Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Orange Park May Cancel Election; Only One Candidate Is Running in Each of Town Council Races

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Orange Park May Cancel Election; Only One Candidate Is Running in Each of Town Council Races

Article excerpt

Byline: DEBRA W. BUEHN

With just one candidate running for each of two available Town Council seats, Orange Park elections may be canceled this year.

Qualifying for election to Seat 1 and 2 on the five-member council ended at noon Monday, and only one person for each seat had declared as a candidate at that time. Councilman Steve Howard is seeking re-election to Seat 1, and longtime Orange Park resident Marge Hutton hopes to occupy Seat 2.

Seat 2 is being vacated by Mayor Bob Standifer, who will not only be leaving his seat on the town council, but the town as well. Standifer announced recently that he and his wife will be moving to North Georgia, where they have maintained a vacation home for the past several years.

Since the candidates for both open seats will be unopposed in the March 8 election, the town council is considering canceling the election altogether to save money, said Town Clerk Sarah Campbell.

"An election costs about $4,000," said Campbell, who added that with unopposed candidates, the number of those voting could be quite low.

Even with more than one candidate seeking office in recent years, election turnouts have not been high. The Clay County Supervisor of Elections office lists 5,889 registered voters in the town of Orange Park, but just 662 voters participated in last year's town election. In 2009, that number was 633.

Canceling this year's election would mean the postponement of public votes on seven proposed charter amendments, which would be put on hold for a year. But the amendments are mostly "clean up and procedural matters" that can wait, Campbell said.

At the council's Tuesday meeting, council members will discuss whether to hold an election.

Both Howard and Hutton announced their bids for election on Jan. 21, the opening day of the election qualifying period. They will be sworn into office in April, Campbell said.

In a prepared statement, Howard said he had been "honored to serve" in his seat for the past three years.

"If I am fortunate enough to be re-elected, I pledge to the citizens that I will continue to work to strengthen our town's financial position, to be a good steward of taxpayer money and to be responsive to their requests," he said. …

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