run-off and there is no water board election to share costs.

Gene Hodges is no stranger to public office. A native of Cedar Key, he served as a state representative for 18 years. Later he was appointed by Gov. Bob Martinez to serve on the state Parole Commission and was reappointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles — serving a total of eight years.

When asked about not having to fight for his seat this third term he said, “The greatest honor a politician can have is to not have opposition. It’s going to be a rough two years, I’m afraid, financially. But, I’m sure we will get through it and I really appreciate the opportunity”.

He added that while he would like to see the city accomplish more projects and make more improvements, “we are going to have to play defense more than offense this budget year— we just have to hold our own.”

Commissioner and former Mayor Sue Colson has served since 2003 and has faced some challengers in past elections. She attributed the lack of competition to her being mindful of the possibility of a contested election. “I feel I did run. My name was put out there and the result was that no one opposed me. People must have confidence in me. I took it as a confirmation of the direction I have been trying to assist Cedar Key in moving towards,” she said.

Colson was a public servant long before she was on the commission. She was appointed to and served for 12 years on the Suwannee River Water Management Governing Board. She was on the citizen advisory board for Project Ocean, that brought clam farming to Cedar Key after the net ban amendment was approved, and is the projects director for the Cedar Key Aquaculture Association board of directors.

While happy about the “tremendous momentum of the positive projects, amounts of grant money the city has received and improvements that have been made,” it is “very worrisome to me” that the resignation of City Administrator and CRA Director Greg Lang is leaving a tremendous void.

“The diversity is currently so strong on the commission that we don’t seem to have any cohesiveness. I hope we can develop the same sort of cohesiveness that got us these projects and grants.” She said that the resignations of Lang, City Attorney David Coffey and upcoming retirement of Hodges “all at one time” gives her great concern. But considering she served as mayor for one term and graduated from the year-long Natural Resources Leadership Institute program that teaches conflict resolution skills, and recently won her battle against cancer, she is glad to “be given the opportunity to be a strong leader for the town” again.