The last time there was an election for a Seat on the Board of Supervisors of the Gateway CDD was in November 2014, when a total of 3,358 votes were cast.
The winner of that election, Rod Senior, told me that he specifically chose to run against the sitting Chairman of the board (at that time), Pete Doragh, because he feared that if he ran against Pelican Preserve resident (and current Chairman) William Guy, the Pelican voting block would ensure Senior’s defeat.
Stoneybrook resident, and now Supervisor-elect, Kathleen Flaherty took the opposite approach and decided to take the Pelican Preserve community head on.
Flaherty won the election, in which a stunning 5,369 votes were cast – defeating a candidate from Pelican Preserve for the first time in recent history and possibly for the first time ever.
Make no mistake, Pelican Preserve voters did their job. They came out in record numbers and handed Flaherty’s opponent, Pelican Preserve resident Mary Carol Stanley, a nearly 1,000 vote lead from that community alone.
But it wasn’t enough.
Gateway residents showed up in force, perhaps tired of Pelican’s dominance at the ballot box. When all the GSCDD votes were counted Flaherty won the election by 461 votes. Meaning Gateway residents backed one of their own, by 1,400 votes.
There was a nearly 60% increase in turnout for this GSCDD election. While some of that can be attributed to the heightened interest in 2016 elections over-all, that alone does not explain the record turnout in Gateway.
In my analysis Gateway residents were keenly aware of how important this election was to their community. For that reason they headed to the ballot box and voted for Flaherty in droves, whereas perhaps in recent years they would have skipped the GSCDD races altogether.
Pelican Preserve is a 55 and older community, while the 2010 Census showed just 12.97% of Gateway residents are retirees. Flaherty’s strategy was to pound the pavement, and the Sherman Soccer Complex, sharing her family-first message and family-oriented vision for the future of Gateway.
Flaherty was also the only candidate who spoke about building anything, telling the Gateway Sun that she would like to see baseball diamonds built on the huge piece of land that the district owns next to the Gateway Commons Pool.
Whether baseball fields get built there isn’t the point. It’s just the fact that a candidate wanted to do something to add to the community, instead of taking away, that stood out in this campaign season.
But Flaherty will need to heed this piece of advice in her victory: she is a piece of the GSCDD puzzle, but she is not going to be the centerpiece.
And I’m not going to lie. For that reason, Stanley would have likely been the more suitable candidate to sit on the board. Stanley has the mannerisms to be a member of the supporting cast. Flaherty will want to lead, govern and control the agenda, which she will not.
With the victory of Vice-Chairman Margaret Fineberg over George Huskamp (article later today) control of the five member Board of Supervisors will remain with the trio of Fineberg, Guy and Supervisor Doug Banks, who have worked extremely well together.
Flaherty will need to find a way to integrate herself on to the board rather than coming in and attempting to assume control.
One text message I received about Flaherty last night said: “[Flaherty] is really nosey and bossy. She takes liberties she shouldn’t.”
I’ve heard similar things from many people over the campaign season, and I’ve written about that.
But the bottom line is that Flaherty found a way to do the impossible: she beat Pelican Preserve.
And in the campaign process I think she gained a newfound respect for – and understanding of – the residents of the Gateway community.
So I’m confident when I say that I believe she can adapt to existing dynamic of the board, and become a very productive member of it.
Congratulations, Supervisor-elect Kathleen Flaherty.