OKALOOSA COUNTY — The November election will take place in less than a month, and Okaloosa County voters will have a chance to vote for North Okaloosa Fire District commissioners.

Both group 2 and group 4 are running opposed.

Here is what each fire district candidate had to say about their platform.

Scott "Scottie" Forn Group 2

Scott Forn, originally from Montana, is a pilot and retired Air Force Lt. Col.

Before beginning his 24-year military career, Forn said he volunteered as a firefighter with an organization called the Fire Explorers before he was able to drive.

"I have carried a breathing apparatus. I have moved ladders. I know what it takes to be a fireman," Forn said

Although Forn has never run for this position, he said he hopes to use his experience working with fire teams to continue improving the North Okaloosa Fire District.

If elected, Forn said he would want to see the other North Okaloosa Fire District stations more active.

Currently, North Okaloosa Fire District has four stations, three of them not fully staffed.

"Having them in the north so close to me, I don't see an issue, but if my house were on the south side," Forn said, "I would be concerned as a citizen down there."

Forn also hopes to see more firefighters added to the district.

"What I have heard and seen is that we have money, we just aren't spending it on the firefighter," Forn said.

Forn said he wouldn't recommend raising taxes, but would do so if it was necessary.

"First and foremost, I am not an emotion driven person, I'm data driven," Forn said. "If I get elected, I will not vote for any sort of tax increase until I know what the data says."

Daniel Bowers, Group 2

Daniel Bowers, the incumbent, has served two terms as a commissioner in North Okaloosa.

Bowers said his platform hasn't changed much since the beginning of his first term.

"My platform ... has been until this day to operate as much a safe fire department for as much money as the tax payers are willing to spend," Bowers said.

As a current board member, Bowers said community input is important to him concerning tax increases.

"Tax increases are only necessary if people are willing to pay them," Bowers said. "... In the eight years that I've been there, I've never voted for a tax increase. I think we have plenty of money."

Although Bowers doesn't have a background in firefighting, he said he observed the fire commission and felt they were trying to "build an empire."

This didn't sit well with Bowers. For this reason, he decided to get involved, he said.

"I ran on a platform of no increases in taxes unless you voted for it or unless you told me you wanted it," Bowers said.

In eight years, Bowers said he has yet to have constituent request a tax increase.

Prior to 2010, the fire district was in significant amount of debt

Craig Shaw Group 4

Craig Shaw, the incumbent, hopes to be voted into what would be his third term.

After attending meetings, Shaw said he thought there were more options than raising taxes and decided to get involved.

Shaw began his first term in 2010 after winning the vote by 70 percent against Rollin Rathbun.

When he became a commissioner, Shaw said the fire district was in debt.

But, his goal was to rapidly pay off the debt, which they did, Shaw said.

"I was a bad guy for a while because I had to say no to a lot of things that a lot of people wanted," Shaw said. "But, the reason I said no to a lot of other things was so we could pay this debt off."

"In eight years, we've gone from $600,000 in debt with no reserves to being debt free with over a million in reserves," Shaw said.

If elected, Shaw hopes to see continuing improvement in equipment for the fire district.

"If you like your tax rates to stay slow and you don't think that it's wise to blow money on unnecessary things, I'm the guy that's going to make that happen," Shaw said.

Shaw serves as the chairman of the fire district's board of commissioners.

Rollin Rathbun Group 4

For Rollin Rathbun, this race is familiar ground.

Rathbun has been a volunteer firefighter and served in the Air Force for 26 years.

"As I get older — I'm going to be 50 this year — I can't do as much stuff as I used to," Rathbun said. "But, I still want to contribute."

He also served as a North Okaloosa Fire Commissioner from 2012-2014 and was voted out in 2016.

Rathbun said he is not opposed to having a one-time tax increase to help supply the firefighters with necessary equipment.

In the past as a commissioner, he said community members came to the meeting complaining about raising taxes because they rely on their homeowners insurance in case of a fire.

"Having a well-prepared fire department is what you really need," Rathbun said.

With such a fire department, Rathbun's ultimate goal is to keep the firefighters protected as they protect the community.

"My big thing is I want to see the guys be safe," Rathbun said. "I want to make sure they have the equipment that's not going to fail in a fire."

 

Early voting will begin on Monday, Oct. 22 and end on Saturday, Nov. 3. The general election is on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

For more information about voting in Okaloosa County, visit www.govote-okaloosa.com.