2024 Election

Three Challengers Filed for Palm Coast Mayoral Election


The 2024 election for Palm Coast Mayor is already underway - not voting just yet, but certainly the process of candidates immersing themselves into the world of campaigning has begun. It will be the first chance for the residents of Palm Coast to choose their mayor since summer 2021, an unusually short interval caused by the resignation of Milissa Holland and subsequent special election. Holland stepped down due to personal conflicts, opening the seat up for six challengers.

Five out of the six had run for office before: Alan Lowe for Mayor, David Alfin and Cornelia Manfre for City Council, Carol Bacha for School Board, and Doug Courtney for the Florida House of Representatives. Kathy Austrino was campaigning for the first time and is currently in her second campaign, this time for City Council. As it would turn out, Alfin won handily, securing the remaining three years and change to serve as Mayor. Because this first term isn't a full four years, he'll have the opportunity to be re-elected up to two more times, giving him the rare chance to be Mayor for over a decade.

In those three years he's overseen the start of a transformational period for Palm Coast. Development is happening at a faster pace than ever, and the city's sights have never been higher - or clearer. The population is set to boom, the city's infrastructure is already being tested strenuously, and the area's demographic and business landscape is evolving. Alfin's leadership in this period has been the subject of both praise and criticism, to a degree which over time has come to rival the intense politicization under Holland's own tenure. It is no surprise, then, that three challengers have filed their intent to run against Alfin, and that even before the end of last year their fledgling campaigns had already begun.

Alfin will be running for re-election, but says he's waiting to officially file until relatively late, in order to avoid campaigning while serving for as much time as he can. The three other candidates are listed here as follows, sorted alphabetically by surname. A series of introductory questions were sent to each of the three challengers to gauge their background and intentions.

Peter Johnson

Born: July 6th, 1993 (Age 30)

Hometown: Palm Coast, FL

1. Can you provide a summary of your educational and professional background? 

"I attended Daytona State College where I graduated with honors and earned an AS degree in Emergency Medical Services and an AA specialized in Psychology as well as a Paramedic Certification. I was a volunteer with Flagler County Fire Rescue on Rescue 92 and 21 from 2010-2013 and I currently own and operate my own handyman business and serve the residents of Flagler, Volusia, and St. Johns counties."

2. What made you decide to seek the office of Mayor in 2024?

"The answer to this question is simple - I love Palm Coast and I care about our city a lot. I do as the majority of resident feel that the city is headed in the wrong direction. We need vibrant leadership who isn't afraid to stand up for residents of this city and serve Palm Coast with the best interest for the community overall, not just the special interests of developers.

"It's a beautiful area with so much potential for other Florida coastline communities to model how you can properly balance the influx of growth that the state is experiencing while simultaneously preserving its natural beauty. Yet the current administration is not doing that and almost every resident I have spoken to agrees - we need to slow residential growth before expanding the cities footprint. "

3. What are some things you'd like to see change on the City Council under your mayorship?

"The entire City Council, excluding Councilwoman Theresa Pontieri, and including City Manager Denise Bevan needs to learn how to be forthcoming and transparent with the residents both at council meetings and throughout day to day operations. It's not just lacking, it's non-existent. One of the few things that me and the current Mayor agree on is that the position of Mayor should not be done primarily behind a desk, but instead hand in hand with the residents to address our issues as a community.

"I bring this up because Mayor Alfin ran on this promise and has failed to deliver. I will and shall continue to change they way leadership is involved in the community and show how we can work together to address a wide variety of topics with significant citizen involvement. I'm not waiting till election day to start making changes. I am actively working with numerous groups in the community right now to address major rezoning, comprehensive plan amendments, and infrastructure issues within Palm Coast. This involvement in the community will not stop until the day I leave office."

Scott McDonald

Born: December 31st, 1975 (Age 48)

Hometown: Seneca, SC

1. Can you provide a summary of your educational and professional background?

"Professionally, I have over 25 years of experience working with the internet. My career started in the late 90s building and securing one of the world's first ISPs. Since then I have worked for some of the world's largest organizations, including Fortune 500 companies and various cloud consulting agencies. I have a proven track record of success in helping organizations to identify, assess, and mitigate cybersecurity risks while migrating into cloud environments.

"In addition, I am also a successful small business owner. What started as a mycology hobby has now grown into Flagler Fungi, a small local business that provides gourmet mushrooms to our farmers markets and restaurants. The focus of Flagler Fungi is on producing Lion's Mane mushrooms for brain health benefits (and they taste great). I have a passion for healthy food and believe that Palm Coast needs more local options."

2. What made you decide to seek the office of Mayor in 2024?

"I am running for Mayor because I believe that I have the experience, the skills, and the vision to lead our city into the future. I am passionate about making Palm Coast the best place possible for all of our residents, and I believe that I can make a real difference in our community."

3. What are some things you'd like to see change on the City Council under your mayorship?

"I have three main priorities for the City Council:

A) Economic development: I will work to create jobs and attract new businesses to Palm Coast. I will also work to support our existing businesses and to create a more favorable environment for entrepreneurs.

B) Technology: I will work to make Palm Coast a leader in technology innovation. I will support the development of new technologies and businesses, and I will work to make Palm Coast a more attractive destination for tech workers and entrepreneurs.

C) Infrastructure: I will work to improve our infrastructure, including our roads, bridges, and parks. I will also work to protect our environment and to ensure that Palm Coast remains a beautiful and livable place for generations to come."

Scott was asked in a follow-up to expand further upon his intentions for infrastructure. He responded as follows.

"A portion of Palm Coast's roads fall under FDOT jurisdiction. To initiate improvements on those roads, I would leverage my experience in collaboration and project management to work closely with FDOT officials. This would involve:

  • Identifying specific infrastructure needs: Conducting a comprehensive analysis of our city's infrastructure, including roads, bridges, and drainage systems, to pinpoint areas requiring immediate attention.
  • Building strong relationships with FDOT: Establishing open communication channels and fostering a collaborative relationship with FDOT representatives to ensure clear communication and streamlined project execution.
  • Securing funding: Exploring various funding options, including grants, partnerships, and public-private initiatives, to supplement city funds and support FDOT projects within Palm Coast.
  • Community engagement: Engaging residents and businesses throughout the planning and implementation process to gather feedback and ensure transparency.

For infrastructure improvements outside FDOT jurisdiction, I would focus on:

  • Prioritizing urgent repairs and maintenance: Addressing critical road repairs, drainage issues, and sidewalk construction to improve safety and accessibility for all residents.
  • Investing in green infrastructure: Implementing sustainable solutions like rain gardens and bioswales to improve stormwater management and reduce environmental impact.
  • Leveraging technology: Utilizing smart traffic management systems and other innovative technologies to optimize traffic flow and reduce congestion.
  • Promoting green transportation: Expanding bike lanes, sidewalks, and public transportation options to encourage eco-friendly travel alternatives."

Mike Norris

Born: October 25th, 1969 (Age 54)

Hometown: McColl, SC

1. Can you provide a summary of your educational and professional background? 

"I have received two Master's Degrees from Webster University, Walker School of Business & Technology Jacksonville, FL. Those degrees are in Management & Leadership and Human Resources Management. My undergraduate degree is in Political Science with a minor in History, from Cameron University Lawton, Oklahoma.

"I'm a retired U.S. Army officer with more than 24 years of service, both as an enlisted soldier and officer. I served 13 years as a Chemical Operations Specialist, in a variety of roles from Team Leader to Senior Drill Sergeant reaching the rank of Staff Sergeant before commissioning as a Second Lieutenant in 2002. As a field artillery officer, I served as a Platoon Leader, Fires and Effects Coordinator, Assistant Professor of Military Science, and as the Human Resources Manager / Personnel Officer of the Jacksonville Recruiting Battalion before retiring in 2012. Post retirement I have worked as a Senior Chemical Defense Training Officer (Military Contractor), Safety Compliance Officer (State of Florida), Physical Security Officer and Critical Infrastructure Protection Officer (Department of Defense). My wife and I currently own two small businesses in Palm Coast; Palm Coast Pressure Washing and Paint and Aloha Critters of Palm Coast (In home pet care service).

"Besides my extensive leadership background in the military, my background as a Critical Infrastructure Protection Officer in Okinawa, Japan has ideally prepared me for service a community leader. In that position I was tasked, as the second in the civilian chain of command to the Camp Director of Camps Foster, Lester, and Plaza, with making decisions for the good of more than 40,000 constituents. These constituents were comprised of military service members, Department of Defense civilian employees, their dependents, and Japanese nationals who worked on these installations.

"I was highly involved in the revitalization and total upgrades of infrastructure projects on these facilities, as part of the Marine Corps Installations Pacific (MCIPAC). During this assignment I was responsible for managing and synchronizing camp functions, through subordinates, to direct substantial workload requirements for successful operation of Camp Foster, Camp Lester, Fort Buckner, Taiyo Golf Course, and Plaza Housing Area.

These responsibilities required considerable coordination and integration of a number of major work assignments, infrastructure projects, and program segments of professional, technical, managerial. and administrative work. The scope of this work includes facility management, disaster preparedness and recovery, logistics, community relations, safety, environmental compliance, morale and welfare, quality of life improvements, mission assurance, training site resource management, contracting oversight, base access, community planning, and family and bachelor housing assignments."

2. What made you decide to seek the office of Mayor in 2024?

"Simply put, our city needs to get back to the basics of good governance and prioritizing resources where they are needed most."

3. What are some things you'd like to see change on the City Council under your mayorship?

"I am committed to improving the quality of life in our city by focusing on five key areas of concern:

Revitalizing existing infrastructure. Our city’s infrastructure is aging and is being strained by the upsurge in growth. We have to get back to the basics and prioritize resources to address critical systems that support our residents’ well-being. This includes safe and well-maintained roadways, a fully functioning storm water system, and safe water. Our priorities for state revenues should be concentrated towards shoring up existing infrastructure before expanding our city’s boundaries.

Attract industrial growth and employment opportunities by promoting the strategic location of our wonderful city. This means increasing industrial zoning in the city, specifically to attract industries seeking to capitalize on access to an active railroad system, the I-95 corridor, and the close proximity of the Jacksonville port. Approximately 25,000 residents commute out of our county each morning for work, that’s 23% of the total population of the county. A significant portion of which are career minded professionals who are unable to find employment that provides livable wages, because those types of industries are just not available in our city and county. We need to significantly diversify our economy in order to ease the tax burden of our residents. Some 90% of our city’s budget comes from residential property taxes, which is unsustainable without undue burden on our citizens. The only way to correct these shortcomings is to aggressively promote and recruit industries that manufacture products and services on a larger scale which will provide higher wages. We are ideally positioned to accomplish these goals while maintaining the “Old Florida” feel that makes our city such an ideal place to live.

Increase public safety and security. We have to focus resources towards our failing and congested roadways. With the significant increase in growth, along with the age of our roadways, we have to make improvements and maintain this vital part of our infrastructure as top priority. Citizens’ concerns regarding dangerous streets and roadways have to be addressed to ensure the safety of our residents. We will continue a proactive relationship with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office to ensure root causes of criminal activity are adequately tackled. This includes improving lighting and surveillance systems, partnering with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office to increase patrols and investigations, and investing in social programs that help at-risk individuals and families.

Smart growth and expansion by promoting sustainable development. This means balancing economic growth with environmental responsibility, encouraging the development of green spaces and parks, and creating pedestrian friendly neighborhoods that reduce reliance on cars. With the passing of the Live Local Act, we have to ensure that we use the pedestrian friendly city concept to encourage the development of the town center area of the city. No further expansion of the city boundaries should happen until our existing infrastructure is capable of sustaining the exponential growth of what could be a doubling our city’s footprint.

Empower the commercial development of the town center by supporting the growth of businesses in the central business district. This can include working with centers of influence to bring the long-awaited development of Town Center into the thriving business district it was meant to be, and promised to the residents of the city. The use of public/private ventures can be used to expedite development by using properties owned by the city in partnership with developers to create attractive retail spaces. We have to have a commitment by centers of influence and developers to ensure we create an appealing commercial business district at the heart of the city. This could include cultural and civic venues that would attract both economic growth and civic pride."