The Supervisor of Elections office is a busy place. In the last week, three new candidates have announced their intention to run for county office.
Monroe County Commission has two seats that will be decided in the next election in November. District 4 incumbent David Rice (R) faces Vicki Tashjian (NPA – no party affiliation). The District 2 seat, being vacated by George Neugent who has announced a run for Marathon Council, is being sought by Michelle Coldiron (R), Debbie Halama (R), Eleanor McAdams (NPA), Thomas “Tommy” Ryan (D), and Charles Weitzel (R). BOCC candidates must live in a certain geographical area to be eligible to run, but are elected countywide.
Rice has served two consecutive terms on the BOCC, and also another term from 2002 to 2006. He is currently the county mayor.
He said it’s not a case of unfinished business. “There are still a lot of challenges facing this county,” Rice said. Most important, Rice said, is the “build out” of the Keys coming in 2023 and the possible “takings” lawsuits filed by landowners who will no longer have the ability to build on their lots.
“I won’t be a part of the commission in 2023, but the scene will be set by this commission for what we will face,” he said, adding that the cost of legal fees and reparations might go as high as $350 million.
Rice was instrumental in advancing the Trauma Star initiative in Monroe County. He founded the Guidance Clinic of the Middle Keys in 1973. Although retired, he still consults with the agency on occasion.
“I’ve spent more time getting an education on the operational system of Monroe County than I did getting a Ph.D. I want to hang in there for four more years if people want me,” he said.
Rice faces political newcomer but longtime resident Vicki Tashjian, who declared on April 27. The Marathon resident said she’s dabbled on the edges of political activism since she moved to the Keys 26 years ago. She owns a company that manages vacation rentals and private homes and has an additional 20 years experience in corporate hospitality.
“I’ve been involved in others’ campaigns, sat on some committees and worked on charitable causes like the Elks, Relay for Life, Coralhead Music Festival and Marathon in Action,” Tashjian said.
Her three main issues are hurricane readiness, the economic-environmental landscape of the Florida Keys and housing.
“We’ve made some progress on the re-entry issue, but we need different plans for the different islands,” she said. “And we need to keep watching Turkey Point [Nuclear Generating Station].”
Tashjian said speed is of the essence when it comes to housing.
“I think things are going in the right direction with philanthropists purchasing land,” she said. “But can the county come into play to make it happen faster?”
While it’s just Rice and Tashjian facing off in the District 4 race, the field is swelling in the District 2 race. There are five candidates vying for the seat — the most recent to announce are Debbie Halama (NPA) and Eleanor McAdams (NPA). (For other candidate coverage, please see keysweekly.com.)
McAdams is a longtime resident, as well, who lives on Little Torch. She works for an insurance agency and said she understands the role of service. She challenged George Neugent in 2014 and collected 41.58 percent of the vote. She said she’s motivated to run to represent Lower Keys voters.
“There’s a lack of representation for my district. We don’t ask for much. But I don’t think we get heard,” she said. “People in Marathon, I love them dearly, but they are not Lower Keys people and we do not think alike. No island is like the other island.”
Her issues, she said, are watching the quality of the Keys’ water supply and wasteful spending. She cited the newly laid bike path that had to be torn up for new sewer lines and then repaved again.
“I think we need to get more people involved in the community,” she said.
The details of Debbie Halama’s campaign were not available at presstime. Stay tuned.