The South Walton Fire District’s Commission District 5 seat will come down to a vote Nov. 6.
Charlotte Flynt is burning to overtake incumbent Ed Wright for one of seven seats on the South Walton Fire Commission board. South Walton Fire District Commissioners are compensated with a monthly salary of $500, and are responsible for establishing and working within the limitations of the budget and setting a tax rate.
“The primary job of the Fire Commissioners is to … oversee all financial operations of the department, and develop a budget with the goal of having the best fire protection possible and staying within the bounds of that budget,” said incumbent Wright, who has served on the board seven years and had a 30-plus-year career as a professional firefighter in Louisville, Ky. In that span, he “served in nearly all positions of the job,” retiring as commander.
Flynt, on the other hand, has not served within a fire district. But what she lacks in experience, she makes up for with a professional career and personal life that have imbued her with the know-how to balance the budget and ensure operations continue to run smoothly and efficiently.
“Being a wife, mom, employee and employer, I understand budgets and the impact financial stability has on life … I know that the bottom line drives the bus,” she said. As well, she understands the importance of a “rainy day fund,” which could come very much in handy in the coming fiscal years.
“The proposed 2012-13 budget is just short of $18 million. With a cap of 1 mil and a SWFD recent rate increase implemented at .9799 mils there is practically no room left in the millage for increase,” said Flynt. “The present board had a shortfall in funds of almost $1.5 million needed to balance the proposed budget.”
And balancing that budget without sacrificing service to the citizens in the upcoming fiscal years is the challenge both Wright and Flynt hope to meet.
Though the chief handles the day-to-day operations of the Fire District, the commissioners must ensure the millage rate they set gives the chief plenty of money in the budget to maintain operations.
“The biggest hurdle in doing this is the limited taxpayer funds coming in,” said Wright. “Until the economy turns around this will continue to be our biggest challenge.”
And Wright said he is ready to meet that challenge, although he regrets that his campaigning might not be an indication. He admits it wasn’t “as aggressive” as he would have liked, as he was consumed with tending to his wife, who has heart problems.
“I felt being with her during this trying time was more important than putting in the time to campaign. Thankfully, she is making progress, and with God's help, will continue,” said Wright, who is ready to get back to the commission post.
But Flynt will not give up without a fight.
“I am a firm believer that all citizens can and should be involved in their government,” said Flynt. “I tend to be outspoken. I mean what I say, but I also listen to people for information and comments for new ideas, discussion and solutions.”