Rex Buzzett, left, and Amos Pittman Jr.
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Political newcomer challenges incumbent in mayoral race

Running for another term as Port St. Joe’s Mayor, Rex Buzzett is facing a challenger in his bid for reelection, political newcomer Amos Pittman Jr.

Pittman, an Air Force veteran, said he is running for the office “so that the voice of residents from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives of this great city will be heard, respected and acknowledged.”

He has pledged to work at improving communication processes between the local government and citizens, work to secure increased grant funding and find opportunities to honor first responders, among other campaign items.

Buzzett, who was first elected mayor following Hurricane Michael in 2019 and served as a city commissioner for a decade prior, says this will be his last term as the city’s mayor, if elected.

He made the decision to run one more time, he said, because of “unfinished business.”

“There are things that I want to see through,” he said. “I want to see these road paving projects finished. I want to see our affordable housing project finished. I am hoping to see movement on the Field of Dreams or youth recreation.”

Port St. Joe’s mayor’s office and the offices of the city’s other commissioners are all elected on a non-partisan basis. Therefore, there are no primary elections held for the race.

The winner of the election on May 9 will go on to serve as the city’s mayor for the next two years. Early voting will run from April 29 through May 6.

The Star asked both candidates to speak on areas of concern according to submissions from our readers. The following outline was created from interviews with the candidates, as well as publicly available information from their campaigns.

A growing city with growing needs

Buzzett said he can see the wear and tear of increased traffic on the city’s roads.

“Road paving’s been a priority of mine for a long time,” he said. “And so is parking in the downtown area. We’ve talked to the St. Joe Company about the Windmark area as that’s growing and the possibility of putting a traffic light somewhere along that stretch.”

Continuing to work towards maintaining the city’s roadways are among his top priorities as Gulf County’s population continues to expand, he said. But along with that is working to ensure that growth and development is in keeping with what he says is the city’s overall vision.

He also said the city needed to continue working towards supporting and implementing housing options that were affordable for average city residents.

“And we do control development,” he added. “You can’t build anything over 60 feet, and in the city, it’ll stay that, so there won’t be any Destin high rises.”

Pittman agreed that discussions about the city’s growth should reflect the town’s own vision of itself, and he has a plan for implementing public comment in the process of determining it.

He wants to see the city address problems “by being proactive and staying ahead of potential public safety, traffic and infrastructure needs associated with population growth.”

He also said he wanted to see the city “(apply) for federal and state grant funding allocated to address affordable housing.”

Economic development should be inclusive, sustainable, diversified candidates say

Pittman envisions an economic future for the town that he describes as “growth for all that’s sustainable and inclusive.”

His plan for achieving it involves opening lines of communication with both locals and with other municipalities to inform any decision making about the city’s economic future.

In his candidate announcement, Pittman stated that he planned to establish an online system through which city residents could submit ideas and feedback to the city, with or without anonymity.

He also stated that he planned to take an active role in the Florida League of Mayors and United States Conference of Mayors if elected to learn from the economic successes and difficulties of other areas.

Buzzett’s plan for the town’s economic future focuses heavily on diversifying local industry, he said.

“We’re a tourism based town now, and we certainly need a little diversity,” he said. “We can’t just have 90 percent of our workforce in the service industry or waiting tables and things like that. Not that there’s anything wrong with those jobs, it’s just the children graduating high school certainly need the opportunity for something better.”

“I think the city should look at bringing in clean industry.”

Neither candidate responded directly to a question about their stance on the construction of a potential LNG facility within city limits.

Pittman indicated he would take the perspectives of locals into account when making any decisions on the matter of future industrial growth.

“My stance will always be: listen to the people, listen to the experts, and listen to precedent, research, and science,” he said.

Buzzett indicated that he would be opposed to any industry that would prove harmful to the local community or environment, but that without a development order in front of the city, he said he is reserving any firm opinions on the matter for a time when more information is available.

Candidates see city taking active role in North Port St. Joe’s redevelopment

In recent years, community organizations that aim to jump start the redevelopment of the city’s historically segregated North Port St. Joe neighborhood have worked to secure grant funding and strategic partnerships to cover items from job training programs to environmental assessments. 

Both candidates for mayor said they saw the city playing an active role in the redevelopment of North Port St. Joe.

For Pittman, this role is specific.

He wants to see the city take on “the role of grant writer or applicant for federal or state grant funds available for (the) redevelopment of minority communities.”

Buzzett said his vision for the neighborhood’s future involved bringing more business to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

“We’d love to see more businesses out there like the Cozy Cafe,” he said. 

He also said he would continue to look into ways the city could work to tie North Port St. Joe and the city’s other neighborhoods together after the city’s attempt to locate the new city hall complex in the area ultimately failed when the lot purchased for the project was discovered to be heavily contaminated.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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