Moore Haven challengers sound off on issues

MOORE HAVEN — Two challengers are in the running for Moore Haven City Council in Tuesday’s election. Last week’s Glades County Democrat profiled the incumbents seeking to retain their seats, Mayor Bret Whidden and Councilman Marc Decker.

The other two candidates are James T. Fielder and Wayne Clay Browning Jr.
Candidate profiles

Clay Browning

Mr. Browning, 49, grew up in the city, graduating from Moore Haven High School with the Class of 1987; he played football, baseball and was active in FFA. He attended Edison Community College and Hodges University, also spending a semester in the West Technical School welding program. He’s been married to his high school sweetheart, Kim, for 28 years and they have two children, daughter Bailey Lyn, 22, and son Wyatt Claxton, 14.

He attends the First Methodist Church of Moore Haven and is a member of the Clewiston Elks Lodge. He listed volunteer involvement in several organizations, including the Volunteer Fire Department, the Chamber of Commerce of Moore Haven (past president) and Project Graduation (2014 president), among others. “Volunteering in Moore Haven is very close to my heart,” he wrote.

A fourth-generation Floridian and fifth-generation agriculture laborer, Mr. Browning wrote: “I have been employed by Duda Ranches as a crop superintendent for the last eight years. Before I joined them, I worked for Florida Crystals for 16 years and United States Sugar for about 14 and a half years.”

Asked who his heroes are, he wrote: “I am very lucky to have had two grandfathers, Jimmy Wilson and Floyd Browning, as well as a father, Wayne Browning, and a great-uncle, Cracker Spooner. My family has shaped me into the man that I am. The men I have listed are my heroes because each one of them has characteristics they passed to me.”

James Fielder

Challenger Fielder, 63, was raised in Clewiston and has lived in Florida almost all his life, but only for four years in Moore Haven. He is a high school graduate who attended law school at the Lee County Area Vocational Technical School, now Fort Myers Technical College.

Mr. Fielder worked with the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office as an agriculture investigator for 26 years and later retired from a job as a heavy equipment operator. He is married to Ana, who works for RCMA Glades Early Childhood Center, and they have three children and three grandsons.

Asked about activity in any clubs, charitable or civic organizations, Mr. Fielder wrote, “I help with the RCMA in Washington Park.” He responded to a query about why he is running for a council seat by saying, “I want to help people and to make Moore Haven a better place to live.”

He said he has no previous experience in government; this is his first run for office. Asked who his heroes are, he replied, “President Trump.”

Three questions posed

What are the most important couple of issues facing the City of Moore Haven today? And what would you propose to do about them?

Mr. Browning: “The city of Moore Haven is a great place to live, but I believe it could be even better. I have a businesslike mind so I prioritize needs above wants. Currently, I believe Moore Haven needs to be made more appealing so that we can have an influx of businesses in our area. I would do this by working to remove older and substandard buildings and increase curb appeal. I also would like to work toward implementing a weekend farmers market in a central area for local vendors to showcase their goods and services. Currently, we do not have an area for that, so residents are forced to sell their wares roadside. A major issue I have in our community is a lack of activities for children to do. I would like to have an area where city children can raise project animals and have a community garden so that we can keep them out of trouble as well as educate them on agriculture and entrepreneurial skills.”

Mr. Fielder: “To try to get the infrastructure back up to par because it has been neglected, and to try to get a grocery store here.”

What do you think the city government can do to address the shortage of available jobs and affordable housing in Moore Haven?

Mr. Browning: “In order to address the shortage of available jobs, we need to address the problem of shortage of adult education in our area. I personally would love to see some sort of technical training brought to our city so that our residents can get the proper training to go out into our community and do jobs that are needed. In regard to affordable housing, I have wanted housing for years for educators and first responders to be able to reside in. We need to focus on nice and affordable housing for the middle-class residents of our community. I would like to find a way to offer opportunities for our local contractors to be involved in the process of building this kind of housing. This way, not only are we addressing affordable housing, but the job shortage in our community as well.

Mr. Fielder: “Try to get more business here and to build more housing.”

How do you think the City of Moore Haven could best attempt to attract new businesses?

Mr. Browning: “The proper saying here would be, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ I think in order to attract new businesses, we need to entice new businesses and residents. I would do this by improving the curb appeal as a whole in our community, offering new activities and building new housing. My campaign has been simple: Make a great place better. I want to keep small-town charm while adding new businesses within reason. I want to effectively and positively manage growth to make our small community even better!”

Mr. Fielder: “They would have to talk to the business and make a good offer to help them move to Moore Haven.”

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