County District 5: Rachael Bennett

Historic City News and The St Augustine Record have clearly different editorial philosophies — I think it keeps things interesting, they give as good as they get and I’ve never written about them with malice and I don’t think anyone over there takes what is said over here personally, however I am surprised by their endorsement in this race.

They have chosen to recommend “the incumbents”, traditionally a “safe bet” endorsement, and that much does not surprise me at all. However, one of their points in recommending that Ken Bryan be re-elected, into his second or third government pension, gives me pause.

“He introduced civility to the commission’s code of conduct after observing, as chairman, the acrimony between the public and some commissioners,” the editorial review board wrote. Is this the same sort of “acrimony” that Bryan displayed towards a citizen during a town hall meeting last year, after he objected to Bryan’s support of higher property taxes?

The shameful incident was caught on camera and resulted in a police report being filed after Bryan flew into a rage, and then had to be restrained by his wife. Hardly “civil”. And, not the first time that Ken Bryan has been betrayed by audio and video showing him being someone entirely the opposite of who he claims to be.

Like the whole “I’m a Democrat”, “I’m a Republican” video. Let’s just say that Ken Bryan is no Republican, and everyone in the party knows it. That did not stop him from lying about his political philosophy in order to be elected; but it pins him into a bad spot after he openly campaigned for a Democrat for Governor two years ago, and Obama for President four years ago.

Two worthy adversaries have offered themselves as alternatives — Alan Kelso, who makes a second run at a St Johns County elected position, and Rachael Bennett, who has served on appointed citizen boards but has never served in an elected position.

Kelso speaks clearly, presents a professional image, and makes charismatic appeals for items on his agenda. He is polite, doesn’t disintegrate into a shouting match if he doesn’t get his way or if you disagree with him, and we find him to be willing to make tough calls when it comes to cutting taxes, lowering budgets and reducing the size of government. In comparison to the incumbent, there is no doubt which of the two is the honest fiscal and social conservative is in this race.

Kelso is a good man, but we believe the best man for this job is a woman.

From our first interview with Rachael Bennett, just days after she announced her candidacy, we were impressed by the qualities we feel she will bring to the commission.

Bennett is a doer, not a talker. She is active in organizations we support, like Habitat for Humanity. And, by active, we mean “roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-dirty” active, not just “show-up-to-have-your-picture-taken” active.

Bennett is a conservative; albeit more moderate than Kelso but less liberal than Bryan. We are attracted by that. She is fiercely independent and seems able to build coalitions to achieve her goals. That said, she is not tied to any other candidate in the race or any other sitting member of the Board, and we find that essential.

Probably the strongest point she made with us was her absolute position on the importance of long-term planning. Her education and experience as a planner makes her ideal for this seat and brings a skill the entire county will benefit from.

She is all about details, too. She is extremely well organized, she embraces new technologies, and is always interested in a better mousetrap. We have little doubt that she will find the support of other commissioners and be able to build consensus for more conservative methods of operating our local government.

Our best recommendation in District 5 goes to Rachael Bennett in the Primary Election.

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