Endorsement: County Commission District 1

The effects of big money in our local elections has kept Historic City News from making endorsements to a number of candidates. We’ve decided to pass over Jerry Cameron, Hunter Conrad, David Shoar, and we are doing the same in the only universal Primary Election, the District 1 St Johns County Commission race.

We are supporting Al Abbatiello in this race, and not solely because his opponent, Jimmy Johns, took the out-of-town political action committee and mega-developer money. Johns is also a political appointee of Governor Rick Scott, and that hasn’t been a good experience for residents of St Johns County.

As far as this race is concerned, it also puts us in the unlikely position of agreeing with The St Augustine Record on their editorial choice for the District 1 seat. It’s not often, it seems — but we appreciate the company.

Historic City News editor Michael Gold followed up on the candidate questionnaire returned to us by Abbatiello during the recent Politics in St Johns event presented by the St Augustine and St Johns County Chamber of Commerce. Our interest was piqued by Abbatiello’s responses, so our Editorial Review Board decided to learn more from the candidate before making our recommendation.

Abbatiello previously ran for the seat against Cyndi Stevenson; who we endorsed three times — a very unusual occurrence for us. So, why would we endorse him now if we didn’t endorse him then? The answer is very simple — Jimmy Johns is no Cyndi Stevenson.

Abbatiello does not come to this race without his own political baggage; however, the fact that he has acquired some, and the lessons he has apparently learned in the process, shows us that he was not afraid to get engaged. His answers to our questions now are better grounded with respect to offering solutions than we found them even four years ago.

Specifically to Abbatiello’s credit are his contributions to the preservation of the Bartram Scenic and Historic Highway, but you could cite any number of other community initiatives who owe their success to Phyllis and Al Abbatiello.

He’s not a native, but then, the majority of his constituents in northwest St Johns County aren’t either. What’s more important to us is the amount of skin he has in the game. Abbatiello is clearly invested in the future of St Johns County, where Johns’ ties are closer to Jacksonville than St Johns County, from where we sit.

Based on what we have seen, Abbatiello is true to his word and puts the residents of the community above personal financial gains; a quality essential to our next county commissioner. With what we know from our own experience in county government, we recommend Al Abbatiello and feel that he will make a valuable contribution to our county commission.

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