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Meet the challengers for the County Commission

Ocala, FL - March 17, 2012

Published: Saturday, March 17, 2012 at 6:32 p.m.

This year's County Commission incumbents won't get away without a primary challenge, after all.

Commissioners Mike Amsden and Stan McClain, both Republicans, will each be tested within the GOP.

David Moore of Ocala, who works in the financial services field, hopes to unseat Amsden. The incumbent is seeking a second term.

Marion County Sheriff's Sgt. Jeff Gold of Belleview is taking on McClain, who is running for a third term. The winner of that Republican primary will battle Democrat Patricia Reed in November.

Economic issues appear to be the key concerns for both challengers.

“I want to get the economy more diversified, so we're not so dependent on new home growth,” Gold, 46, said in a recent interview.

Housing, Gold said, was a solid part of the economy, but its benefits are temporary.

The county should be working to attract major employers that can provide sustainable jobs both in their own industry and by creating their own spin-off suppliers and contractors who could set up shop locally, he said.

Gold also believes there needs to be more emphasis on attracting jobs through greater cooperative efforts between the city of Ocala, the county and the governments' business allies — the new hybrid created by the merger of the Economic Development Cooperation and Chamber of Commerce as well as the Tourist Development Council.

On a related front, Gold said he is concerned about ongoing discussions of possibly selling Munroe Regional Medical Center.

Munroe Regional, he said, is an economic asset as well as a health care one. Having quality health care “may even influence businesses coming into the community,” he said.

Gold, a deputy for 22 years, also spent five years as a county firefighter-emergency medical technician before that. He believes the view of selling Munroe Regional might be short-sighted, with little attention paid to how that might affect emergency services workers — and taxpayers.

If a private company takes over Munroe Regional, and cuts services, the county would be responsible for getting those patients treated elsewhere, at a much higher cost, he said.

Gold added that he looks at the commissioner's post as a chance to further his service to the community.

If elected, he would retire from the Sheriff's Office and make being a commissioner his full-time job, he said.

“I want to be accessible to the community. I want people to see me, not only when an election comes up,” Gold said. “I wouldn't have any other business to conflict with my duties.”

Gold is a highly decorated deputy, earning many commendations, including being named the Veterans of Foreign Wars Florida Law Enforcement Officer of the Year in 2010, the same year he also earned the Sheriff's Office's Brian Litz Officer of Year Award.

A Forest High School graduate, Gold holds a bachelor's degree from Eckerd College, a master's degree from the University of Central Florida and expects to complete his doctoral work by the end of the year.

McClain and Gold are vying to represent District 3, which primarily spans the southern central and southeastern parts of Marion.

Meanwhile, Moore said in a recent statement announcing his candidacy that his vision is to return to government “of, by and for” the people.

“I am one of you; one of ‘We the People,' ” Moore said in his statement.

“I believe that my life's experiences, professional expertise, my abilities, skills, consistent principled philosophy and understanding of the issues uniquely qualify me to be an authentic representative of all the people and position me as the best candidate for the Marion County Commission,” he added.

“We need new, fresh, bold and principled leaders who have the courage and conviction to recommit and adhere to those conservative principles that made our community great,” he said.

In a follow-up email, Moore, 41, emphasized that he is running for the District 1 seat and not necessarily against Amsden or the “current crop” on the board.

“There have been positive things that have been implemented” regarding economic development, he added.

“However, our county has one of the highest unemployment rates in Florida and has remained there since the recession.”

“As the debate of ideas plays out in the public forum you will see the contrast of my philosophy of the role local government, along with a clear plan of how to bring Marion County's economy back to life.”

In his previous announcement, Moore said, if elected, he would work to encourage job growth in Marion County by removing government's “road blocks” — such as “heavy” taxation and unnecessary regulation.

“It is not the government that best creates jobs — it is the private sector,” he added. “In addition, we need to support the services here in Marion County that help make this the best place in the world to live.”

Those would include the community's hospitals, public safety workers and county staff.

Moore holds a bachelor's degree from Saint Leo University and a master's degree from Luther Rice University, a Christian college near Atlanta. Moore expects to earn a second master's degree from that college in May.

Although new to Marion County's political limelight, Moore is not exactly a political novice.

He lived in Citrus County before moving to Marion in 2002. In Citrus, he served five years on the Republican Executive Committee.

District 1 covers primarily eastern Ocala and portions of east Marion.

County commissioners make $75,599 a year under the state's population-based formula.