Two Villagers who hope to become Fruitland Park City commissioners are advancing to the General Election after getting the most votes Tuesday among three candidates.
John Mobilian, of the Village of Pine Hills, and Fred Collins, of the Village of Pine Ridge, both are vying to become the first Villages residents to serve Fruitland Park as District 2 commissioners. Mobilian received 268 votes (47.77 percent) and Collins tallied 229 (40.82 percent). They both defeated the third candidate, August Kellerman, who received just 64 votes (11.41 percent).
As a result, Mobilian and Collins will battle it out in the Nov. 6 General Election for the District 2 post. That leaves them a little more than two months to campaign and convince their constituents in The Villages portion of Fruitland Park who would be the best representative on the commission.
Tuesday night, Mobilian said he’s looking forward to getting ready for the general election.
“I’m very satisfied with the results,” he said. “I’d like to have had 50 percent plus one, but that’s OK.”
Mobilian said he plans it be in the community talking to his fellow residents on a regular basis. And he offered a word of praise to everyone who helped him get his message out.
“I really want to thank my neighbors for their tireless efforts,” he said. “They spent a lot of time and I really appreciate the work. Now it will be the same thing up until November.”
Collins offered a word of congratulations to Mobilian for getting the most votes and said he was happy to be one of the top two vote-getters.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge of Nov. 6,” he said. “I’ll be out talking to people and I’ll have a lot more help. It’s really about meeting the people.”
Mobilian, a fiscal conservative, hopes to bring that same philosophy to the commission. In a recent interview, he said it’s important for voters to elect someone who will have their best interests at heart.
“We all worked hard for everything we have and don’t throw our money away,” he said. “We don’t want our government to throw it away, either.”
Mobilian said Villagers living in both Fruitland Park and Lake County are the “highest taxed residents” in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown. He cited a recent Villages-News.com article about the city’s annual audit, which showed a net position increase of $2.2 million in 2017, with an unassigned fund balance of $471,116 in the general fund.
“Most of this overage was directly due to the residents of The Villages,” said the Air Force veteran and former Federal Express airline captain. “As such, we should also be actively involved in ensuring that our taxes and other income streams into the city will benefit Villagers, as well as the entirety of Fruitland Park.”
Mobilian, who along with wife Mary Ann moved to The Villages from Ponte Vedra Beach in February 2017, said the commission needs to take another step to save taxpayers’ money.
“I would expect to see our millage rates decrease as the tax base increases, much like we saw for Marion and Sumter Counties,” he said, “which so far has not been the case.”
Meanwhile, in a recent interview, Collins said that if elected, he would put his many years of experience in corporate management and civil and highway engineering to work. He also promised to be a strong advocate for Villagers and to make sure that proposed projects benefit the entire city. And he vowed to make sure residents will have “the best police and fire protection possible” while maintaining cost effectiveness.
“I will be a good steward of the public’s tax monies and fight to prohibit wasteful spending,” said Collins, who moved to The Villages with his wife, Jan, three years ago from Odessa in Pasco County.
As a commissioner, Collins, originally from Massachusetts, said his 18 years of experience in overseeing the day-to-day functions of a high-tech sheet metal company will come in handy.
“In its first year under my oversight, sales went from under $1 million per year to consistently over $1 million per month thereafter,” he said. “I negotiated thousands of contracts, big and small, and culled great relationships with vendors.”
Collins, who already is attending commission meetings, added that he’d also like to see more economic growth.
“The road to growth is by attracting business,” he said. “The widening of Miller Boulevard (County Road 466A) will present opportunities for future business. The city needs to make efforts to attract that business. With a solid commission, careful planning and decision-making, Fruitland Park can flourish.”
The winner of the District 2 race in the Nov. 6 General Election will be joined on the Fruitland Park Commission by fellow Villager Patrick DeGrave. The longtime police officer and veteran of local government was the only candidate to file for the District 1 seat.
The winner in District 2 will replace Ray Lewis, who was elected in November 2014 at the same time voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to divide the city into five districts. Since Lewis, who also served on the Fruitland Park Charter Review Committee, doesn’t live in District 2, he couldn’t run for the post again.
The same holds true in District 1 for current Commissioner Rick Ranize. He also was elected in November 2014 and since he doesn’t live in the district he currently represents, he wasn’t eligible to run for re-election.