DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- She was born in the segregated "Westside" community of New Smyrna Beach; she and her family barred from swimming, sunbathing or surfing at the World's Most Famous Beach® in Daytona or even the beaches in New Smyrna, Ponce Inlet, the Shores or Ormond, for that matter.
Instead, they were relegated to going to the designated negro beach - Bethune Beach. That was long ago.
By the 1960s, the beaches were no longer segregated. For the last last four years now, she has had a direct say in setting public policy here in what has long since been a staple of tourists -- Volusia County's 45 miles of public beaches.
Meet Joyce Cusack, the HeadlineSurfer.com 2014 Central Florida Politician of the Year.
Cusack's won every election she's ever run in, crushing her latest challenger, Pat Northey, in the Nov. 4 general elections, for a return to her at-large seat for another four years on the Volusia County Council.
Prior to her tenure on the the council, this Democrat, served multiple terms in the Statehouse, rising to the No. 2 ranked Democratic Leader pro tempore. She even has her own Wikipedia page.
With her crushing victory over her own-party rival Northey, Cusack is perhaps the most powerful Democrat in Volusia County.
The inaugural winner of this prestigious award in 2013 was then-State Rep. Dave Hood, a Republican and former Ormond Beach mayor, who is now a circuit judge. Hood had undergone surgery for brain cancer prior to receiving the award.
The year began with Cusack and district 2 colleague Joshua J. Wagner of Daytona Beach, re-elected in 2012, under attack from the "Gang of Four" on the dais in the Frank T. Bruno, Jr. County Council chambers in DeLand in what was the so-called Waverly Media investigation, a sham to eliminiate or diminish the political opponents of those trying to stay on the dais in an election year by dissuading or dimnishing the credentials of their likely opponents.
That apt description, of course, was the Headline Surfer® tag given for the 4-3 voting bloc on the 7-member council which consisted of: district 1's Pat Patterson of DeLand, District 3's Deb Denys of New Smyrna Beach, District 4's Doug Daniels of Ormond Beach and District 5's Northey of Deltona. And refereeing it all was County Chair Jason Davis, which wasn't his strong point.
Patterson was facing a challenge from former councilman Andy Kelly, Denys from her prior election challenger Justin Kenneduy of Edgewater and Northey, who was term-limited in her own seat challenging Cusack for hers. And of Wagner?
Though he wasn't up for re-election, he and Wagner don't like each other as Wagner has been critical of the weak showing of the Ocean Center in attracting customers. Daniels' wife is the No. 1 marketer of the tourism facility. Those under attaxcck were all recipients of in-kind (free) advertising in one or more prior election cycles.
Daniels got his supportive colleagues to agree to hire his former law partner, Jon Kaney, to investigate, leading to six figure payments for conducting the investigation, which went nowhere.