EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insights on various topics in Marketplace column.
There were no hanging chads, no recounts, no controversies.
It was simply the political process working the way it should. And Nassau County will be a better place to live, work and visit for it.
An impressive group of fiscally conservative candidates made a clean sweep in various races last week involving Nassau County, Florida. Aaron Bean trumped Mike Weinstein in a state Senate race, Janet Adkins handily survived in her re-election bid for state representative, Bill Leeper mightily emerged from a full ballot of opponents to become the new county sheriff, Mike Hickox ousted Tammy Stiles in the property appraiser’s race, and Pat Edwards will take Stacey Johnson’s seat on the county commission.
That amounts to a lot of positive change for the county and its residents. Though there were other races, these will have the most impact.
Bean served eight years as a state representative for our area before having to step down due to term limits. While in office, he earned the support and respect of former Governor Jeb Bush, who openly campaigned for Bean on television and in public appearances.
Bean’s opponent staged the most negative and costly campaign in recent memory. Weinstein stuffed area mailboxes with glossy mailers denouncing Bean’s previous service as state representative, much of which was questionable (he quoted the obscure “Jacksonville Observer” for some of his claims). Weinstein is currently a state representative, but sought the higher profile Senate seat.
Bean still must prevail in a November contest, as must Adkins, but the primary races provided substantial challenges for both of them. Adkins ran as the incumbent, and certainly has built a stellar record as a state representative.
Her performance in office has been noticed. Adkins also received the support of Bush, an endorsement that inevitably helped as she faced a powerful political newcomer in Cord Byrd.
Leeper is hardly a political newcomer. He served exceptionally for several terms as a Fernandina Beach city commissioner, and by most beliefs, will make an outstanding sheriff. Leeper has worked for many years with the Florida State Highway Patrol, and will bring professionalism, austerity and accountability to the local office.
The race that could have the most direct impact on local residents was for property appraiser. Stiles has been widely criticized and challenged for failing to reduce property values — to be in line with the local market — during the real estate downturn.
Hickox has pledged to readjust the values accordingly, both for residential and commercial properties. His efforts could provide some relief to homeowners and businesses in terms of a hefty tax burden here.
Edwards will be a welcomed addition to the county commission. He will provide another fiscally conservative voice to complement the efforts of fellow commissioner Steve Kelley. While the county commission has worked earnestly toward cutting expenses, reducing positions and holding the line on the tax rate, Kelley’s motions have sometimes died for a lack of a second vote. Edwards can provide this.
Nassau County is already a wonderful place. With political candidates like these working for us, it will become even better. The political process can be a powerful and a positive force — especially when it works like this.