By Dan Harkins
DELTONA - Michael Carmolingo knows the voters must be talking about it, how his chair on the Deltona City Commission has been vacant in recent months due to a dangerous spell of gout in his ankles that had him on his back for three months.
But the 76-year-old retired trucking terminal supervisor said he's not only back on his feet, but on the job of serving his constituents and, as he says, "watching the store."
"Me being out of circulation for three months worries me more than anything else," he said. "But I stand on my record. I just hope I earned the respect of the residents. I run on honesty, integrity and respect."
Mr. Carmolingo was elected in 2005 to serve a two-year term when the District 6 seat was vacated. He ran unopposed in 2007. For the primary election on Aug. 14, he has three opponents: Christopher Nabicht, a retired Deltona deputy fire chief; Michael Wycuff, director of pastoral care at Pine Ridge Fellowship; and marketing consultant George "Ron" Watral.
Mr. Carmlingo said he would feel a void in his life without this job.
"I really do enjoy representing the residents of this city, servicing their complaints and needs," he said. "I take calls a 8 o'clock on a Saturday night, 8 o'clock on Sunday morning. It doesn't matter."
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Mr. Carmolingo attended Villanova University, studying pre-law and accounting."
Before he could graduate, though, he got a job with National Freight, working his way up to terminal supervisor in Atlanta.
"I call what I was doing then 'watching the store'," he said. "And I'm still trying to do that for the city."
In 1990, he moved with wife, Eloise, and seven children, to Deltona when he was sent to run National Freight's new terminal in Orlando. He said he soon discovered that Deltona offered his family a big, modern home at much cheaper prices than other suburbs. He retired in 1996, as he and Eloise's nest emptied out.
Since first taking office, he believes many improvements have taken place.
Not only are major roads like Normandy, Elkcam and Fort Smith boulevards now freshly repaved, but the city has recently seen the first of what's expected to be an oncoming flood of new commercial offerings, where an EPIC movie theater has opened near Howland Boulevard and Interstate 4.
"I think the floodgates are ready to explode there," he said, "We're talking retail, restaurants, office buildings. I think maybe people are finally realizing that the city of Deltona is a go-to place."
This is not to say that city leaders should just rest on their laurels, he said.
Some problems, like escalating water and sewer bills, are going to be tough to fix, he said. And so getting residents with septic systems to switch over to the city's system is like asking them to make a paper airplane out of a few hundred dollars every month.
"Basically, the bill has to be high," he said, "for ownership to continue because of the bond issue supporting" the area's water infrastructure.
But other problems can be fixed, he said. The city's image must be spruced, he said, and it's near-fully residential tax base has to be further diversified to include more commercial offerings to citizens.
"People would love to have jobs in the city," he said. "They wouldn't be hard to fill. I think we need to get more of our own commercial and retail. The community would support it if it came."
He said the body of commissioners hasn't always presented the most unified front, but he believes the new commission seated this year will be eager to do just that.
"It's important because it will help the city move forward," he said. "We need to think as seven people who want something to happen."