Haines City re-elects Morris West, 2 advance to City Commission runoff
Image via Haines City Facebook

Haines City
Morris West faced 2 challenges to his re-election.

Haines City Commissioner Morris West has won re-election. Voters also advanced Clarence Daniels and Kim Downing to compete for another spot on the Commission.

West faced two challengers — Joseph Burgos and Jayne Hall — for his Seat 3 post. He won more than 52% of the vote, or 1,149 votes to Burgos’ 624 and Hall’s 433, according to unofficial final election results from the Polk County Supervisor of Elections Office.

Meanwhile, Daniels and Downing were part of a four-candidate field running for an open Seat 4 position on the Commission. Other candidates included Buster Raggs Sr. and Carlos Surita.

Downing won the most votes, with 716, ahead of Daniels’ 671. Surita wasn’t far behind with 641 votes, but not close enough to trigger a recount. Raggs received 149 votes.

West has served on the Commission since 2016, including four consecutive years as Mayor. He’s also a retired Police Chief and co-founder of the Morris and Leah West Foundation.

As he faced re-election, he told Florida Politics he was the best-qualified candidate in the field.

“I am an active, engaged, forward thinker who has a proven résumé of exceptional leadership,” he said. “I am a lifelong Haines City resident and have worked throughout all communities in Haines City. I know the Haines City community better than any of the other candidates.”

Burgos, who works at Bluegreen Vacations, campaigned heavily in Hispanic neighborhoods. He wanted to change the town’s development patterns.

“We need to create plans, set deadlines and work on negotiating with developers to bring more to our town instead of just dumping houses in an area and leaving us with a mess and with traffic!” he wrote on his Facebook page. “Build the city right!”

Hall served on the City Commission before, losing her Seat 1 seat in an election last year without making a runoff. That seat ultimately went to now-City Commissioner Vernel Smith. The owner-operator of Interior Expressions is now looking to return, challenging a former colleague.

Hall said she’s disappointed. “I had all kinds of goals for the city,” she said, “but it is what it is.”

As for the other election, four vied to succeed Mayor Roy Tyler in his Seat 4 post.

Downing, the top vote-getter, is a native of Haines City and said seven years of significant growth have impacted the community.

“It is going to take a forward-thinking individual just to make sure the city can keep up with demands of growth, while also being able to provide necessary services to residents as well,” she said.

A graduate of the city’s Citizen Academy, she has also taken classes on Florida ethics laws. Ultimately, she said the city needs someone to bridge City Hall and the residents, helping to restore trust.

Daniels previously worked at City Hall. He’s a retired police officer with 16 years of experience in uniform.

“I’m happy to have at least make a runoff. I thank everybody who voted for me,” he told Florida Politics. “Now I just keep fighting and trying to move Haines City forward. Transparency and accountability were my campaign motto.”

Surita, who campaigned closely with Burgos, said he wanted to represent portions of the community that have been ignored too often. “There are two Haines Cities,” he said. “Government is more active on the east side instead of going into other places.”

He was frustrated by the city’s recent debate on food truck restrictions and said better communication between residents and the business community is needed. He said he hoped to be a voice for change on the Commission.

Raggs is also a veteran officer with 25 years of experience in the Haines City Police Department. According to his LinkedIn profile, Raggs later worked as a security supervisor with Jenkins Security Services.

His campaign materials call for a review of infrastructure needs and city ordinances and have called for the city to address affordable housing needs.

“Buster Raggs Sr. is always working diligently to be not only a voice for the residents of Haines City but an active advocate for the citizens of Haines City,” his campaign Facebook states.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

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