CRESTVIEW — The first candidate to enter the race for mayor of Crestview made his announcement this week.
City Council President J.B. Whitten announced his candidacy for mayor at the March 13 meeting of the Shoal River Republican Club. Whitten began by saying he would not seek re-election for city council in 2019. Then he announced he will run for mayor.
“I had goals when I was on the city council. I’ve fulfilled those goals,” Whitten said. “The one goal I had, to change the form of city government, if I didn’t fulfill that goal then I don’t want to be in the city government in the legislative branch, because I don’t feel as though I can do what I need to do.”
Whitten referred to the upcoming referendum on the city government in August, where the city of Crestview will vote on whether to change the city’s charter and form of government.
Crestview’s current mayor, David Cadle, completes his third term as the city’s chief executive in 2019. Whitten said Cadle, who has not yet announced if he plans to run for another term, was one of the first people he reached out to when he decided to run.
Whitten first ran for city council in 2015 as an at-large candidate after retiring from the U.S. Air Force, and later from teaching high school. He said he was motivated to get involved in local politics after teaching classes on American government.
Communication is the main issue Whitten plans to focus on in his campaign.
“Transportation is the biggest issue we have in Crestview, but I think what I’d like to be able to run on is the fact that we in government don’t communicate very well,” Whitten said. “I see a lack of communication within the city government, between the city government and the people, and between the city and the sister cities. We should be out there leading the pack as the largest city in Okaloosa County, and I think a lot of times we’re not taking that charge.”
Whitten cited his background in psychology, which includes a degree in counseling, as a key qualification to be able to address that issue.
Whitten said he will continue to focus on the August referendum and changing the form of government.
“To me, the key element to the whole referendum is education,” Whitten said. “You can’t ask people to vote on something to change if they don’t even know what they have and what you want to change to.”
If the citizens of Crestview vote to adopt a city manager form of government in the referendum, which Whitten favors, the mayor would have a reduced role in the city government.
“It’s a whole different role, but it’s a role that I think I could do very well based on my background,” Whitten said.
The municipal elections in Crestview are scheduled for March 2019, but Whitten chose to announce his candidacy a full year ahead of Election Day. He said the reason for announcing so far in advance was to be able to raise money in what could be a race against a popular incumbent.
Whitten is entering the last year of his city council term, leaving his seat available in 2019.
“I feel like I’ve done what I need to do and I’m ready to move on,” Whitten said.