By Dawn Krebs
PORT ST. LUCIE - Residents will make their decisions at the Aug. 14 primary election when it comes to City Council District 4 seat.
That's because the four candidates - Robert Bluestone, Ronald Bowen, Jolien Caraballo and Dan Kurek - are running in a nonpartisan race, so they all run against each other, regardless of political affiliation.
Hometown News asked the candidates the same questions about their campaign. Their answers are below in alphabetical order, and can also be found online at www.myhometownnews.net.
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: Robert Bluestone
Name: Ronald Bowen
Occupation: President of R.E. Bowen and Associates
Spouse and children: Wife Patricia, sons Eric and Gavin
Name: Jolien Caraballo
Occupation: Manager of Fusion Salon and Spa
Spouse and children: Husband Ben, two children.
Name: Dan Kurek
Occupation: Controller for the Solar and Energy Loan fund
Spouse and children: Wife Cheryl and one daughter
Q: How long have you lived in St. Lucie County?
Bluestone: I have been a resident of St. Lucie County since 1976, and your neighbor in Port St. Lucie since 2001.
Bowen: I have been a resident of St. Lucie County for 35 years, all in the city.
Caraballo: I have lived in St Lucie County for 21 years.
Kurek: I have lived in St. Lucie County for 40 years and 16 of those in Port St. Lucie.
Q: Why did you decide to run?
Bluestone: My life changed dramatically on my last birthday, when my best friend of 33 years passed away. My wife was my compass, and now that she is gone I know she would want me to do something with my life to help others. My skills and experience are in big business and government, so I have decided to offer my energy, enthusiasm, experience and education to the voters of Port St. Lucie and see if they agree.
Bowen: I decided to run in order to return the Port St. Lucie City council where I once served. I made a difference then, I can make a difference now and in the future.
Caraballo: With job creation and unemployment being a large public concern, I believe it is essential for the local business community to have the proper representation on the dais. I know that I am that voice and the person who has the "on the job" business experience to protect and contribute ideas toward the growth of the business community.
Another area which I believe will support our city is tourism. Research by Visit Florida shows Florida in 2011 had 86.5 million visitors which was an economic impact of $67.2 billion and more than 1 million jobs as a direct result of tourism. Port St. Lucie is a beautiful city and centralized to many tourism hot spots. As I have partnered with hotels and business that rely on tourism, I have learned that we have an opportunity to create jobs and revenue by growing the tourism industry in our city. As a member of the city council I will do what I can to create a tourism friendly business environment.
As a mother of two children and a member of this city for 20 years, I want all residents to continue to live in a safe and vibrant community. Port St. Lucie continues to grow, and while job and business growth is vital to our future, we cannot sacrifice our identity as a community.
We must continue to support and maintain a healthy environment and a clean city. If given the opportunity to serve on the council, I will do what I can to maintain and protect property rights, while ensuring the health and safety of all residents in the community.
Kurek: After spending 17 years on the front side of the dais, I decided to take my knowledge and experience to the business side and make every effort to improve the place where we live.
Q: What are the top two issues you wish to see addressed?
Bluestone: In this current economic environment, seek ways to support our loyal community businesses that are already here and established, rather than use valuable resources to seek new businesses that may never move here. By supporting our current local businesses and helping them to expand and prosper, they will hire new employees and grow our local economy.
The second issue is to hold our mayor and city council to a high standard of integrity and transparency. Without a stable local government and a positive image, we damage our community both morally and economically.
Bowen: The two top issues that should be addressed when I take office are a complete review and update on the financial health of the city, including both short-term and long-term obligations. The other issue is aiding and assisting the small business community, the backbone of the local economy. Little attention has been paid to the business owners who survived the recession.
Caraballo: Two issues that I feel should be addressed are current and new regulations that can be causing a hindrance on business growth and job creation. As the director of operations for a business that employs more than 30 people, servicing more than 1,200 clients a month and recognized nationally in our industry as one of the top 200 business for its practices, I understand the plight of the small business owner and how the recent economic downturn has affected our ability to offer employment/raises. One of my focuses will be to lower regulations and review past regulations which are hampering businesses from building, expanding and growing their companies in the our city.
The second issue we can address is controlling current and future wasteful spending in our budget to ensure that your tax dollars are spent appropriately and conservatively.
Kurek: Promote local business by not imposing any new ordinances that hinder business expansion. Port St. Lucie has to continue to promote itself by improving the residential and business environment. The success of local businesses will lead to attracting new businesses to the city.
The second issue is that the city's financial status concerns me. My technical experience as a finance and budget director will provide the city with an insight to understand the budget and make recommendations to improve financial stability.
Q: What makes you the most qualified candidate?
Bluestone: With more than 165,000 residents, nearly 1,000 employees, a budget of more than $425 million, a debt of more than $1 billion, a city-wide utilities system and an expansive civic center, the city of Port St. Lucie has become a large and complex business. As both a senior officer in a large, profitable, complex and publicly traded company, and a senior officer in one of the largest trade groups in Florida, I have had successful experience in large and complex organizations. I suggest to the voters of Port St. Lucie that this experience will be beneficial as a member of the city council.
Bowen: I am the most qualified by virtue of my previous experience on the Port St. Lucie City Council. First elected in 1992, I served for three terms, helping transform Port St. Lucie from a bedroom community into a real city.
Caraballo: Being a leader in our small business community provides a point of difference for the voters in this upcoming election. Opening our company in the height of the financial downturn has required us to face countless challenges and provide solutions to these challenges. It required strong leadership, excellent marketing skills, conservative budgeting and many other abilities in order to be competitive and effective in this current economic climate.
The next elected official to District 4 will require a passion for people and service. A person who will bring ideas to the dais to support the growth of current and new businesses and that will champion the path that leads to jobs. A candidate with experience in cutting back wasteful spending and a candidate who is ready to market our great city toward a bright and prosperous future. I am that candidate and I am asking for your vote.
Kurek: I have many years of professional, technical and personal experience that equips me with the maturity, abilities and insight to serve as an elected official. The public deserves a councilman who understands the diversity of the city. Finally, three traits that make an excellent elected official is to understand and follow the law, remember what role a councilman has under the city charter and to be dedicated and passionate about the future of Port St. Lucie.