Candidates tout priorities at public policy luncheon

Aug. 27, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

Sanford City Council and mayoral candidates pleaded their respective cases for public office, telling attendees at Monday's Public Policy Luncheon — hosted by the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce — about what their focus would be if elected.

Eight of the 10 candidates running for election were present during the monthly luncheon, held at The Flame Steakhouse.

Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive, who is seeking her third term as mayor, said the council has worked incredibly hard to bring more money into the city during a serious economic downturn and that she wanted to continue to focus on economic development.

"What we have been able to accomplish is remarkable," she said.

Chet Mann, a fellow Democrat who is facing Olive in the Sept. 10 municipal primary, said he's interested in moving Sanford forward by also focusing on economic development, revitalizing downtown and job growth.

"I was born here, grew up here, raised a family here and ran a business here," he said. "We need to do more and raise the bar. We cannot continue to stand still."

Councilman L.I. "Poly" Cohen, who intends to keep his at-large district seat on council, said he had focused on fiscal responsibility, and his experience as a businessman has proven vital during his time on the city board.  

"I want to give back now that I have the time," Cohen said. "I have been doing this for the past four years, and I want to do what is best for all of the citizens."

Norman "Chas" Post, who is campaigning against Cohen for the Democratic nomination for the at-large district seat, said his motivation to seek public office was his intention to "revitalize, renew and refresh the things that make Sanford great."

"Economic development, job creation, downtown revitalization and public safety are all priorities," Post said. "And standing up to the Tea Party majority on the Lee County Board of Commissioners."

The city of Sanford's $14.5 million bond referendums were the catalyst for Keith Clark, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the at-large district seat.

"I am not opposed to investing money in Sanford," said Clark, who has been a vocal opponent of the bonds. "I am opposed to doing it at the wrong time with the wrong people."

Councilman James "J.D." Williams, incumbent for Ward 3, said the city has a lot to offer, but there are still items he'd like to "fix" before leaving the council.

"There is still a lot of work and a lot to do to move the city forward," he said.

Councilman Samuel Gaskins, incumbent for Ward 1, said it's easy enough to campaign, but it's another thing to stick to your convictions and follow through on your commitments.

"Promises can be made," he said. "But it's how you deliver them." 

Bill Oberkirsch, who will face Gaskins in the November election, said he entered the political fray because of the city's high taxes.

"These are still hard times," he said. "The high taxes are the primary reason why I am running. … We need to do more with what we have already, and we need to be more accountable."

Most of the candidates said they were in support of a joint Chamber and EDC organization, but only if the city and the Lee County Board of Commissioners continued to fully fund the organization.

Max Dolan, who is campaigning against Clark for the Republican nomination for the at-large district seat, and Ervin Fox, who is campaigning against Williams for the Ward 3 seat, were not present during the luncheon.