Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey is being challenged by three candidates – Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier, Whitfield Leland, and Michael Ibrahim.
Mayor Dailey was elected to his current position in 2018 and previously served on the Leon County Commission.
Provided below is a table giving the positions of all the candidates on six specific issues.
The following narrative focuses on analyzing the positions of the leading candidates.
FSU, FAMU Stadium Votes
The recent votes to award Blueprint economic funds to FAMU ($10 million) and FSU ($20 million) to upgrade their football stadiums has become a major political issue in the race for Tallahassee mayor.
Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier voted against the funding for both FAMU and FSU, while Mayor Dailey supported the award to both schools.
In support of his vote, Mayor Dailey noted that college sports is the number one economic driver of tourism in Tallahassee and that “this is the right move to support the universities.” He noted that economic analysis related to the funding indicated that the investment would provide positive returns for the community.
Ahead of declaring her candidacy, Dozier called the FSU vote “a pivotal moment for our community.”
Dozier alleged the funding wiped out the economic dollars that could be used for future projects and said “this was the most anti-business, anti-jobs, anti-growth decision Leon County and Tallahassee has ever made.”
However, Dozier is taking the issue beyond a disagreement over economic development priorities and turning it into a political issue, like many other candidates. On the campaign trail she refers to the vote as the “shameful Doak deal.” The “deal” was supported by a majority of elected officials.
Tallahassee City Manager
The fate of current Tallahassee City Manager Reese Goad has been an issue for some elected officials since the city commission voted 4-1 to hire Goad just ahead of the local elections in September, 2018.
At the time of his appointment, Goad had been with the city for 18 years and was serving as the deputy city manager over Electric and Underground Utilities, Solid Waste, Tallahassee International Airport and StarMetro.
Mayor John Dailey publicly supported Goad after Commissioner Jeremy Matlow authored a critical performance review of Goad in 2019.
Dailey, in a press conference, said he “strongly supports our city manager.”
Dozier, when questioned about her position on the issue said, “we do need a new city manager” and noted we need fresh eyes on how we structure city government. She also said she would support a competitive selection process.
The other candidates have stated they would vote to replace the city manager. This is also a position shared by current city commissioners Jeremy Matlow and Jack Porter.
It takes three votes to replace a city commission appointed official.
While there may be an argument for replacing the city manager, what has not taken place during the campaign is a discussion about the possible difficulty in finding a replacement.
If the city manager is terminated with a 3-2 vote, would the vacant position be desirable to highly qualified candidates who are employed in a stable position?
Both Dailey and Dozier have recently voted to support major Blueprint projects. These projects include the Amazon project, the expansion of the Urban Services Area to facilitate residential development and the Northeast Gateway.
There have been a lot of discussion during the campaign about civility during local government meetings. Mayor Dailey has indicated that the state of politics following the COVID pandemic plays a role in the current tone displayed during meeting. Dailey added, we can all do better.
Dailey also addressed the recent reports about inappropriate text messages from people who have highlighted the civility issue by saying “you can’t say one thing publicly and do something different privately.”
On this issue, Dozier has stated that some officials are using rules of order to silence those who disagree with the majority and said that the approach impacts compromise on important policy issues.
Both Dozier and Dailey were in agreement that the recent questioning by City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow of Blueprint employee Ben Pingree went too far.
Dozier said, “I did not appreciate the line of questioning by Commissioner Matlow …. it went a bit too far.”
There has been a lot of campaign chatter about the use of “dark money” and PAC’s in the mayoral campaign. Without litigating the merits of these arguments, it is clear that groups outside of traditional candidate campaigns are involved in this race.
Commissioner Dozier has been aided by the “Saving Our City” PAC that was started in July, 2022 and is based in Jacksonville. The PAC is partially funded by Bob Lotane ($5,000) and Ann Vandermeer ($2,500). Lotane and Jeff Vandermeer are the founders the Our Tallahassee political blog which has been described as a “fierce advocate for progressive candidates – specifically those politically aligned with Tallahassee Commissioners Jack Porter and Jeremy Matlow..”
Mayor John Dailey’s campaign is being aided by two PAC’s: Grow Tallahassee and Progress Matters.
The Grow Tallahassee PAC – which started in August, 2020 and is based in Tallahassee – is operated by a group of individuals that “support the election of candidates who recognize the importance of growth and economic vitality, as well as the business community..”
The donors and supporters of this PAC are all identified on campaign reports filed with the Florida’s Division of Elections and include local business owners, developers, and high level FSU officials. The latest report indicates the PAC has raised approximately $115,000.
The Progressive Matters PAC has raised approximately $120,000 with the largest donation ($37,500) coming from the Florida Police Benevolent Association.
Also, the 4TLH organization -started during this campaign cycle by Bryan Desloge and Lee Hinkle – is supporting a number of local candidates, including Dailey. Their donors are not required to be identified.
John Dailey is endorsed by Big Bend Police Benevolent Association, Grow Tallahassee, Equality Florida and the Board of Realtors.
Kristin Dozier is endorsed by Tallahassee Professional Firefighter’s Union, the Climate Cabinet PAC, Big Bend Chapter of the AFL-CIO, and Our Tallahassee publishers.