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Kathy Austrino: The AskFlagler Mayoral Interview

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Interview Criteria

  • The object of the interview is not to grill the candidate, nor to give them softballs. Ideally, in their answers the candidates provide to voters a useful insight into their ideology, their priorities, and their knowledgeability and preparedness for the office of Mayor.
  • These questions are sent to each declared candidate in the Palm Coast mayoral race. Each candidate receives the same exact questions, with the exception of the two allotted personal questions, tailored to each candidate specifically.
  • The only edits made are for spelling, formatting and basic grammar (i.e., ‘their’ when it should be ‘there’). Censorship of profanity may also be applied if it were applicable. Otherwise, answers are presented in their full form as the candidate provides them.
  • Answers are subject to fact-checking if they contain information that’s blatantly misleading or untrue (misrepresenting factually verifiable information, misquoting a statistic, etc). Clarifications will be added underneath the candidate’s answer if applicable. The answers will still be presented as given even if a fact-check or clarification is needed.
  • Candidates may be sent follow-up questions if their initial answers don’t directly address the original question, or if their answer naturally opens the door to other questions.
  • Answers will be published promptly after being submitted by the candidates, provided time to properly format and edit as outlined in the third bullet point.
  • Original questions will be presented in bold text. Candidates’ answers will be presented “in quotations and italics”. Followup questions will be presented in bold and italics.

Candidate Details

  • Place and date of birth: Boston Massachusetts, November 19, 1970
  • Political party: Republican
  • Current occupation: Real Estate Broker

Other Candidates’ Interviews

Candidate Interview:

-On May 4th, the Palm Coast City Council voted 3-2 to approve a new regional racquet center at an estimated cost of approximately $5.4 million. In the buildup to, and the time since the vote, there has been a great deal of public debate regarding the merits of such a project. How would you have voted if you were mayor at the time? With two council members on each side of the issue, do you plan on revisiting the project acting as a deciding vote if elected to office?

 “I think smaller project would have sufficed. If allowed, yes, I would revisit this concern.”

-Describe the state of infrastructure in Palm Coast. Are there areas in the city you’ve identified as being in need of improvement? If so, how would you prioritize which areas you’d like to address, and what should be the source of funds for such improvements?

“We clearly have flooding concerns on some streets, swale issues, as well, we have ongoing improvements. It can be frustrating; the issues that remain and working around the ongoing corrections. The areas deemed highest public safety concern would have to be the priority. Aside from scrutinizing our own budget, I believe we could benefit from full time grant writers on staff finding and reaching for funds outside of the city.”

-Whether it’s relevant or not, candidates’ views on national politics have played a role in discourse at the local level since the start of 2020’s election cycle. What role, if any, should your views on national politics play in how voters perceive you?

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“It should not, I won’t let their views change my perception of them as citizens of Palm Coast whom I would represent and must carry forward the desire of the majority.”

-In your mind, what is the most pressing issue facing residents of Palm Coast today? If elected to office, what are your plans to address that issue?

“Trust. I have nothing to gain or lose in the Mayor seat. I have no conflict of interest. I’m also interested in reorganizing this council, not to take effect in our time, but setting up the next council to help ensure a council we can trust.”

-The Palm Coast government has begun taking residents’ opinions on whether or not to allow ONE commercial vehicle (passenger car, panel van, pickup truck or similar, in the words of the survey) with advertising markings to park in a residential driveway. If the matter came to a council vote, what would be your stance on the issue?

“If certain parameters were part of it (height, weight, length of vehicle and signage) I would be for it.”

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-There’s been some discussion lately on what exactly the role of a Council member should be (Palm Coast’s Mayor is one of five votes on the City Council). Some would assert that a Council member should act as a direct representation of public consensus, while others view the seat as one in which the people have trusted them to make their own independent judgments. Which view is more representative of how you’d make decisions in Council votes?

“As the council is at this time; the Mayor role is to hear information from all sides of any issue, discuss with those she represents and make decisions based on the desire of the majority. She is to follow-up and follow-through with the city manager and attorney for those she represents.”

-Two roads in Palm Coast are currently drawing ire from some residents: Cimmaron Drive and Slow Way. Former City Manager Matt Morton and former Mayor Milissa Holland both attested that the city is working with FDOT to brainstorm an approach to deal with Cimmaron, while Slow Way hasn’t been the subject of particularly much deliberation in recent meetings. Complaints on both roads have largely centered around excessive traffic and safety concerns for pedestrians, cyclists, and children at play. Has the city been effective in its approach to issues on these two (considerably different) roads? How would you hope to proceed on addressing citizens’ concerns if elected to office?

“I am always concerned that there are too many meetings about the work and not enough of the work being accomplished. But I cannot say emphatically that is the case here. The two brainstorming are no longer available. I can only look at where they left off with FDOT and strive to come to a resolution.”

-Palm Coast’s Municipal Code last saw an update to impact fees in October of 2004. Do you think the fees are due for an increase, to potentially increase revenue for the city? (Note: Palm Coast’s Regional Racquet Center was paid for primarily through revenue from impact fees)

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“I’m not particularly interested in seeing an increase in impact fees at this time.  However, as shared elsewhere – if money were to be put toward economic development, I would have supported the half-cent sales tax.  Of course, it would come down to what the majority of our residents want after we’re all fully informed.”

-On May 18th the Council convened for the first time after former Mayor Milissa Holland tendered her resignation. Among other things, one order of business was to replace Eddie Branquinho as Vice Mayor, as he’d immediately ascended to acting Mayor when Holland resigned. The motion to appoint Council member Nick Klufas to the position failed 2-2, with members Ed Danko and Victor Barbosa voting against. Klufas will, however, carry power comparable to that of the Vice Mayor by merit of being the Council’s most tenured member. Did the Council get the decision right in ultimately not appointing Klufas to Vice Mayor? How important is it that the Vice Mayor seat remain occupied?

“Nick Klufas, in my opinion should have been Vice Mayor immediately simply due to his time served.  All on the Council including the Mayor are an equal team. I look forward to more harmonious working relationships.”

PERSONAL QUESTIONS:

-There’s been considerable discourse this election about whether real estate is the right background for a mayoral candidate, or whether there’s a potential conflict of interest when issues of development come up. Do these concerns hold water in your mind? How, if at all, would your experience as a realtor shape your decision-making as Mayor when it comes to development?

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“I believe this is a valid concern. That is not to say anything nefarious would take place. However, in this season of political mistrust, I feel we should be sensitive to the perceptions of those we serve and stay very clear from any possible conflicts of interest as best we can. Being a real estate broker has caused me to pay attention to what is happening in our area and interact with many of those who made their homes here. I do not have relationships with commercial investors or developers. As
we grow; I look forward to working with those who do have those relationships in the capacity of one watching for the best interest of our residents.”

-The last couple months in Palm Coast government have been, to sum it up, hectic. From heated exchanges at Council meetings to multiple high profile resignations, residents seem to want stability now more than ever. How would you venture to bring a sense of normalcy back to City Council meetings?

“By bringing respect for every person’s view, taking in and seriously considering every thought/idea that comes to us. By a willingness to know that we need each other to see each topic from all angles.”


The special election for Palm Coast Mayor will be held on July 27th at the following locations:

  • Flagler County Supervisor of Elections Office – Government Services Building, 1769 E. Moody Boulevard, Building 2, Suite 101, Bunnell, Florida, 32110
  • Palm Coast Community Center, 305 Palm Coast Parkway NE, Palm Coast, Florida, 32137
  • Flagler County Library, 2500 Palm Coast Parkway NW, Palm Coast, Florida, 32137

Early voting will take place from July 17th to July 24th, from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. The candidates are Democrats Doug Courtney and Cornelia Downing Manfre, along with Republicans David Alfin, Kathy Austrino, Carol “Mother Elizabeth” Bacha, and Alan Lowe. Check back on AskFlagler for interviews with other candidates as well as the most comprehensive election coverage in Palm Coast.

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Written By

Chris Gollon is a Flagler County resident since 2004, as well as a staple of the local independent music scene and avid observer of Central Florida politics, arts, and recreation.

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