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2024 Election

Rick Staly Gets 4 More Years, All Flagler Constitutional Officers Unopposed

L-R: Tom Bexley, Shelly Edmonson, Jay Gardner, Kaiti Lenhart, and Rick Staly. © Candidate Photos / Flagler County

All five of Flagler County’s elected constitutional officers have won new four-year terms office, with none receiving an election opponent before the qualifying deadline on Friday at noon. Sheriff Rick Staly, Property Appraiser James Gardner, Clerk of Court Tom Bexley, Tax Collector-elect Shelly Edmonson, and Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart will all remain in office through 2028.

Of these five candidates, four were incumbents. The one who wasn’t is Edmonson, who was running as the natural successor to a retiring Suzanne Johnston. Edmonson’s candidacy was enthusiastically supported by Johnston, who in her decades-long career became a staple of the Flagler County government. Edmonson worked under Johnston in the tax office, and even without having served before received no opposition.

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Rick Staly Gets Four More Years

Staly won unopposed for the first time in three runs for Flagler Sheriff. In 2016 he bested a Republican primary field that included former Sheriff Don Fleming, as well as challengers John Lamb, Jerry O’Gara, Mark Whisenant, and Chris Yates. He then won over Democrat Larry Jones in the general election, after Jones ousted incumbent Jim Manfre in the Democratic primary. Staly won re-election in 2020 after beating Jones again, and for a while it looked as though the two would have a third face-off in 2024. Jones withdrew in the weeks leading up to the qualifying deadline. Staly will now have 12 years as Flagler Sheriff, bringing him into his early 70’s at the end of his third term.

“I am extremely honored to run unopposed,” Staly said in a statement Friday. “Thank you for your vote of confidence and support. I also want to thank our amazing team that professionally serve our community every day. Without them we would not enjoy the safest community and lowest crime rate in our area. When I was elected in 2016, I promised to reduce crime, bring stability and to change the culture and foundation of your Sheriff’s Office. Together we have delivered over a 50% reduction in crime and established a modern, award winning and professional law enforcement agency that you can be proud to serve you. I look forwarded to getting up every morning and pinning the Sheriff’s star on my uniform and continuing to serve you.”

No Opposition for Flagler’s Constitutional Officers

Though the Tax Collector office will turn over due to Suzanne Johnston’s retirement, not a single constitutional office will appear on the ballot in Flagler County in either August or November. Though she was likely preoccupied with the workload that Friday’s deadline brought on, Elections Supervisor Kaiti Lenhart is among those who can hang up their campaign signs for now.

Lenhart was appointed to office by then-Governor Rick Scott in 2015 following the resignation of her predecessor, then won re-election in 2016 and 2020. Even as public trust in the institution of elections decayed in 2020 as ex-President Donald Trump challenged his own defeat in court and in public discourse, trust in Lenhart’s office remained high. No candidates stepped up to try and take her seat this time around.

Tom Bexley won his first term in office in 2016, following the retirement of longtime Clerk of Courts Gail Wadsworth. He bested Doug Courtney in that election, rising from his previous position as the Clerk Office’s Chief Operations Officer. He received no election challenger in 2020, and has now been awarded a third term again with no opponent.

Jay Gardner also found out he’d get to stay in office on Friday, keeping him as one of Flagler County’s longest-serving elected officials. First elected as Property Appraiser in 2004, Gardner will be able to claim 24 years on the job when this, his sixth term, expires in 2028. Prior to that he owned a private real estate appraisal firm for 13 years.

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.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. TR

    June 15, 2024 at 2:11 pm

    Congrats to all the winners, especially Sheriff Stayle. Keep up the good work.

  2. Mike Brown

    June 19, 2024 at 2:56 pm

    Because you’ve done an excellent job!!! Congratulations!

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