I am Cassie Studstill and I announce my candidacy for Port St Joe City Commission Group One and asked for your help. October 10 forever changed all our lives. As Hurricane Michael approached, my husband and I sent our children to safety in Alabama, while we stayed behind to secure our home. We remained safe until the surge. As we climbed to the attic, we smelled natural gas. Minutes later, our home exploded in flames and we fled into the flood waters. By God's grace, we are alive today, but our home burned to the ground.

Weeks later, my seven-year-old daughter came home from school and said, "Mom, do you think they will be able to clean up Port St Joe and make it even better than before?" I realized I needed to do more. For my children, I needed to be more. For myself, I needed to become an advocate for our community, for my community. I felt compelled to be one of the “they” of which my daughter spoke. We weren't leaving. This town was and is our home.

As my husband, attorney Clayton Studstill, began taking on insurance claims dispute cases, we became more frustrated by the denial and delay process. We were invited to one of the first meetings to begin the long-term Citizens of Gulf County Recovery Team. Listening that day, I began to feel a personal rebuilding and a need to act. My feelings of trauma began to subside, making way for hope. Energized, I volunteered for two committees: Building & Construction and Finance. My days began to fill with purposeful acts of helping our community. My work as a mom, Studstill Realty Group broker/owner, and Junior Service League member, opened doors and networking opportunities to discuss my ideas with anyone who'd listen.

I began to think about what made our “Friday Night Lights” community special such as retaining our small-town feel and being sensitive to the need to balance our quaint charm with our tourism industry. I thought about how an attractive, walkable environment increases livability. I thought about our lack of and need for affordable, workforce, and multi-family housing and how they were critical to smart, sustainable growth. I thought about our schools and our children and wondered if we were creating an infrastructure of opportunity to adequately prepare them for their chosen path, be it college or entering the workforce. I thought about how to address and heal the social, economic and environmental fragmentation in both the immediate and long-term. I thought about the families that for generations have grown up here, or currently work here, but find it challenging to afford living here.

Port St Joe needs a clear vision moving forward with a plan of action that has accountable timelines, not empty promises and undelivered projects. I support the North Port St Joe Master Implementation plan and propose this plan as a baseline for implementing change for our city for the good of all its citizens. We must develop a cohesive plan to revitalize and rebuild our town and provide affordable, workforce, and multi-family housing, jobs, vocational training, and a state-of-the-art school system. We must be aggressive in locating funding sources from outside our devastated community. I have already researched and reached out to several organizations to locate funding through appropriate grant programs and private/public partnerships.

Conversation is not only a catalyst for forward motion, but a call for collaboration, cooperation, and consensus. That is where I need your help and why I am asking for your vote come May 14. Port St Joe is at a critical juncture. While our landscape was altered dramatically on October 10, our fabric was not. I would be humbled and honored to talk with you about my ideas, to listen openly, to represent the majority while remaining sensitive to those with differing opinions, and to be a problem-solver for the greater good. I promise I will work hard for my community, city, citizens, and you, carrying your voice so that this vision can be achieved. I am asking for your vote on May 14, so that we can all leave Hurricane Michael behind and forge ahead into a bright and prosperous future. Please join my team and share your ideas with me. I can be reached at 270-1915 or campaign@cassiestudstill.com.

Thank you for your time, your support, and your vote.