Port St. Lucie mayoral candidates debate

PORT ST. LUCIE — Seven of the 10 candidates for mayor squared off Thursday for their first public debate and most agreed the major issues facing the city are budget woes, city spending, declining property values and job creation.

The debate, sponsored by the second annual Treasure Coast Business Summit at the Civic Center, was moderated by Charlie Neeld of WPSL 1590 AM. About 50 people attended the debate, which was a question and answer format.

The candidates unable to attend Thursday’s debate were Albert Hickey, Kurt Hoyer and JoAnn Faiella. During a telephone interview last week, Hoyer said he would withdraw from the race because he didn’t have the help or the finances to run an effective campaign. However, it’s unclear whether Hoyer has officially withdrawn his candidacy.

CANDIDATES FOR MAYOR

Christopher Cooper: 50, city councilman and Palm Beach County firefighter

Shirley Copenhaver: 46, Realtor at Bradley & Associates Real Estate

Joe Edge: 51, owner of the Tax Shoppe

JoAnn Faiella: 46, records specialist at the Port St. Lucie Police Department

Albert Hickey: 48, retired New York City police detective

Kurt Hoyer: 66, formerly employed by L&M Botruc Co. out of Galliano, La., delivering supplies to oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico; laid off in April

Victoria Huggins: 55, political activist and former research specialist at a Palm Beach County lobbying firm

Frank Lillo: 56, sales agent and instructor for Keller Williams Realty

Timothy Neely: 26, general manager of a national restaurant chain

James Rich: 46, vice chairman of the city’s Planning and Zoning Board and account executive for a direct mail marketing firm

GREATEST CHALLENGE FACING CITY?

Candidates were asked a series of questions. Here are the candidates answers to the question: What do you consider as the greatest challenge facing the city of Port St. Lucie?

Chris Cooper

“While obviously the biggest challenge is this year’s current budget, and with my leadership, hopefully we’ll be able to make our way through these trying times. It’s very easy to sit back right now and say what you will do for this year’s budget when you don’t have to do it. I actually have to step up to the plate and make these decisions this year. The City of Port St. Lucie could not grow and could not take on projects of this nature without having to incur some debt. No city operates without debt. We geared up for the boom. This budget will fall back on us. While people are demanding more services and wanting to pay less taxes, it’s very difficult to handle that situation. It’s very difficult to make that happen.”

Shirley Copenhaver

“The greatest challenge facing Port St. Lucie is an economic depression. At one point we were one of the fastest growing cities, and tax revenue was pouring into our city coffers. The City Council saw all of this money and couldn’t resist showboating themselves to the public. City government grew beyond the ability of the city to support it, and personnel services, the employment pay budget for the city, grew from 16.6 percent in fiscal year 2006-2007 to the year 2008-2009. Growth like this with what was looming on the horizon at that time was unacceptable and certainly did not show proper stewardship of anyone sitting on the City Council.”

Joe Edge

“Identifying the challenge is easy. It’s the budget. Solving the problem is the actual challenge. Unemployment is the culprit, and expanding the job base at every possible level is the solution. Jobs create revenue and allow the economy to grow. Add in over 20 years of business experience in budgeting and finance, thinking outside the box is as critical as taking the emotion and politics out of reducing the budget.”

Victoria Huggins

“I think there are two great challenges facing the city of Port St. Lucie. One is our city’s massive long-term debt, which we have been saddled with by the previous administration. The second challenge is jobs creation. We cannot pay off the $2,051,953,337 long-term debt (including interest) with a 14 percent unemployment rate. This long-term debt figure includes the interest due on our outstanding balance. I believe to hold down our future debt the citizens must have a voice in the amount of expenditures that can be approved by the council.”

Frank Lillo

“Our biggest challenge is that we need to continue to make the transition from a local service economy to a broad-based service economy with good industrial (jobs). We’ve already started with the biotech industry and the digital media industry. We cannot afford during this down period to lose the momentum that we’ve started and that many people have worked very hard for to attract those kinds of industries because that’s the only way ladies and gentlemen that we’re going to have real organic job and career growth.”

Timothy Neely

“The greatest challenge, in my opinion, is the overhead of the city. How can we help grow the businesses here if we can’t even keep our city in black? (We need to make) drastic changes to the way the city works, to what we spend our money on to the way we operate everyday, Until that’s fixed, how are we going to attract business here? The city is running the city like they don’t know how.”

James Rich

“The greatest challenge immediately to the city is the budget. We heard earlier this year that we were going to have a deficit of $4.5 million. I heard earlier today the projected ad valorem tax that does fund the general revenue fund is lower than expected. We’re going to have a $10 million projected deficit. That’s huge.”

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Recruit good employees

PORT ST. LUCIE — Business leaders across the Treasure Coast are being motivated for success after the economic downturn.

More than 200 business owners registered for the second annual Treasure Coast Business Summit at the city’s Civic Center on Thursday as presented by consulting firms Pharus Group LLC and DLF Media Consultants Inc.

Chris Morhardt, the president of the Pharus Group, said the summit had three components: networking, education and motivation.

“The theme for this year is a time for growth,” he said. “That’s basically saying it’s time to get your head out of the sand.”

Since businesses already have cut back as far as they can, Morhardt said business leaders should take a proactive approach to developing a growth plan and a sales and marketing plan.

“If you’re not growing,” he said, “you’re dying.”

Morhardt said the summit helped get the word out about organizations like the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Service Corp of Retired Executives, the Small Business Development Center at Indian River State College and the college’s Corporate and Community Training Institute.

To teach skills and fundamentals of how to be successful in business, the summit included a forum of chief executive officers from across the Treasure Coast.

Dr. Thomas Fullman, the dean at an online business college called Innova World Wide College, led the discussion. He noted the running theme of the forum was how to be prepared for growth.

Business for Rick Schuett of SOL Inc. in Palm City is experiencing double-digit growth in manufacturing solar-powered lights. He prepared for growth by focusing on attracting the smartest people.

“The first step to driving growth is to get the right people in the right seats,” Schuett said.

Jonathan Teaford of Digital Doman Holdings in Port St. Lucie, dealt with his growing business by opening a facility in the city and looking to expand into different markets.

RJ Siegel of LoPresti Aviation in Sebastian plans to explore how to improve his existing products, such as to create electrical engines.

But Denny Hudson of Seacoast National Bank in Stuart agreed people should be the focus. He said businesses need to recruit good employees during the economic downturn for future growth.

“This is probably the most opportune moment that we’ve had,” Hudson said.

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Local CEOs to attend business forum

Several local CEOs have confirmed their participation in a special forum to be featured at the second Annual Treasure Coast Business Summit. The session will be moderated by Thomas Fullman, dean at Innova World Wide College.

The CEOs will answer questions and discuss why they chose the Treasure Coast and offer insight on growing and operating a successful business. They include Jonathan Teaford, Digital Domain Holdings, Port St Lucie; Rick Schuett, SOL Inc., Palm City; Linda Marques, Senior Solutions of the Treasure Coast Inc., Jensen Beach; Denny Hudson, Seacoast National Bank, Stuart; RJ Siegel, LoPresti Aviation, Sebastian; and James P. Crocker, Waterblasting Technologies Inc., Stuart.

Robin Davis, a certified financial planner and founder of The Davis Wealth Management Group, will be a featured speaker.

The summit will be held at the Port St. Lucie Civic Center on May 20. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. It will include a variety of speakers and presentations from the U.S. Small Business Administration, Service Corp of Retired Executives, Small Business Development Center at Indian River State College and IRSC’s Corporate and Community Training Institute. In addition, there will be a mayoral debate between Port St. Lucie candidates.

Register online at tcbizsummit.com. Seating is limited. For more information regarding registration, sponsorship or speaking opportunities, please visit the website or call (772) 708-9431.

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All Points Mobile Shredding to offer free services

PORT ST. LUCIE – All Points Mobile Shredding of Palm City will offer free shredding from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at the second annual Treasure Coast Business Summit, May 20 at the Port St. Lucie Civic Center

Business Summit registration will begin at 7:30 a.m. followed by local, state and national speakers. Breakout sessions and workshops will be offered throughout the day. Speakers will discuss growth strategies and opportunities, and how they apply locally.

The U.S. Small Business Administration, Service Corps of Retired Executives, Small Business Development Center at IRSC and IRSC’s Corporate and Community Training Institute will give presentations.

For more information and to register, visit tcbizsummit.com or call (772) 708-9431.

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Port St. Lucie mayoral debate

PORT ST. LUCIE – A mayoral debate will be featured at the 2nd Annual Treasure Coast Business Summit. The debate starts at 4:30 p.m. May 20.

All Port St. Lucie mayoral candidates have been invited to participate. The following have confirmed their attendance: Albert Hickey, Shirley Copenhaver, Joe Edge, Jim Rich, Frank Lilo and Chris Cooper. Charlie Neeld from WPSL News will be the moderator.

The summit will be at the Port St. Lucie Civic Center. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. Breakout sessions and workshops will be offered throughout the day. For more information, call (772) 708-9431 or register at www.tcbizsummit.com.

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