The Mosquito Control Board has two seats open this term, and incumbents and newcomers are jockeying to fill them.
Two have qualified for Seat 1, currently held by John Magee, and three are running for Seat 2, including current incumbent James Crawford.
The nonpartisan board is the primary budgeting arm of the organization. The three board members monitor the finances and decide if it’s necessary to change the millage rate, which funds operations each year.
“If you enjoy working for the people, you would be in the position,” said South Walton Mosquito Control District Director Ben Brewer.
Current chairman and incumbent candidate John Magee agreed.
“The primary responsibility of a Mosquito Control Commissioner is managing the operational budget and maintaining the highest standards of service and transparency with the community,” said Magee.
The board has the final say on payroll expenses and capital purchases in excess of $500, including everything except chemicals.
“I manage where the money goes on a daily basis, the hours, scheduling,” said Brewer. “They get the final say on the budget.”
The board meets the third Tuesday of the month at 9:30 a.m. at Mosquito Control headquarters, 774 N. Co. Hwy. 393. An elected board member is a salaried employee of the Mosquito Control District and earns $4,800 annually.
The Sun reached out to all the candidates prior to the Nov. 6 election. Crawford did not return multiple calls from The Sun.
Mosquito Board Seat 1
It will be something of a rematch for Magee, who will come up against challenger Ronnie Faulk in the Seat 1 race.
Faulk ran against Magee four years ago, as well as against current board member Robert Hudson two years ago.
Although he hasn’t been victorious, he says with his past stint as an employee of the Mosquito Control District, he has the know-how to improve the operations and budget to use the community’s money wisely.
“If I win, I will be the only guy that has ever sat on the seat who has ever worked in the field,” said Faulk, calling himself a “hands-on kind of guy.” “I’ve driven the trucks and gone and stabbed the chickens and drawn blood to test” for mosquito-borne illnesses.
Now, the 18-year South Walton resident works in support services for Sacred Heart Hospital in Miramar Beach, but he still has his eye on serving the community more directly in the future.
“I love this community, I have an interest in it. I’m not running against John because he isn’t doing a good job,” said Faulk. “I am just running because that’s my destiny.”
Whereas Faulk says his history with mosquito control’s daily operations make him the right man for the job, Magee says history as a business owner has helped him bring balance to the district’s budgets the past four years.
“I am a successful businessperson; I maintain a payroll of over 65 people and have strong budgeting abilities,” said Magee, president and CEO of Hi-Tec Laboratories Inc. located at Magee Industrial Park in Freeport. “These talents are what I bring to the board and are also why our district currently is running as financially sound at the same time maintaining a very tight budget.”
Magee says part of the board’s and the district’s success has been budgeting for preventative measures, especially in keeping the threat of West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis low. That is how he hopes to tackle subsequent warm seasons.
“Our district has excelled and has maintained a high performance rating within the state of Florida under the Department of Agriculture,” said Magee. “Our success has been in preventive treatment to the district.”
Both hopefuls told The Sun that each would operate under a policy of transparency and honesty, and make sure the constituents’ tax money was spent wisely.
“I do want to bring more transparency to Walton County,” especially with regards to Mosquito Control, said Faulk. “It’s a taxpayer’s business.”
Mosquito Control Board Seat 2
Two hopefuls and incumbent James Crawford are stepping forward to fill Seat 2 on the Mosquito Control Board.
The two newcomers, Adrianne Walline Campbell and Tim Norris, shared their motivation to run with The Sun. James Crawford neglected to respond to numerous Sun inquiries.
Norris has been a native Floridian and Walton County resident since 1999.
“I would enjoy the opportunity to utilize my experience and knowledge to help improve and direct the South Walton Mosquito District to be one that could be a model for others in the state of Florida,” said Norris.
Norris looks forward to meeting the challenge of budgeting, which he says as a result of rainfall levels will be more of a balancing act in subsequent years.
“The ground became saturated, and water sat for days without draining off, creating breeding beds for mosquitoes. This created a challenge for the current budget and could overlap into the next budget year with the additional costs it has created,” said Norris. “The mosquito district/board will have to be prudent over the next few years and manage the budget with a conservative point of view.”
Campbell agreed that mitigating the rain-caused mosquito problem is a top priority for the board, though she hopes part of the problem could be solved by working with county public works.
“The top priority currently is the condition of the ditches. The county road projects of late have built very nicely constructed roads, but either decreased the size of both the ditches and the culverts, or removed them completely, thus creating a massive problem” of standing water, said Campbell.
The hopeful added that she would continue the work of her late father, Ed Walline, a founding member of the Mosquito Control District and South Walton pioneer, to decrease the nuisance of dog and yellow flies.
“We cannot simply ignore the problem,” said the lifelong Walton County resident. “I believe the answer is there, but continued study and research must be done to obtain it.”