Panama City Beach Mayoral Candidate Information

by April 14, 2012 • 7 comments

With election day coming up on Tuesday April 17th, the Panama City Beach Mayoral candidates are preparing to stake their claim on the results.  There are 4 “qualified” candidates running and the issues they’re discussing range from future tourism, current spring break woes and future development-related concerns.

I reached out to three of the four candidates with interview questions and got a response back from two of them.  Sharon Hagstrom I was unable to find contact information for.  Sharon, if you see this in time, contact us here and we’ll get your answers added.  Also, Ken, I sent you an email as well, if you get me your answers back, I’ll get them added.

The four candidates are Sharon Hagstrom, Ken Nelson, Gayle Oberst (current Mayor), and Travis Schofer (listed in alphabetical order).

Gayle Oberst – Current Mayor

Q. What is your background in public service and how do you think that background lends to your potential mayoral performance?

I have served as Mayor for the past six years and am involved in many social, civic, and municipal/state activities. I have served in various capacities in another state. I have first-hand knowledge of civic, business and community matters, and have written grants and worked to secure funding for many projects such as youth activities, building libraries, providing recreation, additional police services, and educational activities. My professional background in finance, budgeting, and management serves to make me a better Mayor. Since I am retired, I work full time for our community and city and bring to the Mayor’s office and the Council a balance representation of all beach residents and businesses.

Q. What is your position on the topic of College Spring Break, how it is now, how it used to be and what do you envision for it in the future?

As the culture of our nation has changed so has the culture of those attending spring break. The City is requesting that a task force be formed of the City Council, County Commission, TDC Board, Chamber of Commerce Board, Economic Development Director, and local residents to discuss spring break and tourism in general. I think these entities can make some changes such as with our special events and noise ordinances, parking issues, enforcement, etc. and coordinate activities so that we have better control. I sincerely hope that we can increase the family spring break business and that would make us less dependent on the college/high school spring breakers.

Q.What do you plan to do to help grow our tourism industry?

The City does not market the beach thus we do not plan for and grow tourism. Our concerns center around providing services for our citizens. We depend on tourism for the funding to support the City and these services. The City appoints 4 members of the TDC and two of those must be city council members. Usually the Mayor serves on that council and represents the local residents viewpoint. I make the point in discussions about the direction of tourism marketing “PCB needs to be a year round family resort.”

Q.What do you plan to do to help grow other industry in the Panama City Beach area?

The City works with the Beaches Chamber and Bay County Chamber of Commerce and they in turn with the Bay County Economic Development Alliance to attract industry to the area. As the commercial land in and around the airport develops, it would be natural since PCB is only 15 minutes away to see our City become the housing area for those employees.

Q. What are some of the other issues you believe are critical to Panama City Beach right now?

The City has been working on a number of things such as transportation/traffic issues. The County, Department of Transportation, and the City are installing high tech fiber optics along Back Beach Road and Highway 79 that is estimated to increase the efficiency of the traffic on these by 25%. We have also gotten the 6 laning of the Back Beach Road moved up in priority with DOT. We are working on loop roads that will ease the traffic off as well. The City has an environmental concern with putting retreated water into West Bay and that has been solved with the Conservation Park which is good for the environment and provides recreation. The redevelopment of the rest of the Front Beach Road with the Community Redevelopment Agency is something we will work on for the next 20 years and not only will it beautify the area but will solve parking and traffic concerns. Another issue is maintaining a noise level that works for tourism, second home owners, and permanent residents. Maintaining and increasing services provided to our residents without a property tax is an issue that the City has met but must always be aware of and work through on budgets. The Land Development codes for property development are updated, ready to be reviewed, and put into place.

Travis Schofer

Q. What is your background in public service and how do you think that background lends to your potential mayoral performance?

I am a Military Police Combat Veteran of the United States Army having served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. I have 12 years hospitality/service industry management. I have experience in US and world market financial trading as a day trader of the stock market. I live, work, and eat in Panama City Beach. I shop at Pier Park, I play softball at Frank Brown, and I walk my dogs at the dog Beach in Panama City Beach. I am an everyday resident of the working class.

Q.What is your position on the topic of College Spring Break, how it is now, how it used to be and what do you envision for it in the future?

I feel Spring Break is very important part of our local economy. I hear a lot about business owners alone profiting from Spring Break, but I think many forget about the employees of those business that rely on that boost to our economy to support their families after a financially slow winter for the hospitality/tourist industry. I believe that solutions to subsidize that Spring Break revenue need to be brought into plan before the City can actively put many employees out of work by pushing this boost to our economy away.

Q.What do you plan to do to help grow our tourism industry?

I have brought ideas out during my campaign such as the City working with the TDC to bring in a minor league sports franchise such as double A Baseball team to our City. If we can effectively market a small franchise we may be able to lure a Major League Baseball Team for a Spring Training which coincidentally begins early March every year. This would be family friendly and major tourist attraction that could partially subsidize a Spring Break crowd. I also believe we should try to market a major amusement park to our area.

Q.What do you plan to do to help grow other industry in the Panama City Beach area?

I believe that Panama City Beach needs a third revenue driver that is not reliant on only Military or tourism. I believe that we are sitting on a gold mine in our area and that laying the foundation, to build a proper infrastructure for a controlled healthy economic growth is important for our future 5 to 10 years down the road. We need to market our City to Major world “Site Planners” but we need cohesion of all City and County officials to market correctly. But at the same time if our City is going to rely on tourism to support our City, it is incumbent upon us as leaders to give the tourist something to do.

Q.What are some of the other issues you believe are critical to Panama City Beach right now?

I believe that Panama City Beach needs stronger leadership and transparency for residents. I believe that there is a silent majority out there of the next generation of leaders who need to realize they can make a difference in our community. I also feel that the City budget can be more effectively allocated to better serve the community. Panama City Beach needs to regain their confidence and that is what will help drive our economy. Panama City Beach needs a fresh start with new leaders of tomorrow stepping up to the plate today.

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1 Gregg April 15, 2012 at 7:03 am

So in other words the two candidates who stated their positions are going to do nothing about the Spring Break fiasco! I am hoping to hear from Mr. Nelson.

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2 James April 15, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I believe that Mr. Schofer was the only candidate that actually had a plan about Spring Break and alternatives. The rest just say “we need to look into that”

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3 Gregg April 15, 2012 at 9:13 pm

The way I read Mr Scholer’s comments were………until we come up with an alternative, we are going to “do more talking” and keep things the same. Read like “we need to look into that” to me!

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4 Jimmy D April 16, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Bring on Gambling,,,,remember last in, first out………..jobs, jobs, jobs. Clean good
paying jobs. Wake up; look at what’s going on in Philadelphia, Pa

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5 Gregg April 16, 2012 at 7:53 pm

I’ll 2nd that! This would certainly bring year around visitors.

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