By Erika Webb
Two Volusia County Council members will contend for the same seat in 2014.
District 5 Representative Pat Northey announced she will run for the at-large seat held by Joyce Cusack -- nineteen months before the election.
Ms. Northey, who will be term-limited from running for re-election to her District 5 seat, said the early announcement was not designed to wage a campaign. It was a pragmatic move, more about fundraising.
She said supporters were urging her to open a campaign account. In order to do that, her paperwork had to be filed with the Supervisor of Elections.
"I am not in campaign mode right now. It is way too early to start defining issues," Ms. Northey said. "I think people need a break from (political) rhetoric and I'm pleased to give that to them."
It wasn't a contentious move, either. She said it was her understanding that Ms. Cusack would not seek re-election in 2014.
"Joyce told me twice she wasn't running, and she told me I should run," Ms. Northey said. "But people get to change their minds."
She said her decision was motivated by the positive aspects of her career in politics.
"I like serving the people of Volusia County through the County Council," Ms. Northey said. "I feel like I've been effective. I have energy and enthusiasm. I'm pleased that after a number of years, I still have a good reputation."
Ms. Cusack said she has filed her paperwork and wants her constituents to know she will be running for the at-large seat again in 2014.
"It's early out. I'm not beginning to gear up a campaign a year and seven months out," Ms. Cusack said. "But I didn't want all of my constituents to think I wasn't planning to run."
At the beginning of the year, Ms. Cusack said, she and Ms. Northey spoke about the fact Ms. Cusack had not decided whether or not she would run in 2014.
"I said if I don't run, I would encourage you to run," Ms. Cusack said. "But we did not have another conversation, so she filed without knowing if I was going to run or not."
Ms. Northey, who has served on the council for nearly 20 years, has been the at-large representative in the past and twice held the county chair position. She is the longest serving member on the council.
She said her experience is well matched with the financial and environmental issues impacting government.
"I've worked on the budget for a long time," she said. "We need to reduce the cost of government and continue to provide services."
She cited her role in the advancement of the St. Johns River Veterans Memorial Bridge construction, extensive work with the Volusia ECHO grant funding program and her position as first vice chair of the Volusia Transportation Planning Organization beginning in July.
"I'm experienced in leadership over a number of areas of concern now for government," Ms. Northey said.
An impassioned supporter and long-time proponent of the trail initiative in Volusia, one trail bears her name.
The Pat Northey Holly Hill Greenway Trail is part of the 3,000 mile East Coast Greenway Trail System from Canada to the Florida Keys. This segment is part of the 11.55-mile Halifax River Trail which extends from the Riverwalk Project in Port Orange to Cassen Park in Ormond Beach, including the cities of Port Orange, South Daytona, Daytona Beach, Holly Hill and Ormond Beach.
Ms. Cusack began her term as vice chair and at-large representative on the Volusia County Council in 2011. She served in the state House of Representatives from 2000-2008; was Democratic Health and Families Council Lead from 2004-2006; and Democratic Leader pro tempore from 2006-2008.
She too has volunteered on a number of state and local boards and committees.
"I served this community for 20 plus years as a nurse," Ms. Cusack said. "I ran medical services for Volusia County before going to the Legislature. I have really been a nurse, not a career politician."
Ms. Northey and Ms. Cusack are both Democrats. Both have been strongly supported by voters in past elections.
Someone is eager for Ms. Northey's seat, too.
Don Mair, a Deltona resident and traffic-safety advocate whose daughter was killed in a traffic accident near her bus stop in Debary in 2010, has filed for District 5.
"I've had one term on the council," Ms. Cusack said. "I think we need to look at how often or how long a person should run. I think eight (years) is not enough and 20 is too many."
There are seven members of the Volusia County Council, five elected by district; the county chair and at-large representative are elected countywide.