Voters will be making a lot of choices in November, and for registered voters in Citrus County, that includes the contested county commission seat in District 1.
Jeffrey Kinnard, the Republican candidate, and Marvin “Duane” Godfrey, the Democratic candidate, are long-time residents of Citrus County, and they are both leading their campaigns with issues close to their heart.
Godfrey — a disabled Vietnam veteran, owner of various small business and self-proclaimed jack of all trades — said he was inspired to run when young veterans returning home from war found they had no one in the government to represent them. They weren’t told how to file disability claims, acquire housing or get a job.
“It just kept falling on me bigger and bigger every time. I said, you know, I really believe the veterans need a voice in this county and so do the homeless,” he said. “Just because they’re homeless, doesn’t mean they’re not any good. It just means they are down on their luck.”
Kinnard — a chiropractor and former president of the Coastal Conservation Association — said his inspiration to run came about five years ago when he began to pay closer attention to local politics. He spoke out against several issues, but he felt that certain decisions had already been made before they came out for discussion.
“I felt frustrated with some decisions being made,” he said. “I didn’t feel they were taking the public opinion to heart… I felt like they were major projects for special friends, and the taxpayers were getting the bill.”
Both candidates agree that unemployment is a major issue facing the county. The unemployment rate for Citrus County was 6.8% as of August, a steady decline since its peak of 14.8 percent in January 2010, but it still ranks as the fifth highest in the state, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
Godfrey believes employment efforts need to be initiated from within the community. One example is the sanitation department he wants to create. Godfrey said he wanted to enact county-wide trash pick ups. Once the trash is picked up, it can be burned, and the ashes can be sold to use in concrete. He believes this method will not only save the county money, but also decrease pollution and create high-paying jobs.
“We don’t have business in the county. Until we get our county moving from within, you can’t just drag people in here and build from that,” Godfrey said.
Kinnard has a different solution in mind. He believes the unemployment problem is attributed to the county government and how it’s not easy to do business with it. He says the developers trying to build and bring jobs to the county are “willing to bring their own water” and do business, but aside from being difficult, the government is not asking the proper questions to better market Citrus County for these opportunities.
“We have to be proactive in going to these groups,” he said. “There are thousands of sites in Florida so if they get tangled up in your county government, they move on. Our county needs to know what they’re looking for.”
Another issue facing Citrus County, according to Kinnard, is a theme of duplicity in positions or departments and a lack of common sense in solving county problems. He believes certain roles and responsibilities should be left to the private sector where it can be better done. He said of course the government can sometimes play a role in facilitating things, but there are times where it has no role.
“I think the county government, all governments — the bureaucracy — has a natural tendency to grow and go beyond its scope of necessary functions,” he said. “We have to always keep that in check. Government is good at doing very little.”
Both candidates mentioned how they were not looking for additional jobs, but they felt passionate about the issues facing their counties, and they felt it was necessary to run. In preparation, Kinnard has started working part-time at his practice to better accommodate the busy schedule of a commissioner.
“I wasn’t looking for a second job, but it comes to a point where people have to get involved. What our government is doing to us is wrong,” Kinnard said.
Godfrey, who also champions issues facing the fire department and animal shelters, keeps his focus on the building the community. He spends anywhere from 200 to 400 hours a month on community service efforts helping the homeless, veterans and the elderly. Two years ago, he founded a chapter of the Disabled American Veterans where he enlists the help of volunteers to help vets with anything from resumes, hair cuts, food or help on medical claims.
Godfrey, who plans to donate his $1,000 monthly commissioner paychecks to non profits in need like Boys and Girls Club or little league clubs, said he is running on a grassroots campaign to serve the people. When in doubt, he pulls out the U.S Constitution he keeps in his back pocket to remind himself of the oath he made to this country.
“It’s like the Bible. When I went into the military, I signed an oath to defend that. They never relieved me of that oath when I got out. I believe in it and carry it. That’s me,” he said. “If you want change in this county, then I’m your answer. If you want jobs, I’ve got the solution. That’s the bottom line right there.”