SEBRING - When Sebring residents go to the polls next month, they will elect as many as three new council members.
They will choose from seven candidates vying for three seats, with Bud Whitlock being the only incumbent. The top three vote getters will fill the seats for the next three years.
Council members John Clark and Andrew Fells did not seek re-election.
The seven candidates are Lenard B. Carlisle Jr., Rob Horne, Mary Ann Lewis, Marty Roepstorff, Mark Campbell Stewart, Nadine Elliott Tedstone and Whitlock.
John Shoop ran for mayor to replace George Hensley, who is not seeking re-election. No other candidate filed for the post. City Clerk Kathy Haley was unopposed for re-election.
Early voting will be held March 3, 2014, through Friday, March 7, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Supervisor of Elections Office, 580 South Commerce Ave., Room A201. The regular election will be held March 11.
Originally, the city planned to hold a non-binding poll on election day to see whether voters favor moving the elections to November. But when it was proposed to hold a binding referendum, the council scrapped the idea of a poll.
Following are basic information about each of the candidates. After that, the candidates responded to several questions.
Lenard B. Carlisle Jr.
Marital status (family information): Single, four children two girls, two boys, nine grandchildren
Civic involvement: Code Board
Education: 12th grade
Occupation: Self employed
Marital status: Married, Diane Horne
Civic involvement: Sebring Planning and Zoning Board (6-year member). Sebring Trails Committee, Sebring Citizen Board
Education: College, Tech School
Occupation: Self- employed State Certified General Contractor
Name: MaryAnn Lewis,
Marital status: Single mother of two adults and six grandchildren (ranging in age from 7 to 26)
Civic involvement: Community activities include, but are not limited to, serving on the Children Services Council, Guardian Ad Litem, Take Stock In Children, The Group for Better Government, Voters League, Retired Educators Association, and Woodlawn Elementary School volunteer
Education: Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education)
Occupation: Semi-retired educator (adjunct professor, SFSC)
Name: Marty Roepstorff
Marital Status: Divorced
Education: Florida International University: BBA in Finance
Civic Involvement: Member of Sebring Firemen
Name: Mark Campbell Stewart
Marital status and family information: I am married to Madge Stewart with two sons, Joshua Stewart and Steve Clair and one daughter Kathryn Stewart
Education: Attended Syracuse University and Florida Institute of Technology (no degree).
Civic involvement: Sebring Preservation Commission, Tourist Development Council, Community Redevelopment Agency.
Occupation: State Certified Building Contractor, State Certified Roofing Contractor, and hotel owner.
How many years have you lived in Sebring? I have lived in Highlands County since 1985 and Sebring since 1986.
Nadine Elliott Tedstone
Marital status: Married to Robert Tedstone for 13 years
Education: BS degree in fields that include, finance, communications, sociology, human resources and education.
Civic involvement: past president of the Business and Women's Club at the time when the organization supported efforts for a woman's shelter; first president of SALT Seniors and Law Enforcement Working Together; board member of NU-Hope, supported Redland Christian Migrant Association daycare facility, Junior Achievement, Take Stock in Children, president, vice president and treasurer of a homeowners' association, promoted STEM, board member on the Lake Denton Committee, volunteer for the U.S. Air Expo for nine years, board member for Sebring Historic Preservation Commission.
Name: Bud Whitlock
Marital status: Married 31 years to Kathryn Weldy Whitlock, three children, four grand children
Civic involvement: city council member since 1996
Education: Sebring High School, class of 1971, certified professional land surveyor, 1990
Occupation: land surveying since 1979
How many years have you lived in Sebring?
Carlisle: 64. Born in the city limits of Sebring
Horne: Nine years.
Lewis: The decision to re-locate to Sebring's beautiful Lakeview Drive was made approximately 12 years ago, having previously owned property in Lake Placid's Covered Bridge.
Stewart: I have lived in Highlands County since 1985 and Sebring since 1986.
Roepstorff: Moved to Sebring in the early 1960s, graduated from Sebring High School, Class of 1965.
Tedstone: I have lived in Highlands County for 20 years and The city of Sebring for 15 years. Whitlock: Since 1952, my entire life.
Do you feel the city should be doing anything different than it is regarding Harder Hall?
Carlisle: Yes. I think it needs to be sold and put back on tax rolls. Sometimes you just have to cut your loss and move on.
Horne: No, not at this time. The City has a commitment and is fulfilling it at this time. It's a loss but taxes have not been raised to cover the cost.
Lewis: Harder Hall is a beautiful "pink elephant in the front yard." It is a visual monument to the past and present of Sebring. The day will come when someone will step forward with the incentive and dollars to enhance this historic site. A previous offer ended with the gentleman's death and another potential buyer just disappeared. The Sebring City Council and administrative staff are ever vigilante to any and all inquiries, marketing incentives, ideas and, most of all, serious offers.
Roepstorff:: I think we need to bring in a professional marketing firm to give council direction on what needs to be done to upgrade the facility and sell it to someone who has the money to make improvements and bring it back on the tax rolls.
Stewart: I wouldn't change the status of Harder Hall yet. It is currently listed on a commercial real estate site and there are numerous inquiries and showings of the property. The listing site was only done recently and we should work it for a while. As of now, selling the property to an investor may be still a viable option, and although tearing the building down and selling the land would be easier, the city would take a sizable loss by doing this.
Tedstone: At a meeting on August 31st it was decided that the Hall should be marketed more aggressively. I will be happy when the property is returned to the tax rolls.
Whitlock: Harder Hall continues to pull my heart-strings, yet common sense is shouting in my ear. Growing up in Sebring meant, The Circle, our beautiful downtown with its historic buildings, and Harder Hall. I'd venture to say that there isn't a more beautiful sunset anywhere as you look across Lake Jackson with Harder Hall glowing in the background.
The problem is that Harder Hall has been vacant since 1986 - that is over 25 years! Father time, poor economy, weather, and neglect have taken their toll, nearly to point of no return. The city has aggressively marketed Harder Hall. I'm sorry to say that if someone doesn't step up to the save the grand old lady, she may have to face the wrecking ball. I'm hoping our improved economy will provide more interest in the redevelopment of Harder Hall.
Avon Park has been very aggressive in annexing surrounding property. Do you feel Sebring should be more aggressive?
Carlisle: I feel the City Council has annexed properties as needed and I feel they have done a great job.
Horne: No. I agree with the current mindset on annexation, which is if a property is financially favorable to the city, good chance it will happen.
Lewis: Annexing surrounding properties is an extension of a strong city manager type of government as in the case of Avon Park. The city of Sebring has a comfortable, successful financial position managed by a very competent administrator and deputy administrator. A decision to disrupt this status quo would have to be evaluated very carefully.
Roepstorff: Although not many private property owners want to pay two property taxes, these properties need to be addressed, and if necessary they should be brought into the city limits. Commercial property should be aggressively undertaken. When is the Mall going to be annexed is one particular property that needs to be looked at. I know there was a time limit allowed them before they could be annexed, just when is that date?
Stewart: Annexing surrounding property needs be done on an individual basis based on what's good for the city, particularly the finances. Is it a good investment or not? That's the question that the constituents of Sebring would expect us to ask. I don't think arbitrarily annexing property is really the right response.
Tedstone: I have mixed emotions on annexing property.
Whitlock: Annexation must be done in a careful and systematic way. The commercial properties along U.S. 27 between the south and north city limits on both sides of the highway are very inconsistent. What I mean by that is that a group of commercial properties may stretch for a half mile or so, all in the city limits; then another group of properties adjacent to them will be outside the city, the county area. In the interest of public safety, police and fire emergencies could better serve these properties if all of the commercial properties were contiguous from one end of the city to the other. This would ensure seamless service from our city departments, and eliminate the duplication of services from several different Highlands County fire departments, the Sheriff's Office, and the various emergency medical services
Simply put, its good business
Should the Sebring City Council give voters the ability to decide whether the city's election date should be moved to November?
Horne: I understand both sides of the issue and I lean toward keeping it as it is.
Lewis: Some citizens have verbalized a desire to move the City of Sebring's March election to November, however, the last time this issue was presented, it did not pass. Perhaps that is because sincere, dedicated voters will vote whether in March or November. A concerted promotional advertising of the March election date would provide additional incentives to get out and vote.
Roepstorff: Election date is up in the air, I like it in March. More people will be involved in March because people can be more focused on the issues and the candidates, rather than be caught up in the general election.
Tedstone: The citizens of Sebring should have a say in the election dates - they are the people voting. The turnout in 2013 was 278 voters at the cost of $6,189.46. That equates to $22.26 per vote. If we can perform this same service for less tax payer dollars I am on "board."
Whitlock: On at least two previous occasions our city has wrestled with this question. I am all ears and invite my constituents to call me if that's what they want; however, I truly believe that during a national election the city is loaded with political signs and advertisements, along with those negative TV messages that dilute the purpose and reason for local government. I read something many years ago that really stuck with me - 'Local government is the keystone of American democracy.'
I want to give our city voters the opportunity to focus on local issues that affect them every day of their lives without the distraction and confusion of a national election.
Are you happy with the efforts to revitalize downtown? Would you do anything differently?
Carlisle: Yes. I feel the city has moved along with changes that have been needed and I believe that they will do more as fast as they can. To say I would do things differently at this time without knowing what is in the plans would not be a very smart answer. I need to know some facts first.
Horne: Yes. I would like to see the city attract more owner operators to the city verses investors.
Lewis: Efforts to revitalize city of Sebring's downtown are moving along slowly and surely. The past several years have resulted in several beautiful additions with more to come in the same fashion. If an anchor enterprise, such as a Johnny Rockets (a 1950s motif restaurant serving milk shakes, fries, hamburgers, hotdogs, etc), could be enticed to open in the downtown vicinity others will follow.
Roepstorff: I think the CRA is doing a great job. They are focused on the downtown. Casey Wohl is a great inspiration and her energy to do activities downtown are well known. We need youth and their ideas on how to market downtown Sebring. And the CRA and Casey are invigorating in their attempt to market downtown Sebring.
Stewart: Yes. I'm extremely pleased with the revitalization of the downtown. The only thing I would do is make sure that we do not stop and actively pursue more residential home ownership.
Tedstone: This CRA group is very active in not only revitalization but promotions and beautification. We needed a fresh outlook and we have headed in the direction, I would like to thank Robin (Hinote) for leading the orchestra, FOX news live, new trees and benches on the circle, the Budweiser Clydesdales in the Sebring Parade, Centennial Park creation, and soon the statues.
We are looking like a downtown!
Whitlock: Considering that we are just coming out of the most significant economic downturn in our lifetime, I feel that our efforts to revitalize downtown Sebring have been commendable. I think we are on the right track and that if the economy continues to improve we will see new businesses opening and existing businesses return to a comfortable level of prosperity. Just in the past few months and years, several new shops and restaurants have opened. The new street scape and improvements to (both) Circle Park and Centennial Park, along with the historic murals have driven interest and vitality to our downtown.