Benefield reflects on council appointment, town’s prospects

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 8/17/22

ORANGE PARK – A local accountant saw a government vacancy as a chance to help the community, so he took it.

Doug Benefield sat in his Kingsley Avenue office before a town meeting. Benefield was …

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Benefield reflects on council appointment, town’s prospects

Posted

ORANGE PARK – A local accountant saw a government vacancy as a chance to help the community, so he took it.

Doug Benefield sat in his Kingsley Avenue office before a town meeting. Benefield was appointed to the town of Orange Park's Seat 1 earlier this month following the resignation of Eddie Henley in June. Benefield sat on the dais for a large part of the Aug. 2 meeting after confirmation by a 3-1 margin.

He said he has deep roots in the town and felt he might as well get involved.

“I didn’t want to just show up when something is wrong,” Benefield said. “I think there’s some general apathy with people. They don’t want to be involved but they have problems with the way things happen. The best way to fix it was just to be involved.”

An Orange Park Elementary and St. Johns Country Day alumnus, Benefield wants to make the town a destination for young families, contribute to the town’s visioning, and improve walkability and pedestrian safety.

“I think it’s a good spot,” Benefield said.

The town of Orange Park is hemmed in by Blanding Boulevard, Jacksonville, the St. Johns River and Fleming Island. He said the town’s arterial roads have high usage. Orange Park is trying to establish an identity, he said.

“I just want it to feel like something. I like that we have a farmer’s market and events,” he said.

He said he’s already familiar with the town’s infrastructure projects, park maintenance and drainage. He has met a few town staff and said he supported the town’s business community.

“I want businesses to want to be inside the town and I want them to be rewarded for being here. I don’t see that policy,” Benefield said. “That’s something that I think we can get done.”

Two other candidates also applied: Frank Ricketts and Winnette Sandlin. COVID-19 issues postponed the appointment by a meeting.

On Tuesday, council members needed a simple majority, three of four possible votes, to fill the seat.

Benefield said he left a large CPA firm to return to Orange Park, where he began Elevated CPA early last year. There are parallels with the accounting of municipalities and small firms, though Benefield’s professional focus is small businesses and taxes.

He described governments securing funding from multiple sources, as well as public opinion, as a complicated process. However, paying taxes or spending money to support the town is a good feeling.

“It’s going to a sidewalk I’m going to walk on. It’s going to roads I’m going to drive on. It feels better to me,” he said.

Benefield’s seat is up for election during Municipal Super Tuesday in April.

“It’s not that far away. It’s like tax season for us. The (election) push starts in November. You have to start ramping up,” he added. “I’ll be here for the long run.”

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