Collins brings donors, contenders together
BY THE DAYTONA TIMES STAFF
On Tuesday, three African-American candidates for political office spoke with a small room full of financial backers brought together by local political activist Thaddeus Collins.
The event, at Malcolm’s Bar and Grill at the LPGA golf course’s clubhouse, allowed hopefuls to make their pitches to prospective donors and walk away with checks.
The political hopefuls who appeared are as follows:
• Barbara Girtman, Volusia County Council candidate, District 1: Girtman is a fourth-generation DeLand resident who is focused on advocating for civic engagement and business opportunities in DeLand and Volusia County. She was twice elected unopposed in 2014 and 2016 as a commissioner for the West Volusia Hospital Authority.
She volunteers on the Rotary Club of Deland’s board and the Greater Union Life Center, a religious community nonprofit organization. She was also appointed to DeLand’s Economic Development Committee and serves on several strategic planning committees.
Girtman is a real estate sales professional at Bee Realty Corp., and has been recognized for her civic and business engagement efforts by the West Volusia NAACP, Johanna Knox Village, and other organizations.
On Tuesday, Girtman spoke about her experience in getting community resources by leveraging her relationships in the Rotary Club and among nonprofit organizations, saying that “I needed to be the change that I wanted to see.”
She noted that though many Rotarians are Republicans, they are backing her candidacy because they are “ready for a new voice and new energy.”
“It’s about pulling down resources for our community,” she explained. “It’s also about creating a collaboration with the county council. Many municipalities say the county council is out of touch, and there needs to be fresh energy and a fresh vision.”
She also wants to bring resources to small and minority businesses.
Her opponents include Jeffrey Brower, Eddie Molina, and Pat Patterson. She ranks second in her group of competitors with regard to fundraising with a total of $16,686. Patterson leads in fundraising with $29,650.
• Danny Fuqua, Daytona Beach City Commission candidate for Zone 1: In 2015, Fuqua retired from a 29-year career in the Army. He and his wife now serve as co-pastors of Word and Praise Family Church in Daytona Beach. He said he has served “on almost every board in Daytona Beach.”
“The reason I am running is because I have a heart for the citizens of the city of Daytona Beach, especially the citizens of Zone 1. I’m not running for any personal gain. I’m running because I feel that I could make a difference in Daytona Beach.”
Work with commissioners
Fuqua says he can work with the other commissioners to push Daytona Beach’s agenda forward. He wants to focus on infrastructure issues, including sidewalk improvement, flood abatement, repaving streets, and improving traffic patterns in Zone 1, as well as keeping the city fiscally responsible.
“I want to be the voice of the people. I will do the research that will give them the answers they are looking for,” he explained.
His opponents include Anne Ruby, incumbent Ruth Trager, Vernon Weatherholtz, and Frederick Ziegler. He ranks second in fundraising in his group with $6,547 raised to date, second to Trager’s $10,475.
• Percy Williamson, Florida House of Representatives candidate for District 26: Williamson graduated from Bethune-Cookman University as a star basketball player with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. He was a banker with Wells Fargo Bank and Bank of America, serving in the retail, commercial and community development areas. He retired after 25 years as vice president and state manager of Bank of America’s Community-Based Finance Divisions which funded and constructed community projects from Pensacola to Key West.
After leaving banking, Williamson spent 14 years as director of Leisure Services for the City of Daytona Beach. He managed a 120-member professional staff and oversaw an annual multimillion dollar budget. During his tenure, Leisure Services was responsible for 38 parks and seven recreation centers.
While with the city, Williamson created the Mayor’s Backpack Giveaway where thousands of low-income children are given backpacks filled with school supplies each year; former Mayor Yvonne Scarlett-Golden’s “All About Respect” campaign to defuse racial tensions during Black College Reunion; the Art in Public Places gallery inside the Yvonne Scarlett-Golden Cultural and Educational Center, which has hosted 14 art shows since 2013; and the Youth Employment for Summer Program, a public-private collaboration entirely funded by private sector companies, which gave full-time summer jobs to 65 high school students.
“Our community is confronting serious concerns, including inequitable allocation of resources,” Williamson exclaimed. “Our current representative is not bringing home the bacon to Volusia County. Name one major project that the incumbent (Patrick Henry) has brought home to Daytona Beach. Just one,” he dared.
“We as voters and Black folks need to take a look at who we are sending to Tallahassee to represent us. I’m from the athletic world. If you are not performing consistently and at a high level, somebody will come and take your place and you should expect that.”
Williamson challenged Henry to a one-on-one debate and said he committed “legislative malpractice” by supporting a bill to place a statue of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune in the U.S. Capitol – but that provided no state funding.
“The state has a multibillion-dollar budget, and you make a struggling, small HBCU pay the bill? So you give us an honor with this hand and an IOU with the other?” Williamson asked.
“Make an informed decision. Send somebody to Tallahassee with an aggressive leadership background that can collaborate with all the people and get things done.”
In fundraising, Henry has raised $15,500 to Williamson’s $5,230 as of the state’s most recent filing ending April 30.
Williamson will open his headquarters at 327 S. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., the old Mormen Realty building across the street from the Dickerson Center, on Saturday, May 26 from 1pm to 5pm. He will also honor local veterans from local AMVET and VFW posts.
Current elected officials appearing at the event included Volusia School Board Member Ida Wright and Daytona Beach City Commissioner Paula Reed of Zone 6.
Two Black candidates who did not appear include Dr. L. Ronald Durham, a candidate for the Volusia County Council At-Large seat; and Henry, the House District 26 incumbent. Judicial candidate
All candidates face primaries on August 28.
Judge Dawn Fields did not appear because of judicial ethical concerns, since she is running for reelection as a county court judge.
This story is updated from the story appearing in the May 24 issue of the Daytona Times.