By Dawn Krebs
FORT PIERCE - Fort Pierce residents will make their decisions at the Aug. 14 primary election when it comes to who is going to be the next mayor of Fort Pierce.
That's because the six candidates - Curtis Boyd, Christine Coke, Charles Hayek, Linda Hudson, Vincent Gaskin and Christopher Williams - 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.
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: Curtis Boyd
Name: Christine Coke
Occupation: Managing partner of Coke's Stationers
Name: Charles Hayek
Spouse and children: Wife Kathleen, three children
Name: Linda Hudson
Spouse and children: Husband John, one son and three grandchildren
Name: Vincent Gaskin
Occupation: Bail bondsman, private investigator
Children: Six children
Name: Christopher Williams
Q: How long have you lived in St. Lucie County?
Boyd: Lifetime resident.
Coke: 37 years.
Gaskin: I am a native of Fort Pierce.
Hayek: Owned a condo since 2001, moved to area as full-time resident in 2004.
Hudson: I was born in Fort Pierce. I returned to Fort Pierce in 1994.
Williams: I was born and raised in Fort Pierce.
Q: Why did you decide to run?
Boyd: My experience with our local government awakened me to getting involved to provide positive, helpful leadership. Also, I have seen our naturally beautiful city go from the most active, vibrant place on the Treasure Coast to a town of empty storefronts and dilapidated interior areas. We need a renewed energy and spirit, which I will spearhead. I am committed to run, realizing that my history has provided me with the ability to help my hometown of Fort Pierce.
Coke: To help lead the city into a period of economic growth and declining crime.
Gaskin: I decided to run to confront the issues that matter most to the citizens of Fort Pierce. I believe Fort Pierce must grow to survive, thus we must seek economic development utilizing our highways, railways, port and airport. These assets, along with tourism, make Fort Pierce a multi-dimensional city and can provide economic opportunity for all of our citizens. Finally, I'm running because I think it's time for a new face in government. I'm definitely change that people can trust and believe in. As a single parent of three sons and three daughters, two of which still live at home, I have young ideas and a new vision for the city.
Hayek: When Bob Benton announced he was not seeking re-election, and upon review of the other candidates who had announced at the time, I decided Fort Pierce needed a good leader, someone who could address the problems within the city. With my tenure on the planning board and the other community endeavors I am involved with I felt I had a good feel for the city and its needs.
Hudson: I have monitored the city of Fort Pierce government closely for at least six years. In that time, I have witnessed city hall becoming isolated from the true needs of its citizens. Increasingly, the city commission and its staff are preoccupied with the needs of a just a few neighborhoods in the city, while neglecting the needs of others. Many Fort Pierce residents don't see their government as having anything of value for them. This gap between government and the needs of residents needs to be closed. I would like the opportunity to be mayor of all of Fort Pierce.
Williams: I have been able to work hand-in-hand with local leaders in the community on a number of issues and events, and I want to continue to build a better tomorrow.
Q: What are the top two issues you wish to see addressed?
Boyd: Many people simply say "the economy" as a top issue. I'd like to explain that a bit more. Safer streets and a more business-friendly city hall are two issues that we must conquer before businesses and visitors will return in order to repair our local economy.
Coke: Economic growth and crime.
Gaskin: Economic development and public safety. We must be willing to allow new and different business interests to come and we must seek out warehousing and light manufacturing businesses. Second, public safety and effective police policy. We must combat crime by effectively providing for the safety and well-being of our public. Our police and other first responders must be valued and effective policing must be implemented. Effecting methods that will stop criminal activity over the long term, we must blanket those areas of high crime rates with 24-hour policing for months and possibly years.
Hayek: Business development as a way to create jobs. There is a perception that Fort Pierce is not friendly to business. We need to reverse that image. I propose to have one existing employee act as an ombudsman who will be the point person when someone wants to apply for a business or building permit. As mayor, I expect to be the city's foremost salesperson in attracting folks to the area. Once a business is established here, I will visit once a month for the first six month to meet the owner and to inquire if there is anything the city can do to insure their success.
The second issue is to improve communications with our community neighbors and the county. As there is a synergy that can be accomplished with the various municipalities, we need to work with them. If we can just work with the county to provide more of their water services, FPUA can improve revenues and either reduce or maintain our water bills.
Hudson: The city should emphasize essential, affordable city services, like public safety. The priority issues will be starting the city on the road to financial health and fostering a friendly business climate to keep existing businesses while attracting new businesses so that Fort Pierce citizens have well-paying jobs and prosperity.
Williams: Obviously, I feel the burden of high energy prices affect the bottom line of any company trying to keep its head above water in an already tough economy. Also, knowing the vast majority of businesses in our area are small businesses, I'd like to change the perception that whatever resources we, as a city, might have are only made available to larger companies or issues that don't address the concerns of the small business majority.
Q: What makes you the most qualified candidate?
Boyd: Being a lifetime resident, and during that time having experienced the entire spectrum of our community, is an invaluable asset toward serving as the mayor, who sits both literally and figuratively in the center of our diverse city. My education is a qualification. The fact that for a profession I assist Fort Pierce residents and businesses with their issues on a daily basis further distinguishes me.
Also, I would hope that voters consider that I have always, since childhood, been active and giving in our community. I first tutored while still in high school, came home from college to speak at my church, first coached local youth sports more than 20 years ago, and still do. I speak at our schools. I serve on the board for ARC in St. Lucie County. I haven't had to "become active" to campaign for office. Rather, it is having always been involved that distinguishes me for office.
Coke: Experience, accessibility, leadership and in-depth knowledge of government committees, as well as active participation in many community groups.
Gaskin: I am the most qualified candidate because I bring a modern approach to our city's challenges. If we continue to be represented by the same interests as we always have been, we will continue to render the same results. It is time for change, and I represent a new perspective regarding the future of Fort Pierce. I represent leadership, inclusion of diverse interest and an obligation to task completion.
Hayek: With my educational and business background, I have the necessary experience for the job. As a businessman, I was forced to work within a budget and make sure all expenses were covered while maintaining a work force. In order to ensure there was cash flow, business development was necessary. It took hard work and many hours but it was part of doing business.
Recently, I am in the process of restoring about six historical buildings as I feel it is necessary to keep the sense of history that we have in the city and preserve our "old Florida charm."
I am a very high-energy individual and will work exceedingly hard for this city. I have a "can do" attitude and will find ways to accomplish the necessary goals.
Citizens need to know there is someone available to talk to about issues. This is a full-time job with great responsibilities and I fully expect to meet the challenge.
Hudson: I served on the citizens budget advisory committee in 2010 and 2011 and have a thorough knowledge of Fort Pierce budget and the Fort Pierce Utilities Authority. I have been chairman of the downtown famer's market of Fort Pierce for the past four years and have served on the board for almost 10 years. I am president of the Treasure Coast Genealogical Society. I am a leader who researches the issues and listens to residents. I am a strong voice for fiscal restraint. I am an advocate for complete and speedy access to public records and a strong proponent of transparency in government. City government should be fair, honest, efficient and open.
Williams: I'd like to think that my efforts to not only draft a petition to propose an amendment to the Fort Pierce Utility Authority Charter but gather more than 2,000 signatures from unhappy citizens of this community show my passion and hard work to make a legitimate change in our area.
I also have a personal involvement with local leaders to find a short-term solution to a long-term problem that our city faces in keeping our police officers on the job and fairly compensated.
With these two initiatives, along with my work to help launch upstart companies that are literally at the brink of making history in our own backyard, I would like to think that my current work as community leader is more than enough to show what my work as mayor would look like if fortunate enough to be given the opportunity.