City Commission Seat #5 Candidates incumbent James "J.P." Powell and challenger Matthew Crowley joined the Winter Haven Chamber today via Zoom for a robust discussion about the future of Winter Haven. The candidates shared their differing opinions about how to approach our future, but shared a common sense of optimism and positivity about the opportunities that are ahead. You can watch the forum below. We also asked the candidates to fill out questionnaires that we have placed below for you to read through to help make informed decisions with your vote.
Below we have published, exactly as submitted, the candidate questionnaires for both City Commission Seat #5 candidates.
Matthew Crowley Candidate Questionnaire
1. Please summarize your campaign platform in 3-5 key bullet points.
Crowley: My campaign can be summarized into lowering taxes, lowering spending, and job liberation
2. What personal or work experience do you feel qualifies you to represent citizens on the City Commission and how does this differentiate you from the other commissioners or candidates?
Crowley: I have lived in this city my entire life, I have watched my city’s government continue to grow and take more and more from lower and middle class citizens. I come from a family that had to work hard everyday to put food on the table and pay the bills and that work ethic was passed down to me and I feel that the voice of the normal person, which is what I am, is missing from the Commission.
Powell: Experience in Government and Community:
i. Past President of the Ridge League of Cities
ii. Past President of Rotary Club of Winter Haven
iii. Past President Winter Haven Optimist Club
iv. Former Chairman City of Winter Haven Planning Commission
v. Mayor 2011, 2012, 2013, Mayor Pro-Tem 2009-2011
vi. Winter Haven Code Enforcement board
vii. Airport Advisory Committee
viii. Main Street Winter Haven
3. In your opinion, what is the number-one opportunity facing Winter Haven and how would you help realize that opportunity? If your plan includes City investment, how would you propose paying for it?
Crowley: The number one opportunity is the continued growth of this area that isn’t projected to slow down any time soon. This offers a unique opportunity to our city to seem even more attractive to potential homeowners and businesses by lowering taxes and becoming even more business friendly.
4. In your opinion, what is the number-one challenge facing Winter Haven and how would you help address that challenge? If your plan includes City investment, how would you propose paying for it?
Crowley: The number one challenge that I see in our city is our roads, the city has to do a better job in keeping up with maintenance with what we have overall but our roads are abysmal, in order to pay for this we need to start tapping into our general fund and moving money to those departments for the specific job of road maintenance.
Powell: Affordable housing. This is not just a Winter Haven issue, but the City is working on programs to incentivize developers to include affordable units as part of their new complexes through tax incentives.
5. What areas of the City’s municipal operations do you feel you best understand?
Crowley: After being on the campaign trail since January, I have talked to many city employees as they’ve made their grievances to me. I have talked to the parks and maintenance departments multiple times and after many conversations I feel that I know the Parks and Recreation department the best and what we can do to help them do their jobs beautifying the city.
Powell: Through my experience as a City Commissioner and Mayor, I have been fortunate enough to been given a great education in all of the City Departments.
6. What areas of the City’s municipal operations do you feel you need to learn more about?
Crowley: In order to best serve and keep prices low for our residents, I do feel I need to learn about the water department more and will take this on day one as a commissioner.
Powell: We all should take the time to educate ourselves more about our jobs. That’s what makes us better at them. I continually work to improve my knowledge of City Government.
7. What City Commission decision in the last two years do you most agree with and why?
Crowley: I agree with our public safety advisor about the body cameras in Winter Haven, this not only allows for more accountable and more transparent government, but it also allows for officer safety in situations that they may find themselves in.
Powell: Not raising Property Taxes again this year
8. What City Commission decision in the last two years do you most disagree with and why?
Crowley: I completely disagree with the decision to sell $23.5 million in bonds that places our city into more financial debt. We have the money that was raised through taxes in order to pay for the deficit sitting in our general fund. This decision is short-term gains while placing the weight of the actions on the lower and middle classes.
Powell: Possibly a rezoning issue, it just didn’t feel right to me.
9. How do you define a business-friendly city? How would you make Winter Haven more business-friendly?
Crowley: I define a business-friendly city as a city that gets out of the way and cuts the red tape. In order to do this we need to go over the business licencing code and rework it in order to simplify it to its bare essentials and model our application after the County application that is simple and easy to figure out. We also need to update our website to place the link for the application under the building tab in order to keep everything orderly.
10. In your opinion, what does the City of Winter Haven look like in 10 years?
Crowley: I see Winter Haven as a hotbed of potential, whose residents have all the services and leisure of a large city while maintaining that small town feel many people come to our city to find and many current residents want to keep.