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.

Challenger Henry M. Duhart

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 believe one of the best ways to reduce the tax burden for our community is to make St. Lucie County one of the most attractive places for families and businesses to grow. I believe the county needs to offer tax incentives to attract trade schools to the community that would close our skills gap, and in turn, attract high-paying jobs to the community. The more jobs we create, the more people can move to St. Lucie County who will contribute to our tax base without having to raise our rates.

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?

One of the current weaknesses of the commissioner whose seat I am seeking to fill is indecisiveness. Our County Commission has an obligation to protect the safe, health, and welfare of our citizens. By voting against mandating masks for employees in businesses, the current commissioner put our residents at risk.

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

In order for our county government to achieve anything, there has to be a desire from the public to see that accomplished. As a community activist, I have worked with many organizations including NextGen America and the Progressive Turnout Project to organize people to achieve common goals. I plan on using my skills to gain community input into important initiatives the Commission decides to address.

Incumbent Cathy Townsend

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?

With the gift of the half-cent sales tax from the voters, and the voters voting NO on the additional homestead exemption, there was no reason we could not have lowered the taxes more this year. In 2019, I was the only commissioner to vote no on the proposed mileage rate because I felt it should have been lowered. I will continue to fight each year to lower the mileage rate to meet the budgeted needs and reduce the financial burden on the taxpayers.

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?

There needs to be better communication with staff. For example, during the rains last week a pump wet down, and there was no communication between staff and myself. That left me to answer a multitude of calls without having access to the necessary information. There needs to be a link added to the county website for road and bridge so residents can go online to see the updates on the current issues and road closures.

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

I have years of knowledge and experience. I have owned my own business here in St. Lucie County for over 32 years. I understand what it is to sacrifice to live within a budget. I have served with the non-profit organizations and helped raise over $1 million that has stayed here in SLC. I have good people skills and provide excellent customer service from the experience of owning my own company. I currently sit as chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, and I have been on both sides. I also keep my promises.

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