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Santa Rosa County's District 4 race could mean a new leader for Navarre area

district 4 race
Jennie McKeon
WUWF Public Media

Next week’s election could bring new leadership to Santa Rosa County’s District 4. Commissioner Davie Piech is running for his second term and will face challenger Ray Eddington on the general election ballot.

The Holley-Navarre area has been growing exponentially in recent years, as has the rest of the county. Both candidates, who are Republicans, say Navarre has reached its limits when it comes to housing.

“Navarre is pretty built out, I’ll tell you that now,” said Piech.

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Piech ran for commissioner four years ago because he said he was frustrated with the lack of planning from the county. Now, he said, there’s a plan which includes fixing existing roads, sidewalks and bike lanes. Earlier this year, Piech and fellow commissioners approved allocating $1.8 million in American Rescue Act funds to acquire 545-acres in East Navarre to provide more green space.

“We don’t have much land left here,” said Piech. “We got a lot of commercial land that I’m not going to allow to be turned into houses in District 4. We need that for the restaurants and future growth that way.”

Navarre’s growth is also a motivating factor in Eddington’s run for commissioner. If elected, he said his top priorities are finding solutions to flooding issues and fixing roads.

“I've been listening to the people out here, and they’re all talking about the same thing,” said Eddington. “Roads, ditches, traffic, clear cutting. We're doing all that right now. You know yourself out here on (Highway) 98 and (Highway) 90. It's bumper to bumper, and they still want to build more homes and apartments. We got to cut back just a little bit till we get our infrastructure up to par.”

Jennie McKeon
WUWF Public Media
Ray Eddington

Piech is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel. Eddington moved to Florida four years ago from Tennessee. Before retirement, he worked for Con-way Freight for 23 years. Piech has raised $41,321.80 in contributions where Eddington has raised $17,392.50.

Pieche is proud of his first term as District 4 Commissioner. Two accomplishments he makes note of include the change at the county’s animal shelter, which had one of the highest euthanasia rates in the state to becoming a no-kill shelter, and the other one is infrastructure and capital improvements — namely a $149 million capital improvement plan.

“And it’s a living document because I’m going to add about $50 million more in projects for District 4,” Piech said. “I’m very proud to have that plan and also that we’re throwing more money at infrastructure that we ever have. There’s still a lot to do, which is why I’m running again.”

The District 4 seat is, in a way, the sole voice for the Holley-Navarre area. A group of residents with the group Preserve Navarre want to change that through incorporation. Piech has expressed opposition, but said he would support what residents want.

“If they want to try and incorporate, I would,” said Piech. “But my goal is to make sure they're well informed on what they're voting on and what it's going to cost them. I think I've been able to pull a lot more money down to the south end since I've been in office. There was a disparity, and I have the numbers to show it.”

Eddington said he’s experienced higher taxes in the incorporated cities he’s lived in and would be against it in Navarre. Even if the current plan doesn’t involve Holley, where he lives. He’s more concerned with “saving money and spending wisely.” Eddington suggests the county be more aggressive in applying for grants to keep within budget and get work done.

Transparency is also a key issue for Eddington.

Since COVID, Piech has held monthly town hall Zoom calls to update citizens on projects and take questions. As commissioner, Eddington said he would have an “open door policy” for residents.

“I believe I can do that job with the rest of the board commissioners,” he said “We just make sure we do it out in the public in our meetings with everybody. Don't go behind closed doors. I want everybody to have a voice.”

Dave Piec
Courtesy photo
Dave Piech

The contest between Piech and Eddington is open to voters countywide, meaning all residents can vote for the District 4 commissioner. There is also a countywide vote for the District 2 seat, with Republican Kerry Smith running against write in candidate Clifton Wheeler.

Eddington said he wants to be a voice for everyone, but wants to put focus on District 4.

“I want to try to fix my district first, and then after that, it's help others,” he said. “But I hope every commissioner would want to help their own district first. I know I do. But I'm there for everybody in Santa Rosa.”

When it comes to Election Day, Piech wants voters to look at his record.

“I'd fix it all tomorrow if I had a magic wand,” he said. “But I got a plan and a process and it's moving forward, so I just want to keep doing that. I have no aspirations other than doing this job. It is my only job, and when people are done with me, they're done with me and I'll move on and hope I made a difference, make it better than it was when you came in.”

Eddington said he’s ready to be a change for the district.

“I want to make a change for the people in Santa Rosa,” he said. “I thought it was time for somebody else to step up, and I did. I want to listen to the people.”

Jennie joined WUWF in 2018 as digital content producer and reporter.