By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY - With St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Craft running for tax collector this year, seven residents - Al Rivett, Bobby Hopkins, Charles Grande, Cushman 'Chip' Radebaugh III, John Culverhouse, Kim Johnson and Patrick Campion - have stepped forward to run for the soon-to-be-empty seat.
All the candidates will be in the primary election on Aug. 14. The three Republicans: Mr. Rivett, Mr. Hopkins and Mr. Radebaugh, will run against each other, as will the four Democrats: Mr. Grande, Mr. Culverhouse, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Campion. The two men who receive the most votes in their party's race will face off against each other in the Nov. 6 election.
Due to space constraints this article focuses on the Republican candidates for the seat. Next week we'll hear from the Democratic candidates. (Editor's note: Please click here to read the Democratic candidates' responses.)
Hometown News asked the candidates the same questions about their campaigns. Their answers are below in alphabetical order.
Hometown News does not endorse any candidates for political office, but instead provides information about each candidate for voters to make an educated decision.
Name: Bobby Hopkins
Occupation: Owner of DeBartolo Stucco and Drywall
Spouse: Wife Kristine
Name: Cushman 'Chip' Shelton Radebaugh III
Occupation: Owner of Central Auto Glass
Spouse: Wife Marguerite "Moggie," two children: Shelton and Misty
Name: Al Rivett
Spouse: Wife Donna, three children and three grandchildren
Q: How long have you lived in St. Lucie County?
Hopkins: I have lived in District 5 for 41 years.
Radebaugh: I was born and raised in St. Lucie County. I have enjoyed living here all my life with the exception of approximately 10 years I worked in Arkansas.
Rivett: 27 years. I moved to St. Lucie County in June 1985 to accept the position of director of economic development with eh St. Lucie County Chamber of Commerce.
Q: Why did you decide to run?
Hopkins: I believe we need more businessmen and businesswomen in office, not career politicians. We need people in office who will listen and be a voice for the residents of the county without personal agendas. We need people in office who will stand up for truth and represent the taxpayers fairly and cut the wasteful spending.
Radebaugh: I believe our local government has gotten out of control due to the huge economic boom we had experienced over the last 20 years. Now that we no longer have the tax base to support a monster government that was created, programs that are not necessary to the well-being of our citizens should be addressed to see if they are truly needed. I believe with the business experience I have that I can work with our city government officials, as well as our constitutional officers, to discuss consolidating public services and maintain a balanced budget without raising taxes. I hope to do even better than that by working to lower taxes.
Rivett: My background, experience and passion converge, making me uniquely qualified to serve the citizens of St. Lucie County. Since the 2010 election, my passion for improving our economy and the lives of our residents has only gotten stronger.
I believe that all St. Lucie County residents should have the opportunity to prosper. This includes the 15,657 unemployed persons in April, and those who no longer are on the unemployment rolls, working or seeking work. The unemployment rate for April 2012 was 12.5 percent. When considering those no longer being counted and those underemployed (working two or more jobs), St. Lucie County's real unemployment rate is closer to 25 percent, about 30,000 people.
The opportunity for prosperity should also be available to "the least of those among us," those of generational poverty. If they so chose, they too should be able to achieve success.
Unfortunately, they often are unaware of the resources they need to do so. Resources, by the way, don't solely refer to financial resources. As a result of 25 plus years of research by Ruby Payne, money has been identified as only one of 11 resources needed for a person to break the cycle of generational poverty.
So I am running for those men and women, and their children who have been adversely affected by our current economy and the state of their own poverty. It is for persons who question the meaning of prosperity. It is for those individuals who wonder if they can adequately provide for their families. Knowing that I can make a difference, I decided to run for office because of my passion and compassion for the citizens of our community.
Q: What are the top two issues you wish to see addressed?
Hopkins: Using the assets we already have in the county to encourage businesses to want to be a part of out community. We must be more competitive. And stop wasteful spending.
Radebaugh: Sustainable growth and job creation. While this is heard from and spoken by many, I have a plan that I am excited to have the possibility to implement.
Rivett: I serve on a number of social service boards and the news coming from them and their contemporary agencies is troubling. For example, a new growing trend is parents turning out their kids upon their 18th birthdays. It is my contention that with a healthy economy, there will be fewer people who need assistance and more money for those who do. For this reason, economic development and job creation is my number one focus. A close second is providing opportunities to those who seek to leave the cycle of generational poverty.
Q: What are some of the other issues you feel are important to your campaign?
Hopkins: We need to evaluate everything we are doing and ways to save money. An example is to quit the car and gas allowance. If we are making fair salaries, why do we need this privilege? This would create a job for another employee or two part-time ones.
Radebaugh: I want to take a hard look at our options to ensure that we have the finances available to support our sheriff's office in staffing our schools with resource officers. The need to have our children protected and provided with a safe place to learn is crucial in my opinion. I believe the children emerging from our school system are the future of our communities and that fact weighs very heavy with me.
Another important issue to me is protecting the natural beauty we have been graced with in the county. We have the best place in Florida to live, work and play and I want to protect that. From the fishing industry to cattle, citrus and research, we have a lot to protect and grow.
This doesn't mean that we can't support an inland port or develop an inlet port.
Rivett: Closely related to economic development and job creation is the need to develop and maintain a positive business climate. This comes in the form of having competitive taxes, and impact and other development fees. Competitive taxes will also benefit our homeowners. Another business climate consideration is the development process, whether it is fair or onerous.
Given today's economy, increasing taxes is not an option. Not only does government need to be more efficient, there has to be a political will to implement those efficiencies. I, for one, believe it is time to do more than talk about being efficient. Logic would say we don't need three IT or human resources departments or TV production offices in St. Lucie County.
The same is true with larger operations such as parks and recreation and water and sewer systems. Shouldn't necessity cause us to think out of the box? What if we had a one-stop, county-wide permitting center like Brevard County? Wouldn't that also be positive for our economic development efforts?
Q: What makes you the most qualified candidate?
Hopkins: I am the only candidate who has lived in my district for 41 years, and know better than any of them what is needed for our community. I am involved in our community with families and youth, so I hear and listen to the needs of the residents. I have also been a business owner for more than 30 years, working in the entire county, and heard other business owners' concerns. I am now ready to address those and be their voice. I have also been a professional football player and arm wrestler, so I know and understand what it takes to be a team player and be disciplined in getting the job done.
Radebaugh: We are fortunate to have so many choices for the District 5 Seat and the citizens will have to decide if they want a successful businessman, such as myself, on the county commission. I am faced with numerous decisions daily that affect the well-being of many, so I will not need training on how to make payroll.
Rivett: My 18-year background in economic development differentiates me from all other candidates. While others talk about economic development, I have been in the trenches working with business and government officials to create jobs. I know what it takes, what St. Lucie County is doing well and, quite frankly, what it is not doing at all. I also have helped spearhead a "best practice" initiative to end generational poverty in our community.
Not only is there no other candidate with this knowledge and experience, no one else has my passion to make a difference.