Story by Jarleene Almenas and Wayne Grant.
After months of what has been a high-energy, and at times divisive, campaign spurred by differing views on the city's growth and development, the Ormond Beach City Commission election has drawn to a close. The citizens elected all the incumbents and former Pine Trails Principal Susan Persis on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Since February, the commissioners, and city staff, have faced backlash for recent development projects, and some citizens especially became vocal about their disapproval over the clear-cutting of trees for Granada Pointe. Some of the City Commission candidates even made that a big part of their platform.
From the distribution of former CANDO 2 spokesman Jeff Boyle's personnel file, negative mailers and YouTube video campaigns, to the angry removals of political signs on Granada Boulevard, appearances on the Marc Bernier radio show and a Florida Elections Commission complaint against political action committee Ormond Proud, it has been a heated and passionate race on both sides.
Here is a breakdown by zone of how election night turned out, and what that means for the future of the city.
Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington was re-elected with 60.6% of the vote. His opponent, former Trails HOA President Rob Bridger earned 39.4% of the vote.
Shortly after all the votes were in, Partington spoke to the crowd gathered for the incumbent's watch party at Rockin' Ranch. The overall mood of the people in attendance was celebratory, and after his win, Partington was no exception. He said it was a "true honor" to be re-elected and that the results show that the citizens are happy with the direction the city is headed.
“I look forward to continuing to serve and we are moving forward folks, taking Ormond Beach to the next level, and we’re going to need your help as we do it," Partington said.
Bridger said the campaign was a very positive experience and a chance for discussion on how the city should grow, adding that growth is inevitable.
He said the involvement by so many citizens shows that the winners of the election need to be responsive and they should bring the city back together after a period of divisiveness.
Wherever he went in the city, he found new issues, he said, such as a planned restaurant downtown that
has very limited parking and the need for an environmental board.
“A lot of work needs to be done,” Bridger said.
Ormond Beach City Commissioner Dwight Selby was re-elected with 56.9% of the vote. His opponent, retired art teacher Kathy Maloney Johnson earned 43.1% of the vote.
Selby thanked everyone at Rockin' Ranch for their support, saying this was "hard-fought" campaign that he believes the citizens have won. He called this a "win for the city of Ormond Beach."
"We have confirmation that the direction we’re headed right now is the direction they want us to take," Selby said.
Maloney Johnson, who campaigned creatively through the use of YouTube videos, said she learned that politics calls for a person who is a natural salesman and it was not easy for her.
“I’ve been a teacher for a long time,” she said. “I’ve always been in the truth-telling business.”
She believes the "massive" advertising campaign by Ormond Proud was done in poor taste, and didn't understand why a "little, local paper" would accept ads like theirs. She noted the passion of the campaign, which at times got aggressive, but overall was a good experience.
Ormond Beach City Commissioner Troy Kent was re-elected with 49.1% of the vote. His opponents, former Banker Joe Dugan and attorney David Glasser earned 37.9% and 13% of the vote respectively.
Zone 2 proved to be one of, if not the most, heated race in the local election, with Dugan defending himself in Facebook videos over negative mailers and accusing Kent of being behind them. He addressed his arrest record, attributing it to poor choices he made as a teenager, and divulged personal information about Kent's family.
Kent, in turn, maintained he had never sent out a negative mailer on his opponents, and repeated a similar sentiment at Rockin' Ranch. He said his win was a team effort because the "other side" came out strong against Zone 2 but that he was proud he kept it clean because he wanted to win on his "good record, not [Dugan's] bad record."
“Our family took it on the chin," Kent said. "He went low and we really did go high.”
He ended his speech by using the hashtag "CANDIDN'T."
Joe Dugan, candidate for Zone 2, could not be reached for comment.
Former Pine Trails Elementary principal Susan Persis was elected with 59.3% of the vote. Her opponent, Volusia County Deputy Court Clerk Sandy Kauffman earned 40.7% of the vote.
Persis expressed excitement that the other members of the commission were re-elected. She commended anybody running for a campaign, because it had been a "grueling" and hard process.
“I think what’s important is that people work together," Persis said. "I think we need to build bridges."
She said citizens are happy with the current commission because their dedication is "clearly apparent," but that they all need to listen to everyone. Persis is also first woman elected to the commission in 8 years.
“I think it’s important to have all different perspectives and it has been all-male and I think it’s going to be very positive to have a female perspective on things," Persis said.
Kauffman said she she was honored by all the great people who supported her and invited her into their home when she went door to door. She said she found the city is very divided, with many people upset about local government.
She said losing is sad not just for her, but for all the people that supported her. They encouraged her to keep going even with the negative ads and mailers. She will continue to work with the city, including a role in the Ormond Beach Historical Society.
“I’m not going away,” she said.
Ormond Beach City Commissioner Rob Littleton was re-elected with 57.6% of the vote. His opponents, retired U.S. Coast Guard Barry duMoulin and former businessman David Romeo earned 24.6% and 17.7% of the vote respectively.
“It was a rather nerve-wracking campaign that I didn’t exactly have a grasp on because of it being three people in the race, but the citizens of Ormond Beach showed that they appreciate what I do on the commission, and I’m deeply honored by that," Littleton said shortly after results showed he had won the race.
He said the votes show that the citizens believe the city's direction is a positive one. In his next term, he promised to keep fighting for low property taxes, a responsible city budget that's fair to the taxpayer and preserving the city's quality of life.
Du Moulin felt differently — about the race and the results.
“Not in a million years would I do this again,” du Moulin said. “I put myself out there.”
He said one of the things during the campaign that made him angry was that a comment about a homeless camp idea he made on the Marc Bernier radio show was taken out of context and blown out of proportion by opponents. He was also surprised and disappointed when the Ormond Beach Observer endorsed all of the incumbent candidates, as he felt he had done well in his interview with the publisher and manager editor.
He said it would have looked better if not all of the incumbents had been endorsed by the Observer, saying that the paper seemed like it was favoring the "big-money interests."