ZEPHYRHILLS — A high school senior taking his first shot at politics is looking to unseat an incumbent seeking a third term on the City Council when voters go to the polls Tuesday in Zephyrhills.
City Council member Charlie Proctor will face Zephyrhills High student Dylan Kinsman for the seat Proctor won in 2011, and for a second term unopposed in 2013. While a 32-year age gap between the candidates stands out, Kinsman, 18, has kept up with Proctor in fundraising and endorsements.
So far, Kinsman — the son of electrician John Kinsman, who currently is serving as a member of the Pasco County charter government advisory committee — has reported raising $3,410 for his campaign, compared to $4,650 raised by Proctor, and he has been endorsed by Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco and the police union. Proctor has been endorsed by the Zephyrhills firefighters union.
Kinsman's list of campaign contributors includes the assistant principal at his high school, sheriff's Maj. Mel Eakley and Sonny's Discount Appliances, owned by Pasco Republican Party Vice Chairman Randy Maggard. Both Maggard and Eakley also are members of the county charter government advisory committee. Other campaign contributors include citrus grove owner Ronald Oakley and affordable housing developer Tom Smith.
Supporters of Proctor, 50, include businessman Marcus Price, construction company owner Kevin Ryman, former council member Faye Wilkeson, current council member Alan Knight, and Michael D. Richards, head of the Zephyrhills Professional Firefighters union.
Kinsman told the Times he decided to run after discovering a passion for history classes he took in school, which led him to begin attending City Council meetings, which stirred his interest in government. He plans to study political science at the University of South Florida in the fall. When questioned about his lack of political experience, Kinsman pointed to his years as president of his class, his work as a coach and referee for the local YMCA, and his record as a National Honor Society and Rotary member.
"I'm young, but not necessarily inexperienced. I'm very involved in the community," he said.
Kinsman said he was particularly disturbed by construction cost overruns when the city built its new fire station and library. He said, if elected, he would seek to mandate penalties for contractors who fail to meet budgets.
Kinsman said he is also concerned about low morale within the Police Department, which he said has led to high turnover, concerns also raised in a letter by his father to the city last year with complaints about the department.
Since then, vacancies have dwindled from seven to one, said City Manager Steve Spina, as the city expanded its police car take-home policy, altered its uniform rules and made a management change.
Kinsman said that as a council member he would still seek regular updates. "I'm going to be the one asking questions to the city manager and police chief to find out what is going on," he said.
Proctor said he is happy with the new direction the Police Department is going in and will continue to support any department needs. He also touted his record on a council that has supported road improvements, water projects and development.
"Our little community is growing. There are a lot of great things coming. I enjoy giving back to the city that has given so much to me," Proctor said.
He also pointed to his experience raising a family and owning his business, Charlie's Auto Detail, in the city for 26 years. In recent years, he also opened Charlie's Coins and Collectibles, a business that drew scrutiny from law enforcement earlier this year.
In late January, the State Attorney's Office filed three misdemeanor charges against Proctor after a Pasco County Sheriff's Office inspection found he had not registered with the state to sell secondhand items in his store.
Proctor told the Times that since he mostly deals in coins, he didn't know he needed to register to sell two rings and a Springfield rifle. He said he had the items on display under consignment, but didn't sell them. He said he has since paid $6 to register and expects the charges eventually to be dropped. According to the Pasco Clerk of Court's website, his case is listed in pretrial diversion.
"I'm working on it, and it's going to be dropped as long as I do what I'm supposed to do. And that's what I'm doing," Proctor said.
Proctor said he still wants to work hard for Zephyrhills and believes his experience is an advantage over Kinsman. He added that Kinsman comes from a great family and called him a "fine young man."
"I want to keep my seat, but I also thinks it's exciting that a young person is interested in being involved in his community," Proctor said.
Kinsman said he appreciates that his first campaign has been free of negativity by either candidate.
"This campaign has been a good time," he said. "There's been no mudslinging. It's been good."
Staff writer C.T. Bowen contributed to this report.