ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — With early voting going on this week and primary elections only a week away, WKRG News 5 sent out a questionnaire to the Escambia County Board of Commissioners’ candidates, so the public can know who they are.

All candidates were given the same questions and their answers were not edited or censored in any way.

Below are the answers for candidates in District 4:

Myra Van Hoose is running for Escambia County Commissioner for District 4.

Myra Van Hoose

  1. Why did you decide to run for Escambia County Board of Commissioners?

I feel blessed to have found a veritable paradise in Escambia County and expect the government here to honor and protect the great assets we have here. I’m concerned that our current commission doesn’t prioritize the well-being of our citizens over their own self-interests. I also can’t see a vision for our future with our current commission. I have worked in the political world most of my life and have seen excellent candidates and some not so excellent. I have always taught that more women should run for office in a bold attempt to create representative government. It’s time for me to practice what I preach.  I bring a bold, new perspective to our region. I plan to listen to the citizens and together create a visionary strategic plan. 

I believe my family has been fortunate to go from scratch to success through hard work and solid family values and as a wife and mother and a business professional, that mindset is what I aspire to bring to the Escambia County commission. 

2. What are your qualifications to be in this position?

I am a former CPA and started my career at the largest accounting firm in the world working primarily with national leaders in healthcare and small business. I have since had my own practice and moved into non-profit management. I have led groups for advocacy work in the arts, in politics, and with gender and racial equity issues. I understand the struggles of business owners while balancing the need for government assistance with infrastructure and social issues. I will use my skills to create and work with a budget task force to eliminate county waste and use our resources more efficiently. Please review my website at myravanhoose.com to see the many organizations I have worked with here in Escambia County and details on my education.

3. In your opinion, what are the three biggest issues facing Escambia County and how will you work to address them?

Safety – If our community isn’t safe, no other economic or educational indicators will attract business or provide opportunities for our citizens. I will work to ensure we have adequate funding through strategic business practices and realigning our budgets to increase the staffing, technology, equipment, and training for our law enforcement officers.

Infrastructure – We should not spend years talking about how to manage traffic at the beach, flooding, and polluted bays when our waterfront is our golden asset. We must act. Immediate attention must be given to a strategic plan for the county, envisioning what we, the citizens, want our county to look like five, 10, and 20 years from now and work towards that goal. We must stop piecemealing band aid fixes and prioritize projects through our strategic plan. We have already been shown by the experts issues that need to be addressed and how to address them. Now is the time for action.

Quality of Life – Our quality of life will erode if we do not take action to ensure leadership accountability for our safety, infrastructure, environment, health, and education. We must:

  • Examine our county budget and reduce waste.
  • Stop commissioner freefall spending on themselves and their pet projects.
  • Create and adhere to county master plan/ strategic plan.
  • Create a task force to consider a people’s charter for county government so citizens take a more active role in their government.
  • Focus on pedestrian life – implement road diets, streetlights, sidewalks, green spaces, biking lanes, roundabouts, parking garages, and public transportation. 
  • Focus on Clean Water in our local bodies of water.
  • Support an Environmental task force to revisit pollutants and contributors to pollution in our region and begin a phase out plan.
  • Reduce blighted areas by reevaluating real estate holdings and beautifying areas that provide return on investment through enhanced tourism.
  • Support efforts to improve our education system to reduce our achievement gaps, improve our school ratings, and increase our education outcome metrics to assist in creating a workforce of locals and attracting new families.
  • Using metrics, focus our efforts on families in need, reducing poverty, crime, homelessness, and mental health issues.
  • Honor our rich culture and history by supporting our diverse neighborhoods and preserving our historical architecture.
  • Supporting our military and law enforcement officers who ensure our safety.
  • Support and welcome the right business to our district ensuring jobs for our future.

4. There are some citizens that are concerned about the current Board of Commissioners, what will you do to earn their trust back?

I am concerned, too! The commissioners have been comfortable with status quo and self-enrichment while some of our neighborhoods deteriorate around them, and our citizens endure sub-par services. The commissioners have turned to infighting and embarrassment. I will bring new energy and take decisive action to focus on the improvements we need in our county. I will work full-time with an open door to ensure that the commissioners’ priorities are those of the citizens.

5. How will you work with the current administration to make sure the county is served to its best ability by the board as a whole?

An attitude of teamwork and bipartisanship is the only answer. Eliminating the discretionary funds of individual commissioners will help to focus on compromise.

6. Finally, why should residents vote for you?

I am a firm believer in honesty, integrity, and compassion. I was raised to value service over self and have been recognized to have a heart of justice. I take community advocacy seriously and work hard to effect change. Numerous studies have shown that diversity brings to boards fresh ideas, a focus on win-win outcomes, and civility, to name a few benefits. I think we all find the Escambia County Commission to be lacking in these qualities. I do not plan to use the commissioner position as a stepping stone to higher office, nor as a means to travel on the taxpayers’ dime. I will not sue the county. I’m running for office to bring back honor to the Commission and focus on the needs of our community.

If we continue to elect the same type of candidate over and over again, we set ourselves up to fail. I bring bold, inspiring leadership to the commission and plan to listen to and represent all our citizens.

Robert Bender is the incumbent candidate for Escambia County Board of Commissioners for District 4.

Robert Bender:

  1. Why did you decide to run for Escambia County Board of Commissioners?

I want to make my hometown community the best place it can be, where we want to raise our families because of the quality of the area and the values we share. We can be a place where our children and local college graduates don’t have to leave to find a strong, diverse job market. I enjoy serving my community, and have always gotten involved with student government or local non-profits and organizations where ever I have been, and I want to continue to serve in this capacity. I feel local government is the closest to the people, where I can have the biggest positive impact to your daily lives.

2. What are your qualifications to be in this position?

I am currently serving in my first term as County Commissioner, which has allowed me to represent the community over the last four years.  My education includes an MBA from Goizueta Business School, Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and a BA in Business Administration from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.  I have built a network with organizations, other local governments, and state government departments to help us work toward improving Escambia County. Through the Florida Association of Counties, I have completed the Certified County Commissioner, Advanced County Commissioner I, and Advanced County Commissioner II courses, which help us focus and understand issues counties face, and attend continuing education courses to bring ideas back to Escambia County. 

3. In your opinion, what are the three biggest issues facing Escambia County and how will you work to address them?

Public Safety, Infrastructure, and Economic Development are the top 3 issues facing Escambia County.

a. Public Safety – Continue to invest in personnel and equipment that allow us to respond at the level of service we expect when called upon. Prioritizing EMS, fire, sheriff, lifeguard and corrections needs.  These are the primary functions of local government, and we must excel at providing this service.

b. Infrastructure – I have focused on spending money efficiently, leveraging outside funding, and focusing on the cause of the issue to create a long-term solution instead of having to continually patch it with quick fixes. I will continue to work on storm water, septic to sewer, road resurfacing, traffic management, street lighting, and multimodal transportation options for our community.

c. Economic Development – Create the community where people want to live, work, and play. We need to have shovel ready sites, infrastructure that can accept the growth and development, and training for a diverse workforce with the ability to fill the different types of jobs required by our expanding industries. We are a community with great business-minded individuals, who are already mentoring and helping local companies grow.  We need to continue to foster a business friendly environment.

4. There are some citizens that are concerned about the current Board of Commissioners, what will you do to earn their trust back?

My focus is on doing what is right for Escambia County. I am currently the only full-time commissioner, and will continue to dedicate all my time and be the hardest working commissioner for the citizens of Escambia County. I look at each issue on a case-by-case basis, and make my decisions based on the information in front of me. I am reasonable, open-minded, and responsible for spending tax payer dollars in the best possible way. Sometimes that means not doing a project because there are cheaper, more practical solutions, or expanding the scope of a project to make sure we address the root cause of the issue and not just putting a band aid on a recurring problem. 

5. How will you work with the current administration to make sure the county is served to its best ability by the board as a whole?

I have been dedicated to improving all of Escambia County. Whether prioritizing projects that important in other districts or advocating in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., I know my efforts are improving the county as a whole, and in turn, benefiting the quality of life for District 4 residents. Regarding projects within the district, I work with the Administrator and senior staff to keep projects within the district moving. 

6. Finally, why should residents vote for you?

I have a practical, common-sense, and civil approach to addressing issues and work well with others, am open-minded and research issues before making decisions, have a desire to find permanent solutions instead of temporary fixes, and create partnerships with all levels of government and organizations. I am available and willing to meet with anyone, and want to help be a solution to your issue or problem. I believe I am the most capable with my executive experience, education, and years of community involvement that clearly separates me from my opponents. The citizens will get a qualified candidate.

Stan McDaniels is running for Escambia County Board of Commissioners for District 4.

Stan McDaniels:

  1. Why did you decide to run for Escambia County Board of Commissioners?

It was Luke 14:26-35 that helped me make the decision to run. To know that I have the faith to walk the path he has set before me no matter the cost. The 51 percent retirement was also a contributing factor. To see the greed come to a place of litigation with the county was very disturbing.

2. What are your qualifications to be in this position?

I have a B.S. Engineering Technology/Construction Minor in Business from UWF. I have experience in many different fields of construction and emergency clean up. I have worked on four different bridge projects in the panhandle. I have also worked on utility placement in a supervisory role. I love talking to people and sharing my ideas. Out of all these accomplishments there is one that stands out most to me. Right out of college I got a job as Safety Director and had a very difficult Foreman. When it came time for me to leave to accept a more lucrative opportunity, I finally learned even through all the hard times I had with him I had earned his respect and he made sure to let me know when I left. After making the news I also got a call from another one of the employees I worked with encouraging me to continue.

3. In your opinion, what are the three biggest issues facing Escambia County and how will you work to address them?

Spend more money on infrastructure, corruption, corruption, corruption.

4. There are some citizens that are concerned about the current Board of Commissioners, what will you do to earn their trust back?

Be open and transparent. Offer office hours to meet with citizens. Turn the comments on for my Coffee with a Commissioner. Encourage more people to subscribe to the YouTube Channel.

5. How will you work with the current administration to make sure the county is served to its best ability by the board as a whole?

I will work with the citizens to help their voices be heard.

6. Finally, why should residents vote for you?

I will work for We The People not Escambia Inc.

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