RACE: Port St. Lucie City Council
TERM: Four years
DISTRICT 2 CANDIDATES:
- John Haugh, 53
- David Pickett, 56
DISTRICT 4 CANDIDATES:
- Jolien Caraballo, 39 (incumbent)
- Thomas Vincent, 18
KEY ISSUES: Growth, quality of life, taxes, economic development, Indian River Lagoon.
The consensus among all four candidates running for Port St. Lucie City Council is the city — and the council — are firing on almost all cylinders.
In District 2, Haugh, an account manager at Premier Lab Supply, and Pickett, a warehouse and transportation manager for Borden Dairy in Riviera Beach and military veteran, are squaring off to replace outgoing councilman John Carvelli.
In District 4, Caraballo, a salon owner and councilwoman finishing her first four-year term, goes up against political newcomer Vincent, a St. Lucie County Economic Development Council research assistant.
Both District 2 candidates along with Caraballo say the city is moving in a positive direction and only minor tweaks are needed. Vincent's candidacy revolves around a pledge to turn Port St. Lucie into a "21st Century City" with expanded arts and entertainment opportunities.
Here's our view of the races:
In District 2, Pickett claims to have knocked on more than 7,000 doors listening to city residents. He's heard complaints about taxes, though City Council is proposing to reduce the millage for the fifth year in a row and most residents place the primary blame for their comparably high tax bill on the county.
Haugh, by contrast, said he was confident city taxes are not too high, given the benefits they provide the city — from the completed Crosstown Parkway corridor to more police officers, even streetlights.
Haugh, in the candidates' interview with the Editorial Board, noted that while Port St. Lucie is the seventh-largest city in the state, it doesn't have much of an identity; people from outside Florida may not have heard of the city
"We should be known for something," he said. When pressed what the city should be known for, he suggested that with continued population growth, PSL might one day attract a professional sports franchise. That seems unlikely.
Both candidates support devoting more resources to the Police Department, and both acknowledged the need for the city to ensure that as growth in western Port St. Lucie zooms ahead, the older, eastern portion of town doesn't get left behind.
However, neither offered many specifics.
Pickett in particular, though, appears to have worked hard to put his finger on the pulse of the community. He said he's attended many government meetings since November and watched even more online or on PSL-TV; he's learned that "you don't know as much about government as you think you do."
With his military background, his interest in listening and learning, he's our pick for the seat.
In District 4, Vincent, 18, is a bit of a one-issue candidate, though it's a pretty legitimate issue.
Port St. Lucie is not known for its entertainment and arts scene; it's a bedroom community that appeals to a younger millennial demographic with its comparably low home prices, but offers few amenities for that demographic.
Vincent envisions the city as an arts and cultural hub that will attract new businesses and residents. Unfortunately, he's fairly vague on how the city gets from here to there, and needs to deepen his knowledge on some of the other key issues facing the city, like clean water.
Caraballo, by contrast, has a solid grasp on the myriad challenges facing the growing city. She served briefly on council in 2014 before getting elected to her first term in 2016. She's second vice president of the Florida League of Cities and sees a bright future for Port St. Lucie, with tremendous opportunities in Southern Grove, but also challenges as the city struggles to manage it's breakneck development.
She advocates business tax reform and says one of council's priorities is creating more good-paying jobs closer to home.
And she appears to take her role as public servant seriously; she said she makes a point of asking questions on the dais so that constituents might be better informed.
"I still feel like Jolien," she said, the Port St. Lucie High School girl who served in student government and has since moved on to the real thing.
She's an easy pick for the seat.
TCPalm’s candidate recommendations are decided collectively by its Editorial Board. Recommendations are based on nonpartisan criteria that prioritize the best candidates for our local community.