County Commission shocker
Welch ousts Desloge, Cummings defy odds to win at-large
St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff writer
Two first-time politicians did what the pundits didn’t expect in the outcome of municipal races for Leon County Commission seats.
The biggest upset last Tuesday night was scored by Brian Welch over longstanding commissioner Bryan Desloge, while Carolyn Cummings defied a pre-election poll that said she wouldn’t have beaten Kelly Otte for the at-large seat.
Cummings led from start to finish as vote totals were being returned. The seat was up for grabs because Mary Ann Lindley decided not to seek another term.
In the other key municipal race decided last Tuesday night, incumbent Curtis Richardson retained Seat 2 on the City Commission by beating Bill Shack, who had forced a runoff following the primary in August.
Desloge, who is in his second term as chairman of the County Commission, ran unopposed for the District 4 seat in the previous three elections.
“It feels great,” Welch said. “It’s exciting. It’s humbling. I’m very honored of having the privilege of serving the folks of district 4. It was obviously a strong statement that was made by the outcome. I’m looking forward to serving.”
Welch, a social studies teacher at Chiles High School, ran on a platform that questioned runaway development in the northeast. He also called for work on a park in the area that has been on the table for at least eight years.
He said the win is a mandate from his constituents. Desloge ran primarily on his record as a commissioner.
“I think the outcome speaks for itself,” Welch said. “The big issues that I highlighted were undelivered promises. Northeast Tallahassee has experienced a whole lot of development without the infrastructure that goes along with it. I’m going to make it a priority to make sure that northeast Tallahassee gets that infrastructure.
“These folks deserve to have what they were promised. My position is to be a vessel for their voices. I will just make sure that I amplify their voice as much as I can.”
Cummings’ presence gives the commission its third Black member. She and Otte were the two top vote-getters in the primary and going into Election Day a poll predicted that Otte would emerge as the at-large commissioner.
“It’s surreal. I’m just so thankful and grateful to God,” said Cummings a devout Christian, who said she refused to give in after seeing the poll.
“I said, we’ve got to keep fighting now and that’s what we did.”
She said it was easy for her to determine what her priority would be after going to two restaurants to buy lunch on Election Day only to find they were closed. That, she said, was a sign of how hard the coronavirus pandemic has hit Leon County.
Currently the county is offering help for victims of the pandemic in the LEONCARES program that provides funding for tenants and businesses might not be enough. Cummings would like to supplement that.
“People have lost their jobs,” she said. “Businesses have closed so we’ve got to jump start the economy. I think that has got to be first and foremost. People are unemployed and people are suffering so we’ve got to deal with that.”
Cummings also said that like she has done for her clients as an attorney, she would encourage her colleagues to think outside of the box to resolve issues.
“Collectively we’ve got to have to the same goal. We’ve got to work together,” she said. “It’s going to have to be a joint effort if we’re going to move forward. We have to have the same common goals to make Leon County the best county it could be so that the citizens that live here can earn a decent living and become part of the American dream.”
Richardson credited his campaign staff and supporters for the landside win.
“I’m so proud of the kind of campaign that we ran,” he said. “It was a clean, very positive campaign. I ran on experience and the leadership that I have provided for this community during my tenure on the city commission. I look forward now to working with the city manager and my colleagues on the commission to continue to move our great city forward.”
Richardson said his win also is a message from his constituents.
“I take that as a mandate that we continue doing the great work that we are doing to move this city forward,” Richardson said. “I couldn’t take anything for granted or anybody for granted.”