As Kristin Dozier leaves the Leon County Commission District 5 seat she’s held for 12 years to run for the hotly contested Tallahassee Mayor position, the race to replace her could also be a tight contest.
David O’Keefe won the most votes in the Primary, taking 27% of the vote in a fairly even four-person race, while Paula DeBoles-Johnson came in second with just 248 fewer votes, good for 26%. Dustin Rivest and Jay Revell received 24% and 23%, respectively, setting up a head-to-head showdown in the General Election between O’Keefe and DeBoles-Johnson.
DeBoles-Johnson, 53, is a human resources official with Leon County who founded a nonprofit, Capital City Youth Development Corporation, to mentor students in professional development. She has emphasized “smart growth” to accommodate development in the district in the coming years and expanding economic development and youth programs to help prevent crime.
O’Keefe, 37, recently resigned as Chief Financial Officer of WFSU, the local public radio station, to run for office. He has stressed the need for more affordable housing in Leon and “community-first” economic development, focusing economic development funds on areas not covered by the private market.
District 5 includes parts of downtown and midtown Tallahassee, bordered by Duval Street on the west (the district includes the Capitol, but not the Florida Supreme Court). It stretches east and south to take in the Myers Park and Southwood neighborhoods, extending to the county line and encompassing the areas along Apalachee Parkway, Buck Lake Road and Interstate 10, bordered mostly by Tram Road to the south and Mahan Road to the north.
The area has seen massive growth in recent years, and the county’s deal to spend $2.5 million in incentives for Amazon to build a distribution center near the I-10-Mahan Road interchange promises more development in that area — as well as more traffic and greater need for county services.
Both candidates back the Amazon deal, although O’Keefe thinks the $2.5 million cost is too high, but both are also keen to hold the online retail giant to the terms of the deal, which includes creating 1,000 jobs.