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2020 Election

Denise Calderwood Talks Transparency and Fiscal Responsibility, Rebukes Joe Mullins

denise palm coast

You’ve gone on record to say that county leadership has in the past failed at fiscal responsibility. If you’re elected to County Commission, how will Flagler County become a responsible-spending county without eroding the general quality of life for its residents?

“For several years I have been a watchdog when it comes to the County budget. There are several areas where we overspend or do not use our tax dollars wisely. As a County Commissioner I will do my due diligence when it comes to monitoring the budget and I will hold the County Administrator accountable for watching how the dollars get spent. I will also be an active participant in the budget process and examine each budget submitted closely to ensure that our tax dollars are being spent wisely. Flagler County is a great place to live and I will take my responsibility seriously and ensure that it stays that way for years to come.”


County Commission meetings lately have been subject to controversy, particularly with lively and colorful exchanges between commissioners and other individuals. What should the commission do differently to prevent repeats of such occurrences?

“The County Commission meetings have been a total embarrassment. I feel strongly that action should have been taken to sanction Commissioner Mullins for his reprehensible and erratic behavior. And I feel that it is the other commissioners fault for not taking action sooner. The action of one Commissioner affects them all since the Commission is a team. I also believe that County Administrator Cameron and Attorney Al Hadeed have failed in their fiduciary duty to protect the citizens. They have failed to counsel and caution Commissioner Mullins for his behavior. I have been attending Commission meetings on and off since I was thirteen years old and these past two years have been shameful. It is obvious that too much of the decision making has been happening behind closed doors.”

At the Tiger Bay forum last month, you noted that there’s not enough affordable housing in Flagler County, and identified this as a contributing issue to our county’s homeless problem. If elected, what proposals will you bring to the commission to alleviate high costs of living?

“As you mentioned Flagler County is a great place to call home but it should be a place where all residents can afford to live, work and play here and not just a select few. One of the biggest issues is paying people a fair wage where they can afford to pay the rental rates here and hopefully eventually become home owners. I will work with the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee to help recruit developers who truly believe providing affordable housing options. Currently the new affordable housing providers in town are not affordable. Their rates far exceed the 30% maximum a household should be spending on housing. I would also advocate for employers to pay a living wage and I would do so by supporting this effort by example and make sure that Flagler County’s own employees are paid enough for what they do. The salaries of the leadership team are definitely way out of proportion compared to the salaries of their bosses and this must change.”

One point of experience you like to tout is your time as a deputy sheriff. How is the state of our county’s police department today, and what will you bring to the table to improve it?

“I  believe the Flagler County Sheriff’s Department is operating effectively and I would monitor the agency to ensure that it is working for the citizens. I would hold the Sheriff accountable for the agency’s budget to ensure that the citizens’ needs are being met. Everyone deserves to live in a safe community and to be treated fairly by the police. I do have concerns about the overall way law enforcement services are being provided to the citizens of Palm Coast. Now that Palm Coast is twenty years old it is time to re-examine the contract the County has with the City and to ensure that this arrangement is fair and equitable as it relates to the way other municipalities are being provided services from the same agency…this brings up the discussion as it relates to consolidated services similar to how the City of Jacksonville and the Duval County Sheriff’s Department handled their growth.”

Infrastructure along A1A in Flagler Beach has taken a battering from recent weather phenomena, and with rising sea levels combined with increasingly destructive hurricanes, what should Flagler Beach’s long term plan be to protect its roads, buildings, and topography?

“The beach is a great asset in our community and as such it should be taken care of. We are all responsible for doing our part to maintain, protect and preserve it. I believe in following examples of what has worked in other areas and I believe that they should be replicated here when the need arises. I would support the City of Flagler Beach in their efforts at maintaining the beach the way their Commission sees fit and I would support the County in their efforts at making sure we do our part to ensure that the necessary funds are there to do the prevention and intervention needed to save the beach from future destruction.”

Tell us about your skills as a negotiator. One important job of a county commissioner is to work alongside city governments and with the private sector to achieve mutually beneficial solutions. Why are you best suited to handle intergovernmental relations?

“I believe strongly in collaboration and not control. As far as negotiation I am a good listener and I always try to find common ground and then make decisions from that stand point. I have a Master’s degree in Public Administration and have studied intergovernmental relations and how various segments of the government can and need to work together in order to achieve the overall goals of our government…to operate in the most efficient and effective way in order to serve the public good. And you notice I said public good, not for the private good. Lately in our community it appears that we are making decisions to only benefit a select few and not the overall public…And the average taxpayer is paying the price. I will do my part to ensure that their voice is heard and I will use all of my skills to make sure this occurs during the negotiations and I would ensure that the public is an equal partner in those talks and not excluded.”

When people vote in local races, most want to know how a candidate will affect their lives directly. By your interpretation, what is the role of a county commissioner in citizens’ everyday lives? If you’re elected, what plans of yours would have the most noticeable effect on life here in Flagler County?

“In my opinion, I feel strongly that the role of a County Commissioner is to listen to all of their constituents and again not just a select few. I would communicate openly and honestly with the community for the good of the community and I would not make choices that benefit me as an individual first as has been happening here the past few years. I believe in the Sunshine Law and I have used it many times to gather basic information that should have been made readily available to the public but it wasn’t and it still is not. It is this kind of hidden government that needs to stop because the government is us, all of us and it should be operating in the Sunshine. I will bring light to the way our government is working and if it is not working properly I will do my part to ensure that those parts that are not working our brought out in discussions. We need to get Flagler County back on track to ensure that it remains a great place to live for all.”

Lastly, give us the campaign pitch. Why are you the best choice for Flagler County Commissioner, District 5, this November?

“Herein lies the problem, I really have no pitch except for who I am and what I bring to the table. I am a taxpayer who is concerned that our local government is broken and that it needs to be fixed and that the Commission needs to be the ones to take the lead and not be at the complete control of the County Administrator or the County Attorney; after all these are the only two employees that the Commission is responsible for. I believe in fiscal accountability and to following comprehensive plans and not just saying we do but actually following them. I believe in open and limited government and allowing for open dialogue. I don’t believe in touting slogans like I support economic development, after all what is that? As I have said in my literature. I will return phone calls and emails. I will be professional in all of my communications. I will bring me to the commission. I’m vibrant, versatile, and I have a vision for Flagler County and I am willing to give it my all and I will continue to work for all of our residents to ensure that Flagler County remains a great place to live, work and play.”
Our thanks to Denise Calderwood for granting AskFlagler this interview.

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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