County Commission District 5

The Leon County Democratic Environmental Caucus endorses DAVID O’KEEFE.

This is the seat Kristin Dozier is leaving to run for mayor, so there’s no incumbent in the race.  Three Democrats and one Republican are running.  The Democrats are Jay Revell, Paula DeBoles-Johnson, and David O’Keefe.

Jay Revell is the candidate with the most money, the one who has the support of the developer/Chamber of Commerce bloc.  He was John Dailey’s aide at the county commission, then head of the Downtown Improvement Authority, then moved to the Chamber of Commerce, to a position Scott Maddox claimed to have arranged for him in order to install Maddox’s partner, later co-defendant, Page Carter-Smith, at the Downtown Improvement Authority.  Revell left the Chamber in 2020 to launch his own public relations firm, Revell Media.  As the Tallahassee Democrat reported, his clients, ranging from nonprofits to major commercial construction companies, include Visit Tallahassee, Sperry & Associates, the Alzheimer’s Project, and Capital Tiger Bay Club.  Revell previously served as the executive director of Tiger Bay.  Sperry did construction for Danfoss Turbocor, one of Blueprint’s success stories.  Revell’s connection to Sperry is obvious from the Sperry website, where Revell is in the first image that pops up.  

Revell’s experience is the reason developers and Chamber of Commerce members want him, and the reason we do not.  As the Tallahassee Democrat has reported, even in the post-Scott Maddox era, insiders continue to wield influence in private.  Revell has said he’s accepting bundled developer donations, and he’s said he has no intention of giving up his business if elected as he does not see it as a conflict.   Jay Revell is undoubtedly a very talented person, but he’s very much an insider, and we cannot be confident he would not, even unconsciously, serve the interest of his insider group.  

Paula DeBoles-Johnson has extensive experience in the volunteer/non-profit world, and she’s worked hard to help underprivileged young people.  She has been a force for good in the community.  Both Paula and David O’Keefe, the third candidate, want to address poverty and affordable housing and crime.   Paula’s ideas for the commission, however, don’t seem fully formed, and we have a sense that she might defer to the opinions of staff.  While she says she’s pro-environment, it seems her focus has been more on helping people.

David O’Keefe is a certified public accountant with 15 years experience.  He’s audited local governments including the City of Tallahassee.  He’s worked for the Florida Pre-Paid College Board, the FSU Research Foundation, and, most recently, he was the chief financial officer for WFSU.  He left that job in February to campaign full time, and if he’s elected, he’ll be a full-time commissioner, with no other employment.  

David brings an accountant’s understanding of budgeting; the empathy that comes from his own family financial struggles when he was a child, including the family’s loss of his childhood home; a remarkable ability to diagnose our problems and identify practical solutions; and a desire to make Leon County work better, especially for those who are struggling.  He speaks convincingly on climate change, affordable housing, homelessness, planning and development, affordable childcare, animal adoption, crime, and corruption and insider influence.  He points out that solving our problems takes money, which is one reason the FSU stadium grant was so misguided.   He understands that to solve the affordable housing crisis, we have to build more homes, but that doesn’t mean developing more and more land further and further from the urban core.  He argues that we can and should create affordable homes in the central city, and in order to make those homes truly affordable, we’ll have to spend tax dollars and it will be worth it.  O’Keefe wants to deny zoning changes and deviations sought by developers unless the proposal includes increased affordable housing or some other substantial concession.  As to violent crime, like other candidates, he sees Sheriff McNeill’s homicide report as a logical starting point. He believes that if we want to prevent violent crime, we must intervene one-on-one with the young men most at risk.  In every area, he’ll push for measures that actually make a difference.  

For years, Kristin Dozier has been our most thoughtful county commissioner.  In our view, David O’Keefe is the candidate best prepared to be her successor.