By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY - Residents will see some familiar faces in the Nov. 6 election when it comes to County Commissioner District 1 seat.
Incumbent Chris Dzadovsky is facing off against Robert Benton, who currently is mayor of Fort Pierce.
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: Robert Benton
Occupation: Fort Pierce mayor
Family: Donna, wife of 31 years, two sons, Kadri, 27, and Kori, 23 and family pet Doberman, Roxanne.
Name: Christopher Dzadovsky
Occupation: St. Lucie County Commissioner
Family: I am one of seven children of my parents, Irene Marie and Michael, and I am engaged to Lisa Jackson.
Q: How long have you lived in St. Lucie County?
Benton: 45 years.
Dzadovsky: I first came to St. Lucie County in 1994 as a frequent visitor and then moved here full time in 2003.
Q: Why should voters choose you?
Benton: My experience and passion to pursue various opportunities to improve St. Lucie County; my interactions with citizens, small businesses and local municipalities, and our visitors and community as a whole make me the choice. I also have been a local business owner for more than 25 years. I have spent 17 years on the Fort Pierce City Commission, eight years as a District 2 commissioner and nine years as the mayor. I have the ability to place people over politics, and am a husband and father who knows what's at stake for the future of St. Lucie County. I have Christian values that will bring honesty, integrity and common sense back to District 1.
Dzadovsky: I am a full-time commissioner. I have an associate's degree in business from Indian River State College, and am a candidate for a second degree, an associate's in political science. I have completed both the Florida Association of Counties certified commissioner and advance commissioner certifications over the last four years.
I have made substantial contributions and difficult decisions that have helped right-size county government and set the stage top recover from the recession while maintaining quality of life in St. Lucie County.
I believe I bring a balanced, well-educated, well-researched approach to all matters of policy at the county.
I have a lifetime of experience from creating successful businesses to taking over nonprofits with large debt and little revenue, and being able to restructure those entities to profitability. Over the last four years, I have been part of the largest restructuring of St. Lucie County government, by developing policy that has responded to an $11 billion reduction in property values and subsequent tax revenue by restructuring county departments from 20 down to nine while maintaining county services.
The promises I made in 2008 have been kept and accomplished.
Q: What are the top two issues you wish to see addressed?
Benton: Financial challenges that come from unemployment, underemployment and the rising cost of living, including leaps in consumer prices and insurance such as health, home and life. And with those challenges, the inability for government to effectively provide necessary services without adding to this financial burden, which are currently complicating the simplest transactions with government, such as business tax licenses, building permits, code violations, park hours and public facility management.
In short, government efficiency and community coordination to help local businesses to open and expand, and an effort to achieve quality and sustainable economic development. St. Lucie County has many resources that need to be used to benefit our citizens.
Dzadovsky: The first is he unsettled federal and state governments that have given major corporations pause, which has led to the corporations hoarding cash and not investing in expanding operations or hiring employees. This ultimately affects the unemployment rate here in St. Lucie County.
The second most important issue is the continued unfunded mandates that are passed down to county taxpayers from the state legislature.
In the recent past, the state has passed $9 million in costs to the sheriff's office for probation issues. The state passed legislation to reduce jail inmate costs to the same rate that state pays, at 110 percent the Medicaid rate, while leaving counties to negotiate on their own. St. Lucie County only recently was able to reduce the Medicaid rate from 400 percent to 200 percent, which was costing local taxpayers on average $5 million a year.
Additionally and most recently, is the demand by the state for the county to pay the state $11.9 million for Medicare costs. This is because the state agency has poor record-keeping practices, no because the county owes the bill. The county has all of the records, which indicate the total cost to taxpayers is only $3.6 million. We reject the demand by the state agency.
As you can see, these costs being passed down to local taxpayers could, and have, affected the budget by $25.9 million. The entire county administration budget is only $39 million today.
Q: If you could, what would be the one thing you would change in the county and why?
Benton: Address the increasing deficit and continued depletion of taxpayers' reserves. Common sense and business sense need to be used in making decisions that affect all of our county residences.
Over the last four years, the county has been absent from pursuing economic development within District 1. The port area of Fort Pierce has the potential to bring in hundreds of good, environmentally friendly jobs by supporting the marine and mega-yacht industry. I have been working diligently to bring marine industry and want to continue in the District 1 seat to achieve these community efforts.
The Indian River Lagoon is an attraction that needs to be preserved while embracing the possibilities. As a county commissioner, I will be able to direct the undeveloped port land to promote development of a world-class yachting and marine center, along with supporting businesses similar to the Lauderdale marine center.
Dzadovsky: Although the change would have to happen at the state level, I would make a complete overhaul of the state's ad valorem tax calculation to make the process fair and equitable to all property owners.
The current system leaves open the adjustment of the millage rate which, when created, was supposed to decrease the millage rates when property values increased, and raise the millage rate when values fell.
This was designed to maintain a reasonable collection of tax revenue to address increases in services, population and new service requests from local residents.
Some elected officials want you to believe that all millage rate increases are tax increases and that is a total falsehood. If values reduce and millage stayed the same, the taxing authority would not bring in more revenue than the previous year.
The definition of a tax increase is when the taxing authority collects more revenue than the previous year. St. Lucie County has not collected more tax revenue than the previous year in any of the four years I have been in office.