Meet the candidates for Okeechobee County Commission: District 5

OKEECHOBEE — Candidates seeking the county commission district 5 seat are Frank Cunningham (REP), Weston Harvey (DEM) and Kelly Owens (REP). This seat is currently held by Margaret Helton. Mrs. Helton stated she does not plan to see re-election. County commission terms are four years. Annual salary is $35,104.

Frank Cunningham

Frank Cunningham is one of three candidates seeking the County Commission District 5 seat. With a strong background in engineering and involvement in the community, he hopes to improve the health and public safety of Okeechobee.

Originally from Rogers, Ark., Mr. Cunningham is a veteran of the Korean War, where he was a part of the U.S. Army Field Artillery from 1951 to 1952. He then went on to study mechanical engineering at the University of Arkansas.

Frank Cunningham

Frank Cunningham

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in the field, Mr. Cunningham worked as an engineer for Pratt & Whitney for 13 years and as a self-employed professional engineer for 44 years.

He continues to work part-time as a self-employed professional engineer.

Mr. Cunningham served on the city council in Tequesta, Fla., for five years.

After moving to Okeechobee in 1979 to purchase his small ranch, Ranch Aero, Mr. Cunningham has been actively involved with the county. He spent 11 years on the Agri-Civic Center Advisory Committee, for which he is now a chairman, two years on the Contractor Licensing Board, 10 years as a volunteer for the County Fair and four on the County Fair board of directors.

He has been attending Board County Commission meetings for 13 years, and said he has learned a lot by just listening.

“I’ve been attending just as a spectator. Most people come to meetings with an axe to grind, or a problem to complain about and then leave,” Mr. Cunningham said. “If you stay for the whole show, you learn how the system works. You see what the county commissioners debate. You hear what they tell the county administrator. You hear the county attorney’s input. And that whole thing eventually comes together and something happens.”

As a professional engineer, Mr. Cunningham plans to utilize his knowledge to help with large projects for the county.

“Some projects are large and expensive with a lot of engineering involved,” Mr. Cunningham stated. “I speak the language, know what questions to ask and know the right answers when I hear them.”

With his experience in engineering, he feels he can help make the right decisions for building and spending for large county projects.

According to Mr. Cunningham, the county currently has no professional engineer on staff. If elected, he would be the first engineer on the Board of County Commissioners in 36 years.

Mr. Cunningham also cares about the public health and safety of the community as well as the county’s growth.

“Public health and safety is number one and must be adequately funded — adequately, not generous. Everything else has to be balanced with needs and resources,” Mr. Cunningham said. “This is a nice place to live and work and growth will come naturally, but beware. If it’s not carefully done, the pie will just be bigger but not taste better.”

Mr. Cunningham hopes his past experiences and involvement with the county can help him succeed as a county commissioner.

“To the voters, if you have read all this, you know who I am and my qualifications,” he said. “Sorry I don’t have magic wand, but I’ll do my best with what tools I have.”

Weston Harvey

Weston Harvey is one of three candidates seeking the County Commission District 5 seat. If elected, he plans to be an advocate for the youth development and hopes to create a better public image for the county.

Born and raised in Okeechobee, Mr. Harvey graduated Okeechobee High School in 2007. Shortly after, he earned his Associate of Arts degree at Indian River State College. Mr. Harvey then went on to enlist in the United States Army where he served as a Combat Medic. During that time, he received multiple awards and medals including the Army Achievement Medal. After being honorably discharged, Mr. Harvey joined the Florida National Guard as a Non Commissioned Officer. While serving, he earned a Bachelor’s of Arts of Science degree in Health Care Administration.

Weston Harvey

Weston Harvey

Now at 26 years old, Mr. Harvey lives back in Okeechobee with his wife, Rebecca Callyn. He currently works for his family’s business, Jeanette’s Interiors and Adrian’s Carpet Care, which he plans to take over in the future.

Growing up in Okeechobee, Mr. Harvey feels that the town has remained stagnate. While he appreciates the smalltown atmosphere, he recognizes that the negative stigma Okeechobee had in his youth has gone unchanged. As an advocate for the youth development and retention, Mr. Harvey hopes to change the perception young people have of Okeechobee.

Mr. Harvey is also concerned about the town’s issue with health and welfare.

He feels with having training and experience as a medic in the army, he can be able to help improve the overall lives of citizens.

“In the army, I was personally responsible for up to 2000 soldiers’ healthcare at a given time, health and welfare rather,” Mr. Harvey said.

“With my experiences with my educational background in healthcare management and administration I understand how welfare of a public county works. I do understand public policy as far as healthcare and welfare goes.

With that, I feel that in the end I can be more knowledgeable and make decisions that would better affect and not negatively affect the county.”

As with all of the candidates and the county, Mr. Harvey knows there are things to be addressed when it comes to county growth.

“There’s things, we need to make it more appropriate, more bait-and-catch. We need to get ways for industry, we need to make ourselves more alluring.”

With his experience in the military, small business and healthcare administration, Mr. Harvey is confident that he has the skills to steer the county in the right direction.

“I have a lot of the avenues and a lot of the experiences,” Mr. Harvey said.

“And I feel that the youth and the people here in Okeechobee need to feel like they are made the priority instead of a select few.”

Kelly Owens

Kelly Owens is one of three candidates vying for the County Commission District 5 seat. If elected, she plans on creating strong relationships with potential businesses and other resources in order to develop growth for the county.

Mrs. Owens and her husband Bob moved to Okeechobee 25 years ago from Jupiter, Fla. Three of her six grandchildren are being raised here in Okeechobee.

Kelly Owens

Kelly Owens

She and her husband also owned and operated their own business, Bob Owens Painting Inc., for 30 years. She currently is self-employed as a leadership development consultant.

As a child, Mrs. Owens spent her life moving between various military bases with her family, so it’s hard for her to pinpoint her hometown. She says her time spent in Okeechobee is the longest she’s lived in one place and has grown to love the town, considering it to be her true home.

Through volunteer service and involvement with various boards, Mrs. Owens has spent much of her time to bettering the wellbeing of the town. She currently volunteers with the Kiwanis Club, the Okeechobee Educational Foundation, and the Center State Bank Community Advisory Board. She also serves as a State Council Member for the Military Compact Commission.

With a bachelor’s degree in Elementary education from Florida Atlantic University, Mrs. Owens is very passionate about the future for the youth in Okeechobee. More notably, she has dedicated many years of her life providing for the Okeechobee County School District, working as a substitute teacher for five years, a teacher for five years and serving on the school board for eight years. For four of those eight years on the school board, she was chairwoman.

During her chairmanship, Mrs Owens gained valuable experience managing a budget along with strategic planning and organizational development.  In 2011, Mrs. Owens served as a statewide legislative chair for the Florida School Board Association. “Because of my involvement at the state level,  I had numerous opportunities to build relationships at that level. And that’s important for what I’m going to be doing as a county commissioner because it really is about getting those relationships built, so that you can be effective in your governing role,” Mrs. Owens said. “Bottom line is that’s what brings the funding to counties.”

Being able to serve school boards at the state level has given her experience and knowledge on how she plans to help the county grow.

“In general, I think the biggest issue is growth and we hear about that all the time. For us, it’s a matter of being able to determine how that growth is going to happen. I hear a lot of people talk about controlling growth. The fact of the matter is, you can’t control it. It’s going to happen one way or another,” Mrs. Owens stated. “The mindset shouldn’t be about controlling growth; it should be about managing growth. The biggest issue as a county moving forward is getting together and deciding how to manage the growth, so that as it happens, it’s the best kind of fit for our community and it’s the best kind of growth for our community.”

Other 2016 Okeechobee County races

Meet the candidates for Okeechobee County Commission: District 1

Meet the candidates for Okeechobee County Commission: District 3

Meet the candidates for Okeechobee County Commission: District 5

Meet the Okeechobee County property appraiser candidates

Meet the candidates for Okeechobee County Sheriff

Meet the Okeechobee County School Board candidates

Primary Election Information

Local candidates seek elected office 3/27/16

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment