ORANGE PARK – The town council interviewed six potential Seat 1 candidates Nov. 15 following the vacancy created by the death of Ron Raymond.
The Orange Park Town Council has 45 days from the vacancy of Seat 1 to determine who will hold the seat until what would have been the end of Raymond’s term next year. The choice will be made at the Dec. 3 meeting, but in the meantime the council gathered in the chambers Friday, Nov. 15, to get to better know their options. Following 90 minutes of interviews, the council felt great about the candidates.
“I think if something happened to all of us tomorrow, you all made me feel like I’m in good hands,” Mayor Connie Thomas said.
The meeting was called by council member Randy Anderson, who also presided over it with council members Alan Watt, Roland Mastandrea and Thomas. A handful of candidates throw in their hat for the position.
Winnette Sandlin has resided in Orange Park for 21 years and she would bring to the position more than 30 years of Blue Cross Blue Shield management and liaison responsibilities. The job required her to communicate with the federal government and law enforcement agencies, and that taught her how to manage time, respond quickly, pay attention to every detail and look for answers to very specific questions.
“I believe, as a resident of the town, as someone who cares about the future of this town, that we are a very limited landmass with limited opportunities to grow,” Sandlin said. “With our limitations, I think people could begin to see us as a passthrough and I think it would be very easy for the town of Orange Park to disappear. I would like to participate in helping the town plan its move forward (to prevent that and help the town become so much more).”
Eddie Henley followed Sandlin and he’s lived in the town for 24 years. Henley believes in the mission of Orange Park, which states that the town is to strive to promote and engage in the community to create a place where residents can work and raise a family and wants to help the council continue to accomplish that mission. He said he’s worked in public service for more than 37 years, including time in the military, which has taught him to be a public servant.
“I’ve been serving people all my adult life,” Henley said. “I want to be a unified voice for all the people of Orange Park. Whatever their desires or wishes are, I would like to be their instrument and I want to be a part of this unified council.”
Bill Frandsen, who has been a resident in the town for 18 years. He wants to use his extensive cross-municipality work experience to prevent Orange Park from being swallowed up in the sprawl. Frandsen said the town is a pearl in the oyster that is Clay County and that he’s seen it grow and develop into a town with streets filled with children. He wants to be on the council to help the town create jobs and places of leisurely activity to keep those children from growing up and leaving the town.
“We need to make the town appealing so people growing up don’t run to Mandarin or Jacksonville to do something,” Frandsen said. “We need to make it so where they stay in Orange Park. I don’t want (Orange Park) to get swallowed up in the sprawl. I think we can stay as a little city if we just do it right.”
Larry Nichols first moved to Orange Park in 1978 before moving 200 yards outside town limits in 1991. He returned to the town in 2000, but he owned property in the town during all of that and remained linked to it through that connection. Nichols said he’s done nothing but serve his entire life and holding Seat 1 on the town council would allow him to continue his life’s mission.
“I’ve done nothing but serve my entire life,” Nichols said. “First in the military, then working in journalism, and then volunteer organizations. If I stop serving, I die, so this is another way to give back to the community.”
Nichols served in the military for 30 years, both active duty and reserve, before opening a mental health counseling facility that employs 14 counselors that serve more than 1,000 patients. He was followed up by Chuck Lindholm, who has lived in the town, off and on, for 18 years.
Lindholm has 25 professional years working in executive and management positions across a number of boards. In those positions, he focused on strategy planning, visioning, marketing and product development analysis and it is that experience that he thinks would benefit the town council.
“That bleeds over into some of this visioning we’ve been looking at,” Lindholm said. “I think we can give this town a sense of destination and a purpose for being. I’ve done quite a bit of that and I think those skills would lend well to what you guys are looking for.”
Lindholm said he excels in defining problems, driving consensus and getting solutions and he hopes to showcase in Seat 1.
Bruce Jones, who’s lived in the town for three years, was the final potential candidate interviewed by the council Friday and he has experience at three different major manufacturers, including IBM, that he believes would help him do well seated in seat 1 of the council. He was hired by IBM to work in philanthropy in Florida and that brought him into a close relationship with Jacksonville, where he’s worked with mayors to create city-wide programs that extend beyond politics.
Jones wants to help the town build a new sense of community that caters to younger crowds to extend the lifeblood of Orange Park.
“As we continue the way we are, we have some challenges to maintain relevance in Clay,” Jones said. “We don’t want to get sideswiped and become an afterthought of Clay. Building a sense of community won’t be done the way it’s been done over the last 100 years. Talking about millennials, I want to see and enable families who want to come to Orange Park for the reason families care: children. That’s the greatest aspect ... and I’d build a sense of community with that.”
The council did not make any formal motion nor did they select a candidate. They simply listened to what each candidate had to say and asked them questions as they saw fit. Anderson said it’s especially important that the council handle this process with care as it’s a process that hasn’t occurred in the town since 1964.