Volusia County Council District 5 race draws three candidates
DAYTONA BEACH — Two current Deltona city commissioners and one past Deltona city commissioner are all vying to be the next District 5 Volusia County Councilman.
Victor Ramos, David Santiago and Julio David Sosa are facing off in the Aug. 23 primary election that will determine if one of the men wins outright with more than 50% of the vote, or if the top two vote-getters among them will square off in the Nov. 8 general election.
The winner will be sworn into office in January for the position that pays $47,797 annually and comes with a four-year term.
The District 5 seat is currently held by Fred Lowry, but he is not seeking re-election to the County Council. Lowry has instead decided to run for a post on the Volusia County School Board.
Here’s a closer look at each of the three competitors hoping to represent District 5, which covers southwestern Volusia County.
Ramos: ‘Challenges ahead of us’
Victor Ramos grew up in Miami, and he was a teacher and coach in that city for 12 years. The 51-year-old taught both elementary and high school kids, and he coached softball and bowling.
He was also the assistant director at a Miami housing services nonprofit organization.
More about Volusia County elections:Election 2022: Santiago enters Volusia County Council race; Karl will run for statehouse
Santiago’s last race:Volusia tax collector: Who will be the first?
Ramos moved to Deltona in 2000, and he continued teaching at a Seminole County elementary school and at Daytona State College.
He is now the CEO of Mid-Florida Housing Partnership, which has 46 affordable housing properties and helps people who struggle to pay their rent and mortgage. He also runs Palmetto House, a large home in Daytona Beach with small affordable rental units.
Ramos served on the Deltona city Planning Board for about five years, and then he was appointed to the District 5 Deltona City Commission post in 2016 to fill a vacancy. He was elected to the Deltona City Commission in 2018 for a four-year term.
Ramos was first to enter the now three-man District 5 County Council race. He said he wants to help remedy what he believes is a lack of communication between the county government and local cities, including Deltona and DeBary.
He also just wants to serve residents in general.
“I strongly believe my work and volunteering has given me a wide perspective,” Ramos said.
His top three priorities are small business, quality of life and infrastructure.
“We need to create a relationship with small businesses,” he said. “They need to know who to go to.”
He’s on the executive board of the River to Sea Transportation Planning Organization, which is responsible for the urban transportation planning and programming process for Volusia County and parts of Flagler County.
“We see challenges ahead of us with Volusia County growing,” Ramos said. “We need a game plan for the future of transportation.”
Ramos has said he considers himself a moderate who opposes “overdevelopment,” but believes growth is a key part of Volusia County’s economy.
“I’ve been consistently consistent on how I stand. I definitely enjoy the environment and our trails,” Ramos said. “It’s nothing new for me to advocate for them. There also has to be some type of fair balance in terms of how things are moving, how things are going to get paid for.”
Santiago: ‘We don’t have time to train anybody’
David Santiago is from New York, where he and his wife met while they were in high school. The couple moved to Deltona 31 years ago and raised their two daughters there.
The 51-year-old sold his insurance and financial services business two and a half years ago, and now he works fulltime as a business consultant.
Santiago served on the Deltona City Commission from 2003 until 2007, and he served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2012 until 2020.
In 2020, Santiago lost to Will Roberts in a bid to become the first Volusia County tax collector.
“I lost the tax collector’s race by a large margin, but what was encouraging for me is the area where I served for eight years I still won strongly,” Santiago said in an interview a few months ago. “And the majority of this County Council seat sits within that area, also.”
Santiago said he’s running for a County Council seat because “I still have more to offer.”
“We have some challenging times before us,” he said, adding he believes he has the solid experience needed. “We don’t have time to train anybody.”
He said the relationships he developed inside the state capitol could also help him serve the citizens of Volusia County, and he “always felt Volusia County could do more in its participation in Tallahassee.” He feels “opportunities were missed.”
His top three priorities are infrastructure, the local economy and keeping taxes low. He expects an economic slowdown over the next year, and he thinks governments need to plan for a drop in revenue.
He also thinks water “will continue to be a topic of concern over the next several years.”
“If you don’t protect it properly, it can get expensive and scarce,” he said. “I’ve spoken to scientists, and some say in 10-20 years we’ll have a problem. Some say the aquifer will recharge.”
He said Volusia County needs a unified vision.
“We need to decide what we want Volusia County to look like,” he said. “There are lots of competing views. We need to give indicators for future investors.”
Santiago is winning the campaign contributions race, with $30,180 amassed so far. Ramos has raised $17,594 and Sosa has collected $6,508.
Sosa: ‘County at a crossroads’
Julio David Sosa was born in New York, moved to Puerto Rico when he was a preschooler, and then relocated to Florida in 1974 when he was about 8 years old. His family settled in Altamonte Springs, and after high school he took a job in computer operations.
Over the course of 14 years, he worked his way up to operations manager of a technology company based in Jacksonville. He then moved back to Central Florida and worked for an information technology company for 10 years.
In 2006 Sosa, who has been involved in martial arts since he was 11, opened a martial arts studio in Deltona.
The 56-year-old Sosa moved to Deltona about 20 years ago, and he was elected to the Deltona City Commission in November 2020 for a four-year term.
“As a city commissioner, I see the county at a crossroads with six County Council positions open,” Sosa said.
He said he wants to get on the County Council to address aging infrastructure, water quality, taxes that he believes are too high and the rate and scope of new development — all things he hears residents talking about.
“With taxes we really have to look at the budget,” Sosa said. “Do we have wasteful spending?”
He said he’s opposed to any future sales tax increases. He also wants governments across Volusia County to stop making exceptions to their comprehensive plans to better control development, and he wants the proper water supply to be in place before a new development is approved.
He’s opposed to the “toilet to tap” water recharging method, and he worries about wetlands getting built over.
“What is your game plan to replenish the aquifer once you drain it?” Sosa asked.
He said ultimately he just wants “Volusia County to be the greatest place for residents to live, work and play.”
You can reach Eileen at Eileen.Zaffiro@news-jrnl.com