Finding success in politics most definitely is a game of “who you know,” or at the very least when a voter is looking at a long list of names, “who has heard of you.”
If familiarity is key to winning a seat on the Zephyrhills city council, former Pasco County educator Alan Knight may have this one in the bag.
“Being in education, I would honestly think I have touched the lives of at least 75 percent of the people of this town — either as students, athletes, church members, etc.,” Knight said. “I know the people of Zephyrhills, and I know their feelings.”
However, while Knight may have worked as an administrator and even a head football coach for Zephyrhills High School in the mid-1970s, he hasn’t been working on the city council during the past six years like Jodi Wilkeson. As a councilwoman and a business owner — as well as someone who likes to stay active — there is rarely a Zephyrhills event that she’s not a part of.
“On the campaign trail, no one ever says to me, ‘Where have you been?’” Wilkeson said. “They know I’m always just a phone call away. When they have a problem, I know who to call and how to get it solved.”
Knight fears spending too much time on the council can create a stale look at the problems. To him, a fresh face brings fresh ideas and proposals, and gets away from “we have always done it that way.”
Wilkeson, however, says she’s never stuck to the status quo.
“’Fresh perspective’ shouldn’t be synonymous with ‘little relevant experience’ when competing for a position as an elected municipal official,” Wilkeson said. “There’s a steep learning curve when taking office. I prefer to see folks run for office only after they’ve invested a year or more in service as a volunteer city board member.”
And Knight, she says, has done just that, getting a “good start” with his work on the Parks & Recreation Board dealing with what to do with the closed Hercules Park on County Road 54.
One thing both seem to agree on, however, is that neither wants to rush to judgment on embattled city manager Jim Drumm. Wilkeson has publicly sought to hold off any decisions while more information is gathered, and Knight feels the same way.
“I have often been asked about the Drumm issue, and my response is that until elected, I can make no judgment,” he said. “Once there, I will totally scrutinize the situation, seek advice from the citizens, (and) talk to Mr. Drumm and all involved. In other words, I do not take this lightly, but as a situation that not only has to be addressed, but one that must be addressed with close, well-defined facts.”
Knight’s primary platform focuses on communication inside the government and with residents, something he says has fallen to “a new low.” Wilkeson, on the other hand, wants more attention paid to the Zephyrhills Police Department, where low wages can’t compete with neighboring communities.
“Our citizens want a strong, well-trained police force, but we continue to lose talent to bigger communities offering better wages and benefits,” Wilkeson said. She may have voted against a tax increase that would’ve funded a new detective position with the police department, but that hasn’t stopped her from voting for pay increases to entry-level patrol officers.
Knight said he agrees, and expands that a step further.
“I feel that support of all our city workers is a must,” he said, “from the chiefs of fire and police, to the man riding on the garbage truck.”
For other parts in our Experience vs. New Blood story package, click here.
Published April 2, 2014