With the General Election a little more than a month away, Destinties will have three men to choose from as they elect a new city councilman Nov. 6 — Rodney Braden, Jim Foreman and Andy Stempki.
The special election will be held to fill the seat that was vacated by former Councilman Larry Hines, who stepped down from his seat to run unsuccessfully for Okaloosa County Commissioner. The candidate elected will be sworn in Nov. 19 and will serve the remainder of Hines’ term, which expires March 2014.
Foreman currently holds the seat, on an interim basis, after city leaders unanimously appointed him Aug. 20.
Ahead of the election, The Log asked each of the candidates why they decided to run and what they thought the biggest issue in Destin was. The candidates also provided a brief bio of themselves.
Braden, who owns a local handyman business, didn’t return almost a dozen calls from The Log.
Jim Foreman has been a resident of Destin for almost 30 years and has served on various city committees and city council for almost 20 years. He previously served Destin residents on the council dais from March 1996 to March 2000 and from March 2002 to March 2006. Foreman is a retired U.S. Army serviceman.
Andrew Stempki has lived in Destin for almost 7 years, was college educated in political science and history, and for the last 6 years, has been a part of Destin’s lifeblood – the tourism industry. In that important sector of our economy, he says, “I’ve built a business that has brought quality entertainment to our tourists - Emerald Coast Sailing.” Stempki has also been active in Destin’s government, serving on the Recreation and Harbor CRA Boards.
Why did you decide to run for Destin City Council?
Foreman: I have the experience and knowledge to hit the ground running, making an immediate contribution, I am familiar with the main issues and the challenges facing the city, I have worked with most of the council members and have an excellent relationship with each, and I have no interest in a longer term and will do my best in the remainder of this term.
Stempki: Clearly, my candidacy reflects a love and respect for Destin as well as this idea of public service. Destin has given me, as a young man, many opportunities and I want to give back in the form of public service — i.e. our city council. I see challenges that Destin faces and I believe there are acceptable long-term solutions. My specialty is bringing people together and leading them to common goals – ultimately making Destin an interesting and pleasurable place to live and play.
In your opinion, what is the single biggest issue facing Destin and what's the solution?
Foreman: Maintaining the unique character of Destin while promoting economic development; for example, high commercial property vacancies, low property values, declining property taxes that affect city services. Possible solutions include: maintaining the lowest city tax rates to attract investment, supporting our tourism and fishing industry to promote jobs and income to businesses, promoting our good schools, recreation and low crime rate to encourage new residents, and continuing to express pride in our city.
Stempki: While there are a host of issues Destin faces, I believe the biggest problem that lacks substantive solutions and is chronically overlooked is our Town Center. Year after year, it fails to meet its budget with tax revenue and has to be massively subsidized from other parts of the city budget. In addition, great towns must have a memorable Town Center and Destin’s is clearly inadequate. The solution exists within the Town Center CRA Board and entrusting good men and women to find creative solutions, plot a course, have strong leadership — which is what I plan to bring to the table, and the matriculation will inevitably occur.
EARLY VOTING: Early Voting for the Nov. 6, General Election will be held from Oct. 27- Nov. 3, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
• Niceville City Hall located at 208 N. Partin Drive Niceville
• Shalimar Annex located at 1250 N. Eglin Pkwy. Shalimar
• Bob Sikes Library located at 1445 Commerce Drive Crestview
• Supervisor of Elections Office located at 302 Wilson Street N, Ste 102 Crestview