AVON PARK - Election day is Tuesday for residents of Avon Park to decide on two candidates for mayor and two candidates for one city council seat.
Mayor Sharon Schuler is running for reelection against challenger Greg "Bubba" Warner and Councilman Parke Sutherland is seeking reelection against challenger Jonathan Remick.
Highlands Today asked the candidates to offer a summary of their background and state their priorities and why they are the best person for the job.
Remick was raised in Lake Placid and home-schooled through high school, before moving to Orlando where he attended Full Sail University, earning a Master's of Business.
After school he returned to the area to help his father open Avon Park Gunsmoke, a gun shop in Avon Park, where Remick currently works.
The candidate said he plans to use his business and marketing expertise to explore new options, like social media, to help attract new residents and businesses to the city.
"I would like to bring in more jobs to Avon Park, by working with organizations such as GrowFL and others to provide the conditions and incentives to attract or grow larger job providers such as industrial or distribution centers in the area," Remick said.
He wants a set guidelines to properly notice items on the council meeting agenda with enough time to not only allow the council members to do their due diligence before meetings, but also to allow citizens of the city the proper notice to attend meetings, Remick said.
"I would like to see more open communication at city meetings with smaller changes like an open microphone for public comment at the end of city council meetings," he said.
Sutherland was born and raised in Avon Park and graduated from Avon Park High School in 1978. He and his wife have two children. Sutherland owns and operates a law practice with an office on Main Street.
He volunteers as a member of the Board of Directors of the Avon Park Historical Society and Early Learning Coalition of Florida's Heartland, Inc., and serves on the school district's Advanced Academics Committee.
Remaining financially conservative is one of Sutherland's priorities for the city, noting the 95 percent cut in property taxes, 20 percent reduction in utility rates and that the city will soon be debt free.
Sutherland wants to continue to develop the city's pro-business atmosphere to create more jobs. He supports expansion of the city's Community Redevelopment Agencies.
"I support continued growth through voluntary annexations (we are almost to Valerie Boulevard on U.S. 27 and Memorial Drive) and expansion of our utility service (we have added approximately 20,000 feet of pipe and acquiring multiple independent utility systems)," Sutherland said.
He said the city needs mature, qualified and experienced leadership.
"As a lawyer, I am familiar with government operation and procedure," Sutherland said. "As a business owner, I know what it takes to stay within a budget. As a council person, I have done the research necessary to make informed and difficult decisions."
Schuler said she moved to the city of Avon Park in 1990 and fell in love with the city as she drove down The Historic Mall.
Schuler and her husband have four children (2 boys and 2 girls). She works for South Florida State College as the general manager of the Hotel Jacaranda on Main Street.
"Within the first four years of moving here, I ran for City Council at the request of a few citizens who wanted a voice on their behalf," she said.
Schuler said her main priorities have been and continue to be: annexing more of the surrounding areas which enable the city residents to keep their taxes low; lowering the fire assessment rate, which has been an issue with the citizens on fixed incomes; supporting a 24/7 fire department; focus on code enforcement efforts to rid the city of slum and blight and continue the city's marketing efforts to build back the downtown and encourage a commercial core in the Southside.
"I am the most qualified leader for mayor because my track record for business growth can be easily measured without hype," she said. The city will be debt free by Dec. 31.
Schuler said her vision is to continue lowering the taxes, eliminating bureaucratic fees and increasing public private/partnerships to recruit and retain businesses that ultimately would bring jobs.
Warner offered a brief response on his background, priorities and statement on why he is the best person for the job.
He has 35 years of public service, 27 of those years in Avon Park.
Warner noted two priorities - business and employment.
Concerning business, Warner said, "the city working together with other entities could produce a pamphlet outlining the assets that the city has to offer big business and actively seek larger industries."
On employment, he said, the city should start to replace some, but not all, of the employees that have left to allow for a higher quality of services provided.
"The people of Avon Park know me and know that I am fair and impartial," Warner said.
The polls will be open for the city election 7 a.m. - 7 p.m., Tuesday.