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Cornelia Downing Manfre: The AskFlagler Mayoral Interview

Cornelia Downing Manfre

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: Dayton, OH
  • Political party: Democrat
  • Current occupation: Broker Associate with First Coast Sotheby’s International Realty

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 look forward to revisiting all capital projects in an upfront, public manner to review the infrastructure needs, address
the cost/benefit of such expenditures, seek extensive public comment and (after careful analysis) make an informed
decision of whether the city should move forward.”

-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?

“I will make sure that all areas of infrastructure will be reviewed by the appropriate staff led by the new City Manager.
This area of governmental authority will be my top priority in the first day of office. Our City Staff works hard to
maintain current infrastructure with the limited resources they have, but public comments about parks, water, roads,
swales, and sidewalks show that there is a lot of work to be done in this regard.”

-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?

“I will not discuss national politics during this election cycle. This election is about the leadership of the City of Palm
Coast, and that is a nonpartisan position.”

-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?

“Right now, the vast majority of our city budget is funded by the taxes paid by those residents. We must increase our
commercial base through controlled, equitable and environmentally friendly growth to diversify the revenue our city
takes in to lower our tax burden. Doing that means better marketing our area for future retail, office and other
commercial uses, which in turn produces much needed jobs.”

-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 we’re changing an ordinance that has been in place for over 20 years, we should not do so without broad public support. I will need to review with the current ordinances, review the legal ramifications of relaxing parking restrictions. It will require conferring with City’s legal counsel to see specific caselaw/language to make sure we’re protecting neighborhood property values while still protecting the personal liberties of those who own businesses or work in our community.”

-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 mayor, I will seek to be as available as possible to the citizens of Palm Coast. I will work for consensus building between the Council members, there will be some disagreements so I will work through those by seeking the common ground to effectively determine a solution. Public meetings I will conduct in a civil manner, and also that when decisions are made by majority, the entire council should be on board with the best ways to serve the public.”

-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?

“This is another example of the importance of a widespread infrastructure review. It is imperative to find solutions for these types of problems which stem back to the original layout of the City by ITT. I recall when I first came into the community, we lived on Walnut Court. The children were young and had to walk in the dark of the early morning around the corner to the bus stop. I feared a motorist would not see them. There were no sidewalks. This was a terrible flaw in the planning of the City. I will address these types of street problems and find solutions.”

-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)

“Palm Coast has changed dramatically since 2004, and it stands to reason that our fees should have changed as well. However, I believe we can work hand-in-hand with our business community to ensure that any increases are done fairly and in a way that doesn’t cost our community jobs.”

-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 is the senior member of the council and has performed admirably when asked to step in both for Mayor Holland and acting Mayor Branquinho. The Vice Mayor position has traditionally rotated every year, and we would need to vote on a new Vice Mayor once I am elected.”


-There’s been considerable discourse this election about whether realty 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 have extensive experience in corporate management having worked for New York Life Insurance, American Express, Citibank, United Artists Theatres and Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins. I’ve helped bring jobs to this community thanks to working alongside Kohl’s, Belk, Lowes, Publix, O’Reilly’s, Home Design Furniture and Suntrust Bank as well as many other businesses in a variety of industries. I reject the notion that there would be a conflict of interest but if there were any specific voting matter that included a future project, I would disclose and abstain from voting.”

-Flagler County at large elected no Democrats in any race last year: voters went with Trump at the federal level, all the way down to county and city races in which Republican candidates swept each race they were in. Candidates will not have a (D) or (R) designation by their name on the ballot, but many voters are generally aware that four candidates identify as Republicans and two as Democrats. What role do you expect party affiliations to play in the July election, if any?

“This is a non-partisan election. Period.”

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.

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.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Merrill S Shapiro

    July 3, 2021 at 9:18 pm

    Cornelia Manfre sounds like the candidate for me! She’s got the know-how and the experience of years living and working in our community. She is ready to create the Palm Coast we all deserve!

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