There will be a special election on April 2nd to fill a seat on the nonpartisan Naples City Council for a term that will end on February 1, 2022. The seat became vacant last month when Councilor Linda Penniman resigned due to the health of her husband.
Even if you’re not a City resident, decisions of the Naples City Council affect the quality of life and property values of many Collier voters, so read on! To enter your address and see if you live in the City, click here.
In this post, I’ll summarize what I learned about the candidates from online research, attending a candidate forum, and written responses to four questions I sent the candidates at the email addresses listed on their Campaign Appointment & Designation Forms. Three of the four responded, thoughtfully and with care, in the time allotted. Mr. Moss did not respond to a first or a second request. I’ve significantly edited the answers for brevity, so I encourage you to read them in their entirety via the link in each candidate section, below. I’ll also share what I learned from the campaign finance reports.
Ted Blankenship, 53, grew up on a small farm, where he “learned the value of hard work early on.” He earned a Bachelor of Science with high honors from Auburn University in Alabama, attended the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School, and earned a Six Sigma Green Belt Certificate (related to process quality management) at Villanova University.
Blankenship is a CPA and former partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers (a large international accounting and consulting firm) with over 30 years of experience in business and large global corporations. He has served as CFO of three companies (one public, two private), and lived and worked in multiple states and countries. His LinkedIn profile is here.
Blankenship, who “is committed to a lifetime of service,” currently serves as board member and treasurer of Youth 4 Orphans (a Naples-based organization that “trains the next generation of Christian leaders to answer God’s call and care for the orphan”), as board member of Gulf Coast Runners, and as an Alternate on the Naples Community Services Advisory Board.
He has been a Naples resident since 2011 and he and his wife Angela Blankenship, a 2nd-grade teacher, have three children. He is an avid runner and has completed 74 marathons to date.
In response to one of my questions, Blankenship said three things he wants to accomplish if elected are:
- “Accelerate storm water treatment projects…;”
- “Implement an enhanced fertilizer management ordinance and collaborate with Collier County to adopt a similar ordinance…;” and
- “Begin to streamline and improve the City’s customer-facing processes”…including the building permit process and communicating key aspects of the budget to citizens….
Asked what recent City Council decision(s) he disagreed with, he cited:
- “Delays in dealing with water quality issues in Naples Bay and the Gulf; and
- “Failing to update the fertilizer ordinance to address concerns about the impact on algae in the water.”
Ray Christman, 69, was born in Pittsburgh and raised in St. Petersburg, FL. He received a Business degree from Florida State and a Master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh with a concentration in City Planning.
As a city planner, he says he “spent many years successfully transforming Pittsburgh from a challenged industrial economy to one based on technology, education and health care” as head of Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority and founder/president of the Pittsburgh Technology Council. He then served as Secretary of Commerce for the state of Pennsylvania. In the 1990s – 2000s, Christman spent 15 years in banking, leading first the Pittsburgh and then the Atlanta Federal Home Loan Banks, whose mission is to provide liquidity to support housing finance and community investment. After banking, he turned to the field of land and water conservation, working for local conservancies and as the southeastern U.S. director for the Trust for Public Land (TPL) (a national land conservation organization) with oversight of TPL’s activities in Florida. As the Florida State Director of TPL, he oversaw the campaign to pass, in 2014, the Florida Water and Land Legacy Amendment that created and funded a 20-year program to protect Florida’s water and land resources.
Christman, who says he “has always been active in local civic affairs,” chaired the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, and the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, and served on several nonprofit boards. Locally, he served on the Naples’ Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board from January 2018 to January 2019 and as Executive Director of Ethics Naples from September 2017 to January 2019, resigning from both positions when he filed to run for Council. He continues to volunteer with the Old Naples Association, of which he is a member, and serves on several national or regional non-profit boards located outside of Naples.
Christman and his wife Eileen began regular visits to Naples in the early 1980s, purchased their home in 2003, and are year-round residents. They have three grown children.
The three things Christman wants to accomplish if elected are:
- “A comprehensive and integrated Clean Water strategy (Naples Clean Water 2025)….;”
- “Hit the “reset button” on the growing densification of development in Naples, particularly in its central core….;” and
- “Develop a strategy and plan [for the City’s Community Redevelopment Area] that is “community centered and people based”, not one that is based on maximum tax dollar monetization of the area….”
Asked to name recent City Council decision(s) he disagreed with, he cited:
- “The permitting of the 465 Fifth Avenue building (2016), which violated city requirements for permitted number of floors, building height, and underground parking…;”
- “The permitting of the Old Naples Hotel (2018) on Third and Broad, which allowed for seven variances which together allowed a hotel about 25% too large for the site to go forward…;” and
- “The decision (2018) not to refer the Ethics Naples referendum petition to the ballot but instead to file legal action against Ethics Naples in an effort to block this initiative….”
In addition, in response to this question, Christman commented on a decision Council almost made: “an ill-conceived proposal to build a public parking garage at a site located at 4th Avenue South and 4th Street.” He concluded, “Council should clearly and definitively take action to remove this proposed project from any possible future consideration.”
Christman has been endorsed by City Councilor Terry Hutchison, former Councilors Linda Penniman and Teresa Lee Heitmann, Dolph Von Arx, Chair – Regional Business Alliance SWFL, and John Lehmann, Past President, Old Naples Association. List here.
George Dondanville, 68, grew up in Southern Idaho. He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Denver and a law degree from the Stetson College of Law in St. Petersburg, FL.
He practiced law in Ft. Myers for nine years, first as an assistant State attorney and then in a small private practice. He left the practice of law in 1986, and managed a bicycle shop for 6 years, then opened and managed, for the next 20 years, the first local running store in Naples. He then worked with his wife’s small business as a kayak guide in the backwaters surrounding Naples.
Dondanville says his civic involvement “always dealt with the health, welfare and safety of the citizens.” He served for eight years on the County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, helping form its first advisory committee regarding sidewalks and pathways. He was also a founding member of the Naples Pathways Coalition, advocating for safe, bikeable, walkable communities. From 1992 to 2000, he served on the City of Naples’ Community Service Advisory Board, advising Council on the remake of Cambier Park and on updating the City Park Master Plan. And he was involved in the first and second attempts at creating the Conservation Collier Program and the Gordon River Greenway.
Dondanville has been a full-time resident of Naples since 1986.
Three things he wants to accomplish if elected are:
- “…move forward with strong commitments to water and its related natural resource issues…;”
- “…handle growth so that its consequent traffic issues of congestion do not harm the overall charm or the safety, health, and well being of the City…;” and
- “…as the City re-develops itself not lose sight of what attracted all of us to live here…”
A recent City Council decision he disagreed with is:
- “Council acting as Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) at the 30% design phase presentation of the 8th Street corridor project (that was to implement sewer, storm water, and transportation improvements to that corridor) decided not to move forward with most of the transportation improvements that dealt with complete streets….”
According to a full-page ad in the March 2019 Life in Naples magazine, Moss is committed to:
- “Communication and collaboration with residents, staff and regional agencies;
- “Restoring financial reserves by making sure the $9 million in FEMA reimbursements is collected;
- “Protecting Naples’s waterways with proactive stormwater management;
- “Maintaining low millage rates and maximizing existing resources; and
- “Advocating for the overall health of the community.”
He retired in January 2019 after serving as Naples city manager for a decade. Before starting work for Naples in 2008, Moss was the city manager of Marco Island for 11 years, starting with its inception as a city in 1998. Moss was previously city manager in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Atlantic Beach, Florida
Moss is a graduate of Southern Illinois University and served a tour in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Bronze Star. He and his family have lived in Collier County for 21 years.
Moss has been endorsed by Mayor Bill Barnett, Vice Mayor Gary Price, Councilors Ellen Seigal, Michelle McLeod and Reg Buxton, former state Rep. Dudley Goodlette, former Naples Daily News publisher Alan Horton, former Naples Mayor John Sorey, former councilman Sam Saad III, among others. List here; website here.
From the most recently-available campaign treasurer reports:
- Blankenship’s campaign is largely self-funded. He raised $950 in 6 contributions from individuals.
- Christman raised $36,385 from 84 contributions. Five of the 84 (11% of the money) were from businesses and 79 (89% of the money) were from individuals.
- Dondanville raised $3,570. His 22 contributions were all from individuals.
- Moss raised $44,525 from 112 contributions. Thirty of them (32% of the money) were from businesses, three (7% of the money) were from Realtors PAC (with addresses in Tallahassee or Orlando), and 79 (61%) were from individuals.
For details of contributions and expenditures, see the monthly campaign treasurers’ reports here.
About the candidate forums
These articles by Naples Daily News reporter Lisa Conley may be of interest:
- Naples City Council candidates discuss development, water quality in first forum, 2/28/19
- Naples City Council candidates debate Naples Beach Hotel redevelopment plan at second forum, 3/7/19
- Naples City Council candidates discuss low-income River Park area at forum, 3/20/19
I urge all City of Naples voters to participate in this special election on April 2. For questions or more information, visit the City of Naples Elections website or call 239-213-1015.