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Mayoral candidates present their visions for Donalsonville in newspaper’s 12-question poll

On Tuesday, June 9th, voters in the City of Donalsonville will elect a new Mayor. Which candidates have the right stuff, the grandest vision and the greatest ability to lead the city into the
future?

In an effort to assist voters in that decision, and to offer voters a chance to hear directly from the candidates, the Donalsonville News hosted an In Their Own Words forum for the candidates for Mayor. The candidates were asked the same questions and their answers are presented here. 

Beginning at 12 a.m. on Thursday, June 4, a video of the candidates’ response to each question can be accessed at https://youtu.be/aU-_XzaJMjM. A link to the video will also be provided at donalsonvillenews.com and on the newspaper’s Facebook page.

Why are you running for the office of Mayor and what best qualifies you to be elected as the next Mayor of Donalsonville?

JOHNSON: I’m running for Mayor to serve. It’s my heart’s desire to give back to Donalsonville and its citizens some of what Donalsonville and its citizens have given unto me. Furthermore; I want to play an integral role of Donalsonville’s progression. My perspective makes me the better candidate. I have been fortunate to have been employed by the City of Donalsonville and the Seminole County Board of Commissioners. I have been afforded the opportunity to observe those in leadership for both the city and county while gaining an understanding of the day to day workings and operations of the city. I have also been blessed to have been employed as a property appraiser, to understand the fair market value of property, which is the main source of our city’s revenue – all the while being a concerned citizen.

MOYE: I am running for Mayor because I have a desire to help people. I love my hometown and the people in it. 

I feel what best qualifies me would be my strength and desire to help everyone. I also believe that what makes a “true” leader is one that chooses to Unite rather than Divide. 

 

What is the number one item that needs to be addressed once you take office?

JOHNSON: First things first, I am not going in to disrupt or impair the current position of the city’s operations. After I have observed, the number one item is to work toward economic development.

MOYE: I would have several number ones, having already been sitting on the city council; however, the number one concern at this moment would be making sure that our council members from both districts are working together properly for the betterment of this city, holding all of our elected officials accountable. Again, I fall back on leadership in our city.

 

What are the top five objectives you would like to accomplish as Mayor?

JOHNSON: 1.) The recruitment of new businesses and the stability of established businesses

2.) Advancement and progression of our youth 

3.) Form city relationships with various organizations and entities (city/county, city/BOE, city/chamber, city/DDA, etc)

4.) Motivate ALL citizens to be involved in their local government 

5.) Bring ALL the citizens of Donalsonville together 

MOYE:  1.) I would love to see eDonalsonville utilized to its fullest capacity and ALL City Council meetings televised so everyone would have the ability to see personally how things are going.

2.) Having been on the Council for over two years, I’d love to see several of the projects that we have started completed.

3.) Continuing cleanup from Hurricane Michael. Making sure that our city is getting all of the funding that we can so that taxpayers are not having to foot the bill.

4.) Bringing in more industry!!! We have got to be actively working with other entities within our county to make sure we are doing everything we can to encourage new businesses to look at Donalsonville.

5.) I am putting this on my list but I want to make it clear that I WILL make this happen regardless of what seat I sit in. In recent weeks our senior center was closed due to budget cuts. This WILL NOT work in Seminole County. This is a lifeline for a LOT of our seniors. I have already started the process of working on funding. WE need this and OUR seniors need this. Once I can secure funding we will then start discussing the HOWs of it all. Again, I am not afraid to work and I will continue! 

 

What would be your plan to bring each of the following groups together to develop one collective vision and project of work for the future? (City Government, County Government, Chamber,  BetterWay Initiative, Downtown Development Authority, Industrial Development Authority, School System and Hospital Authority)?

JOHNSON: The plan is for a representative from each of the aforementioned groups to come together and have meetings to discuss the most important and basic unit of Donalsonville – FAMILY. Each of these industries/businesses employees a parent, or a relative of someone that makes an impact on someone in a household. The meetings would be a beginning stage where a student receives education in school, enabling him or her to be trained for employment in the workforce locally, keeping employee retention for companies longer and creating a deeper work force right here for our local industries. 

MOYE:  I will fall back on leadership. Great leaders Unite not Divide. There can be unity in all of these areas because we have one common denominator, we want Donalsonville to thrive.

 

What is your plan of action to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Donalsonville in the following areas: Education?  SWGA Economy?  Health Care?  Downtown Development?  Historic Preservation? Recruitment of New Businesses?

JOHNSON:  Education – The importance of education cannot be stressed enough. I have learned that education is diverse. I encourage my students to discover their passion. “What is it that you could do without being paid?” Mine are ministry and education. 

No matter your age, you should always seek education. Whether it’s a major, minor, vocation, or trade – hone your talents to master your skills/craft towards their passion. True saying, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

SWGA Economy – Utilization of our strengths is paramount here. Lake Seminole, agriculture, and well established businesses are some of the catalysts that could jump start our economy. They provide jobs for many citizens while being the main pillars that Donalsonville is known for. 

Health Care – We are blessed to have one of the best hospitals around. Many people from Florida, Alabama, and surrounding counties come to Donalsonville for their health care needs to be met. This speaks volumes about the facilities, services, staff, etc. 

Downtown Development – As a former member of the DDA, I have a vested interest in the beautification of our city. Its members have a heart to make Donalsonville an attractive town. This is important if we seek to draw in outside business and much more. Downtown of any city is that city’s heartbeat. Without a heartbeat there is no life. 

Historic Preservation – Donalsonville’s history is rich and robust. Many people don’t know that nor will they unless we persevere it. Certain buildings and businesses downtown over the years have been remodeled, renovated, and restored. There are others that are currently in the process. Not only does this make our downtown presentable, it makes it attractive, and opens up new businesses. 

Recruitment of New Businesses – I plan on cultivating a working relationship with the Chamber of Commerce to solicit entrepreneurs and business owners to start a business here in Donalsonville. From there, we, ALL the citizens of not just Donalsonville but Seminole County, have to support these businesses by shopping local and assure that Donalsonville receives that sales tax revenue. We have to make sure the business sees a visible profit in order for it to be sustained.

MOYE:  Education? Working closely with the school superintendent to make sure our children have what they need. They are our future

SWGA Economy? Since the pandemic, I believe as leaders we need to be making sure every grant and loan that is available is talked about, even if that means stepping out and helping to fill out paperwork. I do this every day. 

Health Care? This is so close to my heart because I work in this daily. I believe educating our patients is the first place to start. People need to know what to do, whether it is socially distancing or checking their blood sugar. Knowledge is power.

Downtown Development? We have come a long way, but we still have a ways to go.

The number one thing is making sure that we are researching and getting all of the grants and alternate funding that’s out there. I have come to realize everyone likes a deal and if you can show them where there’s a way for them to get a business started with some help, that makes a difference.

Historic Preservation? This is so important. I believe it is imperative that we protect our history. I also believe we need to reach out into our community to find out as much about our history as possible.

Recruitment of New Businesses? Working with the Chamber of Commerce so that we will be able to offer incentives for new businesses to open here.

 

What changes would you make, if any, to the current operations of City Hall, and the Police, Fire and Public Works and eDonalsonville departments?

JOHNSON: From the onset, I cannot say anything needs to be changed. Until I have observed all departments and their operations …. business will continue as normal. 

MOYE: We have a great City Manager and fortunately all of these entities run smoothly because of his leadership. I still would and will implement in seeing “our” City Council meetings online.  I believe that is very important.

 

What steps will you take to eliminate blighted properties, to strengthen city regulations/and to effectively enforce ordinances to make businesses, tenants and home and property owners clean up and keep their property presentable?

JOHNSON: Working with the property owner to make sure they have an adequate amount of time is a must, after all it is the owner’s property. After that expiration of time has expired, the following steps would be implemented: verbal warning, written warning, last alternative would be a fine.

MOYE: We have ordinances in place. They have got to be enforced. Period. When our letters go out, they must be followed up and business and property owners held accountable …. regardless of name ….

 

What would be your plans and goals for development of the city property north of the railroad at the corner of Wiley Avenue and Crawford Street?

JOHNSON: My vision for the property on W. Crawford and N. Wiley is a Youth Community Center. It will accommodate all the citizens of Donalsonville, well emphasizing the importance of captivating our youth’s attention, energy, talents, and strengths. It would incorporate recreation, sport, and academia. 

MOYE: I’d love to have a youth center there. I believe that education should start as early as possible. I want to teach our children life skills. I’d love to have a community garden there. That would also help to feed our community. This would help our children to become more involved in our community. This is important. THEY ARE OUR FUTURE!!! 

 

What are . . . a.)  Donalsonville’s three biggest negatives/obstacles to a positive and prosperous future?  What action would you take on each?

                        b.)  What are the city’s greatest opportunities and challenges over the next five years?  List three and explain.  

JOHNSON: Mindsets – See, many of my classmates and students from every other graduating class leave here, never to return because of a mindset that is associated with Donalsonville. The approach is to show them differently than perception. “There is nothing here, nothing to do, no jobs, etc.” These words have been spoken for years. We combat that by forming relationships with different factions here in our community and begin to grow Donalsonville and make it better. 

Economic stagnation – As we’ve already stated, a business will open up and will close way too soon because it’s not supported. To change that narrative, WE must support these businesses that come in. SHOP LOCAL!!!!!

Youth stagnation – Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic our kids have been bored. I’ve talked to various parents in various parts of Donalsonville that have said their kids have nothing to do. Doing schoolwork at home, being at home, or an extracurricular activity with the recreation department are the main choices that our youth has had over the course of these two and a half months. A Community Youth Center would benefit all our kids. 

MOYE: 1.) Our biggest obstacles are each other. We have all got to work together. There is no one correct answer. We should all have a say in what will be going on in our town.

The best way to fix this will be through leadership and meshing everyone together. Again, Unity not Division.

2.) Resources are another obstacle. In the past before the hurricane this was an issue and with the pandemic it is still an issue.

I believe the way we handle these obstacles is to get on the phone with our other elected officials, from Washington on down; that has never been an issue for me. I believe the squeakiest wheel gets the oil. I will continue to FIGHT for what is right. WE will not be forgotten.

3.) Planning seems to always be an issue; everyone has a full plate. Moving forward I’d love to have better planning so that we can have more community involvement.

Opportunities:

1.) Donalsonville is in a rebuilding phase. Period. We need to be selling that. Since Hurricane Michael decided to tear our town down and everything is becoming new, let’s focus on that and make it as good as it can be. I understand folks are tired but it will be worth it in the end.

2.) Finally getting some much needed updates in our city through different grants. The only challenge with this one is writing them. We have the capability, it must be put into action. This will help all of us.

3.) I believe the number one opportunity is for everyone to become more involved in our community. The greatest challenge would be time, of course. I would like to say this though, when we were told to stay home as much as possible because of the spread of the virus, I believe that we all had time to reflect on things that are really important, our families, our children, I bet that you’ll never take a hug for granted anymore. We tend to make time for who and what’s important. Community involvement is important. I don’t have a problem with working for all of us, that is why I’m here but I would love to have all of you beside me. This is OUR town. Ours!!!

 

Do you support the BetterWay Initiative’s campaign to transform the historic firehouse complex on Woolfork Avenue into a museum, art gallery, cultural center and event venue?  What needs to be done to make that happen?

JOHNSON: I wholeheartedly support the BetterWay initiative for the proposed plans of the Firehouse complex. I was a history major in undergrad. I understand the importance of the preservation of history, culture, etc. Whatever we have to do to see this happen, it must happen. Whether it be through government funding (grants), donations from citizens, partnering with others, etc., it has to get done. 

MOYE: Yes, I 100% support this. I believe we can make this happen  through grants and now  would be perfect, while we are in this rebuilding phase.

 

What should the role of city government be in regards to economic development, providing opportunities for startup businesses and the revitalization of downtown and the transformation of vacant storefronts into visible vibrant units of opportunity?

JOHNSON: City government should play all the role it can in seeing our city strive and flourish. With that being said, a relationship with the Chamber and the DDA is only the first step in a two step process. When the businesses come and the revitalization starts – WE, the citizens, have to do our part to ensure the businesses’ success by shopping local and the revitalization is begun and completed.

MOYE: City government should be the driving force and the one to enforce ordinances that have been put into place for blighted properties, and city government should be the ones to recruit and ultimately negotiate opportunities and incentives for new business coming into our town.

 

Anything else you would like to add?

JOHNSON: In my closing, my campaign in a nutshell is about each and everyone of you. My seven campaign pillars are about the issues and the people. Together we can accomplish much and we will see a better Donalsonville in the near future. Lastly, I strongly urge EVERY citizen of Seminole County, if you haven’t all ready, COMPLETE your census!!!! It’s critical that your census be completed in order to have an accurate count of the number of people that live here. It is needed for the allocation of funds for our community and benefit for our citizens.

MOYE: Two and a half years ago I started this journey by running for the City Council, Post 1 District 1. I asked the citizens then to allow me to be their voice. We won that seat and I have never taken that for granted. I am asking you again to allow me to continue being your voice in the Mayor’s seat. I believe that I have the ability to continue to fight for what we need. I believe that every voice has to be heard. On  October 10th, 2018 our city braced for a hurricane. I remember every tree that hit our house. I remember watching the trees sever the back porch from our house and the trees that fell in the pool, all of the loud popping sounds. I remember more than anything, though, praying. Praying out loud, praying for it to stop; I’m sure like everyone else. Then came morning. There was no way we could have prepared for this. I have thought about that more than once. What could we have done as leaders in our community? I was 10 months into my first year. The questions continued. Joe and I had to move out of our house because of all of the damage. We were out for over a year. I look back over that year now and wonder was I being prepared? I have felt  absolutely every bump on this road but one thing remained the same. I love this town. I want it to prosper and I want the folks in it to prosper. Donalsonville is in a rebuilding phase since that hurricane and we all get to play a role in that. You are not alone, we are not alone. I understand the financial needs in this community better than anyone else because of what I do daily. This is not a one size fits all world. I ask you, the citizens of Donalsonville, to allow me to continue this fight together because one thing is for sure I am not scared to stand up for what is right, no matter who or what I come across. Thank you for this opportunity.

 

 

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