Get out and vote on November 16

Editor’s Note: Sadie Fitzpatrick uses this space to explore the character and quirks that make Ocala uniquely wonderful and occasionally irksome

Ocalans came out in record numbers, both at the polls and vote-by-mail, for the Sept. 21 mayoral and city council elections. Though there was record-breaking turnout, no one candidate in the District 3 and District 4 races received 50 percent of the vote, forcing a run-off election for these seats on Nov. 16.

Though the turmoil of the initial election is largely behind us, we cannot lose sight that almost half of our city council is still up for choosing.

With so many pressing city issues, ranging from determining a possible tax increase to cover the $80 million judgment for the fire assessment fee to developing incentive packages to attract city linemen to better staff Ocala Electric Utilities (OEU), a lot is still at stake and now is not the time for voters to become complacent.

The two council members to be elected will face crucial decisions about the future of Ocala that will impact us for years to come.

This run-off election provides us with candidates from all walks of life who could bring a variety of experience to the council.

Jay Musleh, the District 3 incumbent, has served on council for the last eight years. Born and raised in Ocala, he lists his more than 40 years of banking experience as key to helping manage and oversee the city’s nearly $900 million yearly budget. Musleh is most proud of the development he and the council have brought to the downtown Ocala area, transforming it into a go-to destination for visitors and residents alike.

Meanwhile, Musleh’s opponent, Ty Schlichter, believes the council needs a change in leadership to bring about lasting success. He believes his youth (35) combined with his experience working as vice president of Central Florida Electric make him the best candidate for the District 3 seat. He plans to focus on managed growth of Ocala’s economy and better compensation packages for Ocala’s first responders, if elected.

Kristen Dreyer and Lori Martin Gregory survived a crowded contest in September’s election and will face off to represent District 4.

Dreyer believes her experience as a local realtor will help her negotiate with both her council colleagues and companies wishing to come to Ocala. She cites the need for full transparency in city government, believing that, in order to maintain their trust, the public should know what is being discussed and how decisions are made by the council.

Martin Gregory touts her long Ocala lineage as proof of her devotion to Ocala. Referring to herself as “your hometown girl,” her focus is on protecting small businesses, particularly against vaccine mandates in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic. She believes in responsible urban growth while protecting the small-town charm for which Ocala is known.

As of this writing, 8.1 percent of the 38,464 eligible voters in Ocala have mailed in their ballots. If you haven’t mailed your ballot, do so now. If you’re on the fence about who you should vote for, research these candidates. Call or email them with your questions. Become an informed voter.

We cannot just ‘like’ Facebook posts for a candidate or honk at them as they wave their signs on the corner. We must put pen to paper and vote for whom we believe will best serve the interests of our beloved Ocala.

Vote on Nov. 16. It will be 20 minutes out of your day that could affect the next 20 years of Ocala.

Posted in News, Opinion

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