Desloge gets first challenge in more than a decade for county district 4 seat

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

For as long as Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge has been in office, he’s gone unopposed for the last three elections to retain the District 4 seat.

Not this year, though. And, his opposition, Brian Welch, sounds formidable when he talks about taking on the incumbent in his bid to become representative of the northeast side of town.

“The most important thing that we need in northeast Tallahassee right now is an advocate; somebody that would prioritize our community needs ahead of the special interests that seek to profit off of developing things in our community,” Welch said. “I want to create a dialog between the developers and the communities in the neighborhood that are impacted by the development so that we can mitigate some of the negative impacts that these developments might have.”

In addition to getting development in the area under control, Welch said he’d like to see a new park that has been talked about for at least eight years.

Brian Welch

With the race being between two candidates, voters will have to make their choice on Nov. 3. Had there been another candidate in the race, the Aug. 18 primary would have decided if there would be another round for the candidates.

While Welch is challenging Desloge’s effectiveness in handling development, it is clear that Desloge is running on his record. Desloge first took office in 2006 when he completed the last two years of Tony Grippa’s term following his resignation to leave town.

Ironically, Welch and Desloge filed on the same day last June to compete for the seat. Desloge seemingly welcome the challenge from Welch.

 “I’m positive that there are people out there, because of the decisions I’ve made, are going to disagree with me,” Desloge said. “But I think if you look at my record, I’ve been (commission) chairman for the second time and president of our state association and national association.”

Desloge is in his second term as chairman of the Leon County Commission. He is also former president of the State Association of County Commissions and he also was president of the National Association of Counties.

Bryan Desloge

Welch, a social studies teacher at Chiles High School, said he is running because of his belief that the northeast is underserved. He is especially concerned about having more input from residents on development.

“Development keep popping up right and left all over this side of town,” he said. “Residents aren’t given an opportunity to engage in that process.

“I’m not an anti-development guy. I realize that development is going to happen in the northeast and it has to. But my problem is with the process that we go about allowing that development.”

Welch raised questions about development along Bannerman Road, a project that Desloge said had been dormant until he took office. That and the purchase of 100 acres north of Chiles High School for a ballpark are among improvements that he brought or is planning for the area.

In the meanwhile, there is the challenge from Welch to contend with.

“I’m in this to go the distance,” Desloge said. “I’m in it to win it.”

Both men have had to slow down their campaigns since early spring when the coronavirus struck. They have since found unconventional ways such as using social media to promote their campaigns. 

“You can’t do the traditional knocking on doors or having campaign events,” Desloge said. “I will be curious to see if and when people get comfortable about a stranger coming to their door. It’s a little hard with the mask and you don’t know the person.”