Two-horse race likely for Parkland commission seat

With less than a week to go before qualifying closes, there are two candidates in the fray for the special election in Parkland to fill the remaining term for the District 1 seat that fell vacant following Jay Smith’s death. The term ends Nov. 2014.

John Willis, who was a member of the city-appointed Chinese drywall taskforce and is currently the head of Parkland’s Education Advisory Board (EAB), filed his papers on July 18. Since then, he has been attending city events, raising money and meeting as many residents as he can.

Stacy Kagan, insurance agent and business owner, has been involved in what she calls a “very grassroots-level campaign.” “I am doing a lot of volunteering, knocking on doors and making phone calls. I am also attending as many events in the city as I can.”

“I don’t know much about my opponent, but we are pulling out all the stops,” Willis, an attorney, said. “Parkland is a great bedroom community with fantastic schools. That should never change. If elected, I will work to maintain the character of Parkland and to keep the millage rate low.”

Kagan says she wants to be a new voice for Parkland residents. “It’s time for a new voice. When I talk to residents, they are very unhappy with the condition of our schools. We don’t regulate schools but the city can offer enrichment programs to offset the losses our schools have suffered. The city should budget for such programs.”

“We have teachers in Parkland who have lost their jobs,” Kagan said. “The city can use them to provide kids in our schools the programs that have been cut over the last few years. I want to bring back art, music, Spanish and science to kids in our community. We can use the library, the YMCA and clubhouses that we have in the city to offer the enrichment programs. High school students can get service hours by assisting teachers in offering the programs.”

“We will have a lot of development happening in the city in the next few years,” Willis said. “The wedge, the roads and the build-out; those are huge issues. I have two little kids and I will [be] living in Parkland for a long time. In 20 years, I want the city to be as nice, or nicer, than it is now. I feel like I have a lot to contribute.”

Like Kagan, Willis has no political experience. “This is a new deal for me,” he said. “I am learning as I go. But I am enjoying it. I have no political aspirations beyond Parkland; I am leaving Tallahassee and Washington to others. I believe the most important politics is local.”

“I attend city events almost every day,” Willis said. “We will continue walking neighborhoods and raising money. We have raised about $16,000 so far. We will soon have five meet and greets and another five have been scheduled.”

Kagan doesn’t believe the race is about money. “I have been told that I need $100,000 to win the election. I don’t believe that. This election is about the needs of the residents. I am not looking for endorsements and I understand that I am an underdog because of that. But that doesn’t matter. I am not in anyone’s pocket [and] I don’t owe anyone anything. I am here for Parkland residents.”

“I don’t think the current commission is listening enough to residents,” Kagan said. “Everywhere I go, I hear talk about east Parkland and west Parkland. That is one thing that has to change. The east side of Parkland has suffered over the years. My goal is to bring the city together.”

“[Kagan] doesn’t have any kids in school,” Willis, who has been endorsed by Mayor Michael Udine and Commissioner Dave Rosenof, said. “I know the issues in our schools; the EAB has been in all the schools in the city to find out what the needs are. I have an experience advantage over [her] and [I] feel pretty confident about my chances, but I am not taking anything for granted.”

“My daughter graduated school in 2007 but I never stopped volunteering,” Kagan, who is on the agent advisory board for AllState, said. “I was Volunteer of the Year at Douglas High in 2009-2010. I have been working to ensure the safety of our teens on roads [and] I have been spreading the message that it is dangerous to text while driving.”

“I like them both,” Rosenof said. “They are both in it for the right reasons. I have endorsed John but it is not a vote against Stacy. I am looking forward to working with either of them.”

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