Four public-spirited citizens are seeking election to Seat 4 on the Bartow City Commission.
The incumbent, Wayne Lewis, is not seeking a third term, giving citizens a rare opportunity to run for an open seat. He has served the city well for six years. He listens to his constituents, and has high expectations of the city staff. It is a fine combination.
Our three-member editorial board has interviewed all four candidates for an hour or more, and studied their answers to questions submitted at this week’s candidate forum at the Bartow Civic Center. All four have something to offer.
We recommend election of Trish Pfeiffer, who brings a record of community service and activism, an independent spirit, and an almost contagious passion for making Bartow a better community.
We find merit in all four candidates.
• Gerald Cochran has been a thorn in the side of city government for several decades. It is a task he relishes, and he is good at it. As best he can recall, this is his 22nd run for city commission. He lost the previous 21 races, and already has announced that if he is not elected this year, he will run again next year.
What Cochran lacks in tact he makes up for in persistence. Ours may not be a widely shared belief, but we believe he would give credible service as a commissioner.
• James Slaughter is making his first run for public office. He is best known in veterans circles as head of the AmVets organization. At the age of 16, he became a volunteer firefighter in his hometown, and believes Bartow made a mistake in losing the services of its volunteer fire department.
Although Slaughter spent a year “playing with the city” to get permission to open an AmVets hall in a long-vacant convenience store building, he nonetheless speaks highly of city government.
• Joe DeLegge has strong credentials in city government, having served as Bartow’s assistant city auditor, administrative services director, and city manager. He resigned the latter post in 2007 in the face of a likely 3-to-2 vote to fire him after a consultant’s city employee morale survey was highly critical of his management style.
DeLegge has heard street talk, as have we, that he has a hidden agenda of getting even with the current commissioners who sought his ouster and with some city employees. He denies any such motivation, and we take him at his word. Still, it is baggage that we believe would impact his effectiveness as a commissioner.
• Trish Pfeiffer has worked both publicly and behind the scenes on a number of community initiatives. She has shown the ability to work with city officials to make things happen, and the willingness to be a critic when she sees shortcomings.
Regarding the considerable challenge of breathing new life into the Main Street business community, she recommends that the city study successful efforts in Deland, Winter Garden, and Dunedin. This is a more specific recommendation than any of the other candidates has put forth.
She says she is “most definitely for term limits” as a way to tap the considerable reservoir of leadership in the community. “You have to be willing to pass the baton,” she told us. We agree.
She believes a golf course developer could produce more revenue from the city-owned golf course, but that its value to the city is so great that it is not necessary to try to turn it into a profit center. Both views have merit.
Of four candidates with something to offer, we believe Trish Pfeiffer has the best combination of good ideas and the passion to pursue them. We recommend her election to the Bartow City Commission on April 1.