FORT PIERCE - For years, Fort Pierce resident Linda Hudson has been attending city meetings. She also served on the Fort Pierce citizen's budget advisory committee.
As a result of the knowledge she gained, she became convinced city officials have engaged in overspending.
She tried to communicate her concerns to city officials, but that fell on deaf ears, she said.
Because of that, Ms. Hudson, 67, became the first to announce her candidacy for mayor in November 2012. She wants to oust Mayor Bob Benton or replace him if he decides not to seek re-election.
Mayor Benton said last week he expects to decide by the end of this year whether to seek re-election for a third term. His major concern is to keep the city's budget balanced without raising taxes, he said.
Ms. Hudson said she promises to listen to the concerns of taxpayers and address them.
One big concern is that the city faces paying off $95 million in debt, she said.
Ms. Hudson said she does not believe the city is doing enough to pay down the debt.
She favors looking at "ways of reducing personnel benefits without being unfair to city employees," she said.
One possibility is to change a policy that retiring employees get 3 percent of their salary for each year served, she said.
The one exception, she said, would be Fort Pierce Police Department employees because they have dangerous jobs.
Other possible cuts could include eliminating car allowances for some department heads and reducing salaries for city commissioners, she said.
Ms. Hudson pledged that if elected, she would forego any salary, car allowance or benefits.
Over time, she said, some city officials get their priorities wrong as they stay in office longer.
"You're supposed to be an advocate for the taxpayer, but you become an advocate for the staff," she said.
Her priorities would be keeping the city budget in the black and putting the taxpayers above everything else. Public safety would be another high priority, she said.
To generate revenue to pay off the city's debt, the city should also look at selling expensive vacant property it owns, such as land on the jetty.
While city officials might argue that the market isn't there to sell the property, it might be desirable to sell it at a loss, she said.
She said the city should consider having the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office take over law enforcement in the city, but doesn't believe a study will show that's a good choice.
As mayor, she would favor eliminating designated parking spaces for the mayor and city commissioners in the city's parking garage, she said.
The parking garage was built for the community, not the mayor and the city commissioners, she said.
Ms. Hudson said she would favor a nepotism policy prohibiting hiring of close relatives.
The city's decision to hire Corey Benton, the mayor's son, in the planning department, wasn't good, although she's heard good things about him, Ms. Hudson said.
"If I were the parent, I would say this is not a good idea," she said. "The perception of it does not look good."
Ms. Hudson's comments show she doesn't understand how city government works, Mayor Benton said. "I didn't hire my son. The city manager did."
"I do understand city government, unfortunately," Ms. Hudson said.
When the mayor's son applied, that put the city manager in the difficult situation of potentially having to say no to the mayor's son, she said.
Mayor Benton also questioned how, if elected, Ms. Hudson would deal with the situation that her brother-in-law, Rupert Koblegard III, is an attorney for Fort Pierce Utilities Authority.
But Ms. Hudson said it's a completely different situation and Mr. Koblegard has no influence on the city's budget.
One area she believes the city can improve is dealing with building permit requests in a timelier manner, she said.
She was born in Fort Pierce and graduated from Dan McCarty High School in 1962. After that, she attended and graduated from Indian River Community College, which is now Indian River State College, and the University of Florida.
Since then, she worked for the American Medical Association as a secretary for 11 years and was a vice president for the Illinois State Medical Association.
She's served as president of the Treasure Coast Genealogical Society, a member of the St. Lucie County Library Advisory Board and chairwoman of the board for the Downtown Farmers' Market of Fort Pierce.
FORT PIERCE — A City Hall watchdog is the first to enter next year's mayoral race.
Fort Pierce native Linda Hudson filed for next year's election Wednesday with the city clerk's office and named Glynda Cavalcanti as campaign treasurer. Hudson still must file during next year's qualifying period to become an official candidate, but Wednesday's filing allows her to collect and spend campaign contributions.
"I wanted to get my name out there and let people know that I was serious," she said about her early filing.
Her first contribution is a $35,000 loan to herself, Hudson said.
No one else had filed a Statement of Candidate with the city clerk's office as of Wednesday, according to city clerk staff. The city has yet to set the dates of next year's qualifying period.
"I just feel like I've gone as far as I can as a citizen who's really interested and wants to make a change," Hudson said. "In order for me to do that, I'm going to have to take the next step."
In 2009, the South Beach resident considered entering the race for District 2 ultimately won by Tom Perona, but Hudson decided she wasn't ready.
That same year, her investigation into alleged corruption in the Community Services Department helped prompt city officials to call for a federal investigation.
As a member of the city's Citizens' Budget Advisory Committee for the past two years, Hudson said she's been telling the commissioners to stop spending so much money and be more careful about where the money is spent.
"Mostly, my communications falls on deaf ears," she said.
Her goals as mayor would be to get a control on spending, reduce the city's debt and strengthen the relationship between city staff and citizens.
Hudson said she's running for mayor on the assumption Mayor Bob Benton won't seek re-election. She said the mayor's vote is equal to the four commissioners.
"I'm choosing that seat because I think it's the one that I can win," she said.
Benton said Wednesday he hasn't made up his mind yet because he usually waits until the holidays to talk to his family and supporters before deciding. He's been mayor since 2003 and on the commission since 1995.
"It's way too early," he said. "I've got a job to do and a budget to get through, so we'll just continue to do the job and see what the future holds."
Before Hudson retired to Fort Pierce, she worked in Chicago for the American Medical Association and the Illinois State Medical Society from 1969 to 1994. Her son and three grandchildren live in Vero Beach.
Hudson's husband, John Bailey, filed a complaint in October of last year alleging the city overcharged for a public records request, which caused the city to revise its public records policy.
Harold "Buzz" Smyth, who ran against Benton for mayor in 2007 and lost, is Hudson's nephew.
At the beginning of this year, the City Commission changed the city's election dates from odd-numbered to even-numbered years to coincide with the general election for national, state and county offices. Voters approved the change last year.
The change extended the terms of office of the currently seated mayor and city commissioners by about 11 months. It also is expected to save between $45,000 and $60,000 each election year.
Birthplace: Fort Pierce
Education: Dan McCarty High School, Indian River Community College, University of Florida
Memberships: Fort Pierce Citizens' Budget Advisory Committee; Fort Pierce Police Department Citizens Police Academy; Illinois State Medical Society, retired vice president; Downtown Fort Pierce Farmers' Market, board chairwoman; Treasure Coast Genealogical Society, president; St. Lucie County Library Advisory Board