Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida News

Wanted: Candidate - Career Politicians Need Not Apply

PORT ORANGE, FL - Campaign season is kicking up, with the Florida primaries approaching this summer, and on the ballot will be a handful of candidates who have never held public office before. Instead, their experience comes from their jobs as police officers, municipal workers and teachers. They are part of a program from the Florida AFL-CIO that hosts candidate training classes to encourage union members who are active in their community to run for local office.

Retired Port Orange police officer Scott Stiltner is one of them. He's running for City Council this year.

"It's really something that for probably the last third of my career I always had interest in and envisioned myself maybe running at some point," Stiltner says. "So I've had a really good, unique look, that most candidates would never have the opportunity to get that."

This is the second election cycle during which the AFL-CIO has hosted the training. In 2012, six candidates were elected to public office.

Phyllis Garrett, legislative political coordinator, Florida AFL-CIO, says the goal of the program is to offer candidates who come with life experience, versus seasoned politicians.

"They just bring a fresh point of view to any position they hold, because they're not career politicians," Garrett says. "They're just everyday working people."

Teacher and union member Elizabeth Albert participated in the candidate training in 2012 and was elected to the City Commission in Holly Hill. She says she could not have done it without the union's help.

"I didn't have big money behind me. I was obviously not the incumbent. They gave me the tools that I needed to feel comfortable about what I was doing and to have a confidence and a self-assurance that I don't think everybody has, the first time out," Albert says.

This year, six people are participating in the program. They go through intense training on fundraising, public speaking, recruiting and managing volunteers, and policy research.

Photos/graphics, layout added by the Observer

Graphic: National Archives, from a 1924 Cliff Berryman cartoon

This piece was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

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