Bradford County voters will choose a District 5 representative on the Board of County Commissioners in the upcoming Nov. 8 general election.
Republican Frank Durrance, 60, will face the incumbent Democrat Eddie Lewis, 63, for the position. Durrance lives near State Road 235 and works for the Florida Department of Military Affairs. Lewis is a self-employed contract hauler living in Brooker.
“I love the people of Bradford County, and I don’t forget that I work for the people of Bradford County,” Lewis said. He’s been involved with the commission for 20 years. “I take care of them.”
Durrance said he decided to run for office in 2014 after three county residents requested him to consider it. “I can provide new, fresh ideas and hopefully help move the county forward,” he said. He secured his spot in the race with 53 percent of the vote in the August 30 primary against Republican Donnie Oden.
Lewis and Durrance mentioned the proposal of phosphate mining as the county’s biggest current environmental issue. Residents began expressing concerns in February about plans by HPSII Enterprises to build phosphate mines in the area. The company released a report with a detailed master plan in April.
Lewis said he is still waiting for experts to evaluate the extent of potential damage before stating his opinion. He plans to learn about all the parties involved and the potential health and environmental risks, he said, and he would not support the mining if he knew it would pollute the rivers.
Durrance said he opposes mining on public land, but that miners should be allowed to work on private property if they get permission from state agencies.
Lewis said working within the county’s budget might be another challenging task in 2017. He favors offering incoming businesses two- to five-year tax breaks to help them move into the county. However, the lack of interstate highways in the area is an issue that limits the amount of people willing to establish their businesses there, he said.
In addition to improving roads, Lewis’ priorities upon re-election would be to upgrade the volunteer fire department, put an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) station in the town of Brooker, and keep gas and property taxes down.
Durrance, on the other hand, said a lack of jobs is the county’s biggest problem and proposes better zoning as a measure to solve it. He said county commissioners should collaborate with city commissioners, the Suwannee River Economic Council and the North Florida Regional Chamber of Commerce to create jobs. “We need to try to get some industry in so that the future of our county can be sustainable,” he said.
The candidates have similar views on the Second Amendment and Florida’s open government laws.
“As long as you’re not a convicted felon, you should be able to own guns,” Lewis said. Durrance said people should be allowed to own as many legal guns as they want and “defend themselves from the government or anybody else.”
Both believe that records detailing where taxpayers’ money is being spent should be accessible to the public.
Although Durrance said he approves of some medical uses of marijuana, neither candidate favors decriminalizing possession of it for recreational purposes.
The candidates do not believe the minimum wage should be higher. The economy is not growing, and businesses are having enough trouble surviving with the current minimum wage, Durrance said.
Lewis said the wage should rise only if and when it does not hurt businesses. “You can’t afford to break the employers because they’re what makes the whole world turn.”
Bradford County residents may choose among three voting options: vote-by-mail, early voting between Oct. 24 and Nov. 6 at the Bradford County Courthouse (945 N. Temple Ave.) in Starke, or voting at their polling location on Election Day.