Election 2017: Clermont council candidates say they’re no politicians
Rivals for Ward 4 seat say they just want to serve the town

The two candidates running for the Ward 4 council seat in Clermont share at least one thing in common — both say they’re not politicians.

Donna Reeves and James Castleberry Jr. say they are in the race because they want to serve the town they love and call home.

Incumbent Ward 4 Councilwoman Kristi Crumpton decided not to seek re-election.

Clermont Ward 4 council race

When: Early voting begins Monday. Election Day is Nov. 7.

Where to vote: Clermont Town Hall, 109 King St.

Reeves has called Clermont home since 1996.

“When we first moved in, they weren’t delivering mail,” Reeves recalled. “You had to walk to the post office to get your mail.”

Castleberry moved into town a few years ago, but has deep ties because his father owned a 95-acre farm nearby. Even when work kept him in Atlanta; Memphis, Tenn.; and Washington, D.C., Castleberry said he’d always found time to spend time at the farm.

“I’ve always had a love for this area and this town,” Castleberry said. “Because I love this town, it would be an honor to serve on council. I’ve never had a political ambition. This is the first time

I’ve run for anything like this. I have the time and I just thought it would be good.”

Reeves said her son Albert, who served a four-year-term on Clermont Town Council, is the political-minded member of the family who has always urged her and her husband, Steve, to get involved. Now the three are running for office. Steve Reeves is challenging incumbent Mayor James Nix, while Albert Reeves is running for a seat on Gainesville City Council.

Donna Reeves attempted to fill the Clermont Town Council seat left by her son when he moved to Gainesville, but she lost by two votes in 2011.

“I’m willing to listen to what people want,” Donna Reeves said. “It takes more than just yourself to get things done.”

Donna Reeves

Age: 57

Education: High school graduate; post-secondary massage therapy training

Occupation: Restaurant owner/massage therapist

Political experience: Made unsuccessful bid for Clermont Town Council seat in 2011

James Castleberry Jr.

Age: 63

Education: Studied business at Kennesaw State University and University of Tennessee, but did not get a degree

Occupation: Retired manager with U.S. Treasury Department

Political experience: None

Castleberry said the biggest challenge to Clermont is maintaining its assets — infrastructure, roads, sidewalks, parks and historical buildings — with a limited budget. The town operates on a budget of less than $435,000.

“I would like to manage our budget in a way that benefits the citizens here,” Castleberry said.

“I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and I want to be in close touch with the people I represent so they can be a part of that.”

Reeves said it appears to her that most people in Clermont don’t want growth, but without it she fears residents will have to pay more in fees and taxes for services.

As a younger generation inherits the homes left behind by aging parents, and modern subdivisions rise up, Reeves said the town needs to keep pace with changing times.

“We do want to move in a more progressive style and keep kids busy,” Reeves said.

As for the issue of alcohol sales, Castleberry said a straw poll taken two years ago showed the people don’t want it.

“I know there are some business owners now that would like to see alcohol sales,” he said. “What I can say to that is they bought these places knowing this is a dry town, and now you come to the citizens and say let’s change the rules for my own financial benefit. I don’t see turning the rules around to benefit them.”

Reeves said she’s glad council decided to have a new straw poll that will be placed on the Nov. 7 ballot.

“I always thought it’s best to let people decide one way or the other,” she said.

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