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Clay County Commission

Clay County Commission hears from first-amendment lawyer Michael Kahn,who is opposed to the county's ordinance banning adult entertainment businesses.
Clay County Commission hears from first-amendment lawyer Michael Kahn,who is opposed to the county's ordinance banning adult entertainment businesses.

Three of four County Commission seats up for election this year will appear on the August primary ballot.

District 1 Commissioner Mike Cella is unopposed for another term.

Three Republicans are seeking the open District 3 seat: Randy Knepper, James B. Renninger and Connie Thomas.

Two Republicans are seeking the open District 4 seat: Betsy Sistrunk Condon and Belinda L Johnson. (This is up for election two years early because incumbent Gavin Rollins resigned to run for the 3rd Congressional District being vacated by Ted Yoho.)

Two Republicans are seeking the open District 5 seat: Kristen Burke and Leslie Dougher.

There are no Democrats running for any Clay County Commission position.

Scroll down to read each candidate’s responses to News4Jax’s questionnaire, presented verbatim as submitted.

  CLAY COUNTY COMMISSION - District 3

Randy Kneppe

Party affiliation: Republican

Age: 69

Candidate’s family: Wife Penny

Occupation: Real Estate Broker

Education: FSU BS Finance; Harvard Senior Managers in Government

Political experience: Decade as Chief of Staff for Congressman Hutto; Commissioner appointed by Governor for Base Realignment in Florida; Advisory Committee for Florida Environment Protection

What do you see as the top three issues in this race?

Traffic congestion; stormwater drainage; budget issues caused by COVID-19

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

Strong financial background; experienced on Capitol Hill as Chief of Staff to United Stated Representative; common sense.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

Being a statesman who genuinely cared for the people of Clay County and kept my integrity as a leader.

If elected how would you address the calls for racial justice?

I really do not have an agenda for black, brown, red, yellow, or white people. As a Christian, I believe Jesus said it best when He referenced Leviticus 19:18, "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord." In Luke 10:27 where Jesus was quoted, He said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." Many call it the Golden Rule today. You will find my faith to be real, and my concern for others to be genuine.

What challenges does COVID-19 present to the office you are seeking?

We are seeing our culture and society drastically change and impact our lifestyles; businesses and jobs; the way we worship; education; and the economy. The challenges will be to lead in a way that brings unity to our people and stability to our lives.

Campaign website: randyknepper.com

Campaign’s social media pages: Facebook | Twitter


James B. Renninger

Party affiliation: Republican

Age: 70

Candidate’s family: Grew up with 9 other siblings, Married 50+ years, 4 children, 6 grand children

Occupation: Co-Owner, Grant Development & Management

Education: BS-Penn State Univ, MA-Webster University, PhD-ABD North Cnetral University

Political experience: Orange Park Town Council 3X3 yr (9 years) Mayor x 2, President Northeast League of Cities

What do you see as the top three issues in this race?

  1. Economic Development - High Skill High Wage Jobs
  2. Traffic/Roads
  3. Storm Water/Flooding

Provide a comfortable county environment in which the citizens can live, work, & play

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

1. My company (Grant Development & Management) possesses over 25 years experience in writing and managing grants. Wrote grants for clients such as Miami-Dade College, St Petersburg College, Morton College (Chicago) Iowa State University and the Town of Orange Park. We write grants in the educational field, as well as municipal service areas. I have assisted in the writing/managing of tens of millions of grants in workforce programs, municipal services such as septic-to-sewer conversion, disaster relief, and areas such as voluntary home buyouts due to continued hurricane flooding.

2. I will be an advocate for the military service member. I have walked in their shoes. Retiring as a Captain, with over 26 years experience, I have served under and directly for such exemplary leaders such as General Colin Powell and Admiral Mike Mullen providing opportunity to learn strong leadership skills required in positions of responsibility.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

A servant leader. Each legislative action will have impact both positive and negative. It is my desire to produce the most positive outcomes contributing to their overall quality of life while minimizing the negative impacts of any change.

If elected how would you address the calls for racial justice?

Although crime cannot be ignored, the taking of human life should be reserved for the most dire of personal risks to others. Education and training of and for officers of peace is required of the public and established public safety departments.

What challenges does COVID-19 present to the office you are seeking?

The most experienced constituents are normally the most vulnerable due to age and health issues. To maintain their right to comment on issues in the public domain, accommodations must be made to allow them to have a voice on public issues. Additionally, COVID-19 should provide lessons learned for future pandemics.

Campaign website: jim4clay.com

Campaign’s social media pages: #electrenninger


Connie Thomas

Party affiliation: Republican

Age: 59

Candidate’s family: Husband, Two Grown Children, Daughter married with our first Grandchild

Occupation: Clinical Social Worker

Education: Masters in Social Work

Political experience: 2016-2020 -Councilwoman and Mayor for the Town of Orange Park

What do you see as the top three issues in this race?

a)Maintaining the health of our Citizens and our Economy during the Covid-19 crisis! In order to accomplish this, we need to do all we can to support our First Responders and Frontline Workers as we prepare for the long haul in dealing with the impact of this virus. We also need to support our Economic Development and Clay Chamber as they assist businesses who are struggling to stay afloat and productive.

b) Preparing for the vast increase in growth of our County due to the completion of the First Coast Expressway. As the First Coast Expressway opens up new areas to development, we need to assure that new housing and commercial developments are built around sound smart-growth principles that include walkable and bikeable neighborhoods, include urbanized areas that can act as magnets for new business opportunities and employment, and cater to the varied incomes, lifestyles, and needs of all of Clay County's residents.

c)Revitalization of several areas in Clay County that have fallen behind through the years and very likely not to see renewal due to the First Coast Expressway. Historically, Northeast Clay County has suffered mightily from the knock-on effects of rapid growth, mostly through massive traffic increases in Orange Park and along the Blanding Boulevard corridor. We need to start planning for how to mitigate the existing problems and to plan for a more balanced and healthy economic and natural environment.

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

During my time as Orange Park Councilwoman and Mayor, I have looked to our community to identify problems and concerns and then brought together organizations and stakeholders to find solutions. My role is to facilitate these partnerships, identify existing resources, and find new resources to solve community issues. We did this to clean up our waterways in Orange Park, to find a solution for children ageing out of the foster system before they would complete school and go to college, and for increasing food security for families in need. Government should enable solutions, but it doesn’t have to be the solution for everything. An active and engaged populace are strong tools for getting things done.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

a)The revitalization of the North Blanding Boulevard and Wells Road area businesses and neighborhoods

b)The vast improvement of our Clay County waterways to mitigate flooding and better recovery following weather events.

c)Equipping our First Responders with vital equipment and stations to protect our citizens.

d)Creating a Clay Community that lives, works and plays here. Clay as a destination rather than a pass thru.

e)Building a much better sense of community. We made big strides in Orange Park toward getting residents of all backgrounds and interests

together to learn about one another and enjoy the fruits of small-town life. I think we can expand that concept throughout District 3 and indeed through much of Clay County.

If elected how would you address the calls for racial justice?

a)Continuing the vital work that I began in the Town of Orange Park by recognizing the Orange Park Normal and Industrial School with a Historical State Marker – celebrating the high standards of education among black students that brought in white students to create one of the first integrated schools in the State of Florida in the late 1800s.

b)Attending local diversity sessions that brought about the recent installation of basketballs courts back into our historic African American neighborhood. Neighbors brought to light that fencing off their local school took away their vital afterschool activities that brought much talent to our community so many years ago.

c)Actively engaging minority leaders as thought leaders and engaged participants in solution-building. This includes encouraging a broader representation of African-Americans, Latinos, and other minorities on committees, boards, and, specifically, elected bodies such as the Orange Park Town Council, the School Board, and the County Commission. I’m thrilled to have had some part in encouraging the selection of Eddie Henley to join the OP Council.

d)Making sure that disadvantaged communities of all stripes are not left out of the discussion when we're looking at opportunities for growth, for expanded educational opportunities, for equitable housing, and for a broad range of job and career choices here in Clay County.

What challenges does COVID-19 present to the office you are seeking?

For me, not being able to talk directly to voters this election season has been painful. I love meeting with people and hearing what they're up to, what

they're concerns are, and what solutions their thinking about to the many problems we face. As Commissioner it will be critical that we develop

responsible and safe ways for these conversations to happen. We're not alone in having to think this through, and I look forward to looking both inward to our County and outward to other communities to see what solutions are in the offing.

Campaign website: Connieforclay.com

Campaign’s social media pages: FB - Connie For Clay | Instagram - Connie4Clay

  CLAY COUNTY COMMISSION - District 4

Betsy Sistrunk Condon

Party affiliation: Republican

Age: 48

Candidate’s family: Married with 3 sons

Occupation: CEO & Owner of Auxadyne LLC

Education: BS in Environmental Health Science, University of Georgia ’95

Political experience: Served on Clay County School Board 2014-2018

What do you see as the top three issues in this race?

  1. Infrastructure including reliable, affordable high speed internet access, roads and sewer & water.
  2. A master plan for controlled growth throughout the county and in Dist. 4
  3. Protection of Black Creek and our lakes.

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

I have already established relationships with stakeholders in business, government and private citizens to bring all groups together to find solutions to issues. I also have more than 10 years of experience in Environmental Compliance and am willing to fight for the protection of our waterways. I am not anti-growth or anti-development but I will fight for responsible development including and especially when it involves Black Creek.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

Speaking for all residents of District 4 on all issues, not just certain ones with a true Conservative voice. On the school board, I was known for doing my "homework", coming to meetings prepared, evaluating issues based on facts, and returning phone calls. I would hope my constituents would say similar things about my work on the commission.

If elected how would you address the calls for racial justice?

I would first call for workshops to listen to employees of the county discuss their feelings, concerns and issues. I would also participate in more conversations with the Sheriff's office and citizens to determine how the commission could best support those efforts, as well as those that affect public safety as a whole.

What challenges does COVID-19 present to the office you are seeking?

I believe the citizens expect the Commission to direct county efforts to mitigate the spread and lessen the risk, while still helping our large number of small businesses stay in business. All county employees have a right to a safe work environment provided and maintained at the direction of the commission. These decisions must be made on facts and not based on bias of any kind.

Campaign website: betsycondon.com

Campaign’s social media pages: Facebook | Instagram


Belinda L Johnson

Party affiliation: Republican

Campaign website: belindajohnson4clay.com

This candidate has not returned the News4Jax questionnaire.

  CLAY COUNTY COMMISSION - District 5

Kristen Burke

Party affiliation: Republican

Campaign website: kristenburke.com

This candidate has not returned the News4Jax questionnaire.


Leslie Dougher

Party affiliation: Republican

Age: 56

Candidate’s family: Husband, Dan - Daughter Lyndsay, Step-daughter Alexa, Step Son Paul

Occupation: Realtor

Education: BS/BA Business Administration

Political experience: Former Republican Party of Florida Chairman, former Chairman Clay County Republican Executive Committee, President of the Federated Republican Party of Clay County

What do you see as the top three issues in this race?

  1. Future challenges of smart growth while maintaining the quality of life and low taxes our citizens desire. This can be achieved by attracting more clean energy and innovative business to our business parks. Which will bring more sales tax dollars to our county budget, thereby keeping out property taxes low.
  2. Properly planning for roads and future roads and the upcoming public safety needs to assure our citizens their community is safe and easily accessible. This can be achieved by maintaining a presence with the TPO and constant evaluations of our future transportation needs.
  3. Supporting our First Responders and the mission of our Sheriff’s office.

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

I can help by bringing my experience serving in our community for over 20 years on various Community board positions including the Clay County Planning and Zoning Commission, Haven Hospice Community Board, Lighthouse Learning Center Board of Directors, Clay County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Governor appointment to the Small Business Development Commission and Governor appointment to the St. Johns River State College Board of Trustees. With a conservative business owner approach by placing the community and taxpayers first in the mind of decisions that are made at the county level.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

I would hope to be remembered as the servant leader who put the citizens first and accomplished items that would be beneficial to them and our entire county.

If elected how would you address the calls for racial justice?

By having the conversations about the issues of racial injustice and listening to the possible solutions. Then find steps that can be taken together to resolve the issues as one healthy, vibrant community. Starting with inclusion, respect, integrity and accountability toward ourselves and each other will make Clay County a stronger community.

What challenges does COVID-19 present to the office you are seeking?

Assuring the citizens that testing is available to them at convenient locations in the county and that there is funding to pay for it. Continuing to work with citizens and businesses to provide information and resources to help prevent future outbreaks and help businesses accommodate the restrictions.

Campaign website: lesliedougher.com

Campaign’s social media pages: Facebook.com