New leader, new hope for Navarre

Posted on August 29, 2018 by Romi White

James Dabney, owner of East River Smokehouse, John Lewis, Navarre Beach Fire & Rescue chairman, Dave & Lynn Piech and Navarre Beach resident Larry Sims, celebrating Piech’s landslide victory.  Dabney expressed hope that Piech is the right leader to get the Navarre community to start working together again. 

Col. Dave Piech, USAF (Ret.), won the August 28 District 4 County Commission primary election and is now focusing on addressing issues like infrastructure while also aiming to be a healing force for the Navarre community, which some residents describe as “divided.”

Piech, who had a 27-year military career, won 20,236 votes, defeating incumbent and fellow Republican Rob Williamson, who had raised nearly twice as much campaign money but received only 12,048 votes.

“We were never focused on the amount of campaign funds we were able to raise, nor our opponent’s war chest. We were confident that through a grass roots outreach, walking neighborhoods, waving and connecting with voters and knocking on as many doors as we could to interact with the residents that our message would be heard,” said Piech. “We kept our campaign focused on the issues, and we believe that is what voters wanted.”

Another measure taken by Piech’s official campaign was to stay positive despite negative campaigning against him. “Our campaign made it abundantly clear that we were going to stay positive and focused on the issues,” he said Wednesday.

Piech said although his official campaign team used social media to engage residents, that platform was a “huge factor” in contributing to campaign discourse between supporters of the opposing candidates.  “These issues cannot be resolved by hiding behind a keyboard instigating discontent.”

James Dabney, owner of East River Smokehouse, expressed hope that Piech is the right leader to not only bring the community back together but also take it to the next level, following a “divide” which he said started during a failed 2014 effort to incorporate Navarre and further escalated to the point that he and a few others in 2015 started a second chamber of commerce.

Like Dabney, Navarre Beach residents Larry Sims and John Lewis, support reuniting Navarre and revisiting incorporation with a fresh approach.

But Piech said he wants the community to understand the full costs associated with incorporation so that residents can make an informed decision based on accurate data.

Piech admits that working with a divided community will be a “challenge,” but he’s ready to face it.

“I’m willing to work with everybody,” Piech told South Santa Rosa News. “If the people, and these organizations, continue to remain comfortable mired in the quagmire of division — constantly bringing up past wrongs committed by one or the other — then moving forward to a more respectful and genuine level of dialogue is going to be difficult. In the end, sitting down face to face and talking is a great start that will affect a solution to our current divisions.”

Piech is facing no challenger from other parties, so he will take the oath of office November 20.

District 2 Incumbent Bob Cole won the Republican primary election and now faces Kris Long, an NPA candidate in the November 6 general election.