Politics took center stage Wednesday when local politicians made their cases to the crowd at the Walton County Chamber of Commerce's monthly luncheon.
Time was allotted for those vying for the offices of Sheriff, School Superintendent, and for the District 1 County Commission seat to get up and state why they felt they should be elected or re-elected to office.
Chamber President Kellie Jo Kilberg first introduced Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson, who is seeking a second term in office.
Sheriff Adkinson, a Republican, says he is running on his record as a “decent lawman.”
Adkinson promised in his original campaign in 2007 that he would bring professionalism to the Sheriff's Office, and he believes he has.
His office has achieved accreditation, which, for him was a major goal. He has also set performance measures that include courteous service and continuing education for his deputies.
"I have surrounded myself with a quality professional team," he said. "I am proud of the four years I've had in office and representing the people of Walton County. I hope you will renew my contract. Being sheriff is a way of life — I raise kids; I am a husband; and I am Sheriff."
Adkinson's Democratic opponent Danny Griffith came to the podium next and introduced himself as a Walton County native — born and raised in Walton County — who has been married for 38 years and is the father of two daughters, and has seven grandchildren. He is a retired Florida Highway Patrol Officer who was assigned to patrol Walton County roads for 19 of those years. While a patrolman, he was an instructor, field trainer, and an adjunct professor in criminal justice.
"I have spent my life in public service," he said. "I want to foster good relationships and cooperation within the county."
Griffith said he also wants to be a good steward of the office's money; he promises to have an open door policy, and lead by example.
Next up was School Board Superintendent Carlene Anderson.
Anderson spoke of her stance against tax increases to fund the schools. Even with no tax increases, she has laid off no employees and the school system has earned the designation of a High Performance District, one of only five in the state to earn that designation.
She has managed a $98 million dollar budget, as the school system is one of the largest employers in Walton County.
"During my tenure, we have met the letter of the law for class size reduction all four years. We have increased advanced placement courses. I started distance courses and distance live streaming. I want to continue the good school practices and commitment to local businesses," she said.
Then came her Democratic opponent Rosemary Ragle. She pointed out that education and politics don't mix. She went on to say that she is dismayed at the lack of progress that has been made in the school system for opportunities for at-risk children.
"The parents of these children don't feel included," she said.
Another problem is that 51 percent of Walton County's students aren't performing at satisfactory or above in reading, and 17 percent in our schools scored in the lower percentages in making learning gains, Ragle said.
She admitted she feels at a disadvantage running as a Democrat, but she said it's not about her.
"Either lead, follow, or get out of the way," she challenged.
Bill Chapman is a former Walton County Sheriff's deputy and candidate for the office of Sheriff who is now running for the District 1 County Commission seat.
Chapman, a Republican, is also a former Florida State Trooper who has a total of 32 years in law enforcement, and 25 of those spent in a leadership role. Chapman said he played an intricate part in the Sheriff's Office achieving accreditation.
Chapman said he is a former business man, a past president of the DeFuniak Springs Rotary Club and lives in the Valley View community in the northeastern part of the county.
"I plan to be actively involved in the district," he said. "I am a big believer in economic development. I want to see roadblocks taken down to creating new business. We need clean, well-paying businesses outside of the tourism industry."
Chapman's website is www.electbillchapman.com.
His Democratic opponent is Frank Day.
Day is a native of Opp, Ala., a Vietnam veteran, and a resident of the Point Washington community for more than two decades. He has worked as a home builder, been involved with the school system, a board member of the Walton County Taxpayer Association, is a member of the Citizens for Honest Government, is on the board of the Historic Point Washington organization, and is a Kiwanis member.
Day said he is running on the platform of providing open, honest, and accessible government and representing the people of Walton County.
'The way the bridge referendum was handled by Dawn Moliterno at the TDC was wrong and a violation of state statute," Day said in a phone interview.
He invites the public to view his website at www.frankdayforhonestgov.com.
THE LAST WORD
Supervisor of Elections Bobby Beasley said there will be two pages of choices in the upcoming election, and he urged everyone to pick up a sample ballot prior to voting so they are prepared with their choices and do not get overwhelmed when they get to the polls.
Beasley also advocated visiting his office's website, www.votewalton.com, which he believes describes the amendments in layman terms that can be easily understood. Sample ballots are available there, as is voter registration and voting locations.
Early voting begins 10 days prior to the Nov. 6 election day.