The Hometown News is running a series of candidate profiles for the November election and posed the basic same three questions to all candidates in each race. Each candidate was asked to abide as closely as possible to a 150-word limit for all three questions.

Incumbent Jeremiah Johnson

St. Lucie County has one of the highest – if not the highest – aggregate ad valorem tax rates in the state. As far as the particular area of influence in the elected position you seek, what suggestions would you offer to help reduce the tax burden on your constituents?

The City Commission does have a small role in the overall tax rate on its residents and business owners; however, we do not control the overall, combined countywide tax rate. In recent years, I have been the only City Commissioner to vote against the city’s proposed budget by asking for a reduction in millage. I felt we could do more as a city to reduce the expenses across all departments. In the previous budget cycle, I was very specific in addressing the Commission’s line item budget proposal. In the proposed FY21 Budget, however, I voted to hold the millage rate constant due to our need for maintaining a safe community while increasing critical emergency reserves.

What do you view as an area of your office in which you can improve on in order to serve your constituents better?

It is my goal to continue to improve and enhance all outdated codes and ordinances of the city. I have been working for almost four years to bring forward these ordinances that have been on the books over 40 years. A second area is our annexation practices. Fort Pierce has relied upon the Utilities Authority for far too long to help grow the city by connecting water customers. It is through my push that we now have strategic goals and objectives to properly bring properties into the territorial limits of Fort Pierce.

What professional strengths would you bring to the position that you believe make you the best candidate?

I have over 22 years as a professional in governmental budgeting and strategic planning, which provides me with a vast knowledge of methods and procedures of government operations. I have a degree in environmental engineering, which has given me experience in community planning, implementation and resource dedication for stormwater treatment systems, drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. I have served on the Fort Pierce Planning board; the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council; the SLC Transportation Planning Organization; the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments; and the SLC Citizens Budget Committee for former commissioner Joe Smith. As a manager and director of a large department in both the private and public sectors, I have a proven track record of successful management of multimillion-dollar budgets.

Challenger Mike Perri

St. Lucie County has one of the highest – if not the highest – aggregate ad valorem tax rates in the state. As far as the particular area of influence in the elected position you seek, what suggestions would you offer to help reduce the tax burden on your constituents?

I would grow the tax base and lower the millage rate and help the city become more business-friendly. I would also explore the idea of having the Sheriff’s Office take over the Police Department, which could be very cost-effective. Other cities in Florida have been very successful in doing so, and our Police Department budget is around 60 percent.

What do you view as a weakness on the current board or in the office you seek, and how would you work to improve that area?

Mismanagement, in addition to lack of attention to financial detail, cost-cutting and spending. We need to get Fort Pierce out of the real-estate business and stop competing with the private sector. I would actively pursue the sale of all surplus property and attempt to sell both the Indian Hills Golf Course and the Sunrise Theater.

What professional strengths would you bring to the position that you believe make you the best candidate?

I bring to the Board a wealth of knowledge in years of business management experience in the highly completive automobile dealership field. My public service includes serving on the Fort Pierce Planning Board; the Board of Adjustments’ and the Citizens Advisory Board. Serving nine years on the Fort Pierce Utilities Authority Board has given me the opportunity to lobby our U.S. Congressmen and Senators in Washington, D.C. twice a year as a member of the American Public Power Association. We lobbied for all legislation that helped us to keep the power cost as low as possible for our ratepayers. I attended the monthly meetings of the Florida Municipal Power Association in Orlando and served as Chairman of FMPA’s Policy Makers Liaison Committee for three years.

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