(In the fourth of four weekly installments, the candidates for the Orange Park Town Council have been profiled. This week, Seat 4 challenger Susana Thompson is looking to unseat incumbent Virginia …
(In the fourth of four weekly installments, the candidates for the Orange Park Town Council have been profiled. This week, Seat 4 challenger Susana Thompson is looking to unseat incumbent Virginia Hall on April 13.)
ORANGE PARK – Susana Thompson has no problem saying she’s not a politician.
She refers to herself as just a regular person who wants the best for everyone in Orange Park. She’s running for Seat 4 of the Orange Park Town Council against incumbent Virginia Hall, and her platform is simple: listen to what the residents of the town have to say.
“I have felt that a lot has been neglected and I feel that people’s voices aren’t being heard,” Thompson said. “When you get to the point that your voice isn’t being heard and residents aren’t being heard, [it’s time] to do something yourself so here I am.”
Thompson has been a nurse for 26 years. She’s been married for nearly just as long, and has lived in Orange Park with her husband for 10 years. Her family moved to the area after her husband was transferred to NAS JAX, but it was Orange Park’s small-town charm that kept Thompson and her family in town after her husband retired in 2015.
It was the camaraderie of neighbors and friends in Orange Park, too.
“Ten years ago, people were getting together and celebrating with one another,” Thompson said. “People had get-togethers at different people’s homes and everyone came together as if they were one big family and we loved that. This town is filled with wonderful and generous people...and sadly, they aren’t being heard anymore.
“If you haven’t noticed, a lot of meetings have diminished in size and I think it’s because they feel like if they come...no matter what they have to say...nobody listens to what they have to say and that’s a bad place to be. We all pay taxes so we should all have a voice.”
Seat 4 is in a unique situation, because unlike the other seat up for grabs, whomever wins the seat will only have it for a year before another needing to run for re-election. Thompson said she still thinks there are challenges she can tackle in just one year.
“I do believe I can make some changes in that year,” she said. “I want anyone in my town to feel heard and I want to talk to them about the projects happening in town. I want to know their concerns and their doubts and their thoughts [before voting].”
Thompson is happy the town is building a new playground for Clarke Park, but she feels it’s too expensive and unnecessary at this moment in time, especially when the town needs so much waterway cleanup, she said.
“The waterway cleanup is a thorn in everyone’s side because some are still waiting for their area to be cleaned out,” Thompson said. “It has been three-and-a-half years since Hurricane Irma occurred and grants, permits and areas of responsibility are still a topic of discussion and things are not being completed in a reasonable amount of time.”
“Hurricane season is right around the corner again. We’ve had surveys done, but it appears that the waterways are still not the priority. We are spending money on things that we want instead of things that we need.”
She also wants to see a greater emphasis on the town’s tree and bird sanctuary designation and how that intersects with development.
“I’m not against smart development, but I think we need to be creative in how we develop in town and how it affects the neighborhoods,” she said. “We need to be very vigilant in listening to resident concerns and take everything they have to say into account before making a decision.”
Some other points of Thompson’s platform include re-engaging with the town’s people and local organizations like the Boy Scouts and high school students that need community service hours.
“We seemed to be a neighboring, caring community and now seem to be losing the charm that once captured people wanting to move here. I would love to see all of us re-engage. Let’s help our neighbors who are most in need by involving our high school students who need community service hours and the Boy Scout troops.
“These amenities are available if we only ask. It’s a win-win for both the town, its residents and these groups and it will help build character in our youth. These little things only cost time.”
She also wants to continue the efforts of Orange Park’s revitalization projects like visioning.
“I would like to aid in the revitalization of our town,” Thompson said. “Smart development in our decision-making process is essential.”
Thompson is keeping her goals focused on the single year she’d get to serve if she wins the election, but what happens after that will be up to the town.
“Right now, I’m just looking at this initial year and we’ll see how much gets done,” she said. “If the people of Orange Park would like me to stay and would like for me to run again, then I might. I want to leave it up to the people of this town to make that decision.”
The town residents will decide who sits in Seat 4 on April 13.