ENDORSEMENTS: Oak Hill Commission seat 3 incumbent Kathy Bittle committed to community

Headline Surfer® videos / 1st video: Gary Bittle sits in for his wife, Oak Hill City Commissioner Kathy Bittle during the opening night of two consecutive evenings of public candidate debates at Oak Hill City Hall sponsored by HeadlineSurfer.com. The incumbent was home recovering from surgery days earlier. Her challenger, Jupp Norhausen, declined to participate in the debate, saying he had another commitment, but he showed up unexpectedly the following night and was welcomed to participate in an open microphone segment prior to two other scheduled debates.
 

Oak Hill Commissioner Kathy Bittle endorsed by internet newspaper / Headline Surfer®OAK HILL -- Kathy Bittle, a native of Oak Hill, who has been on the City Commission for eight years, is the endorsed candidate of Headline Surfer® in the Nov. 4 elections,  for two reasons: Her experience on the dais and her community commitment away from City Hall, too.

Bittle first won election on the commission in 2006 when she defeated Richard Wheeler, with nearly 58 percent of the votes cast, 371 to 273. She won re-election in 2010, when she qualified without opposition.

This is Norhausen's first foray into elected public office. Headliner Surfer was less than pleased when Norhausen said he was not going to attend the first of two nights of public candidate debates because he had chose to go to another event.

Challenger caught up in playing games

Bittle was unable to attend because she underwent major surgery a couple days earlier and was home recuperating, but her husband, Gary Bittle, himself, a former city commissioner, willingly filled in for her.

Norhausen, however, showed up unexpectedly the following night and was welcomed to participate in an open microphone segment set up for candidates throughout Volusia County not involved in the debates.

The opening night of the public candidate debates in Oak Hill drew 45 citizens with Gary Bittle on the dais by himself. as the approved stand-in for his sick wife, Kathy Bittle, the incumbent. Norhausen was a no-show as expected.

Gary Bittle fills in for ill-wife & City Commissioner Kathy Bittle at public candidate debate in Oak Hill / Headline Surfer®Internet newspaper Publisher Henry Frederick with Oak Hill Commissioner candidate Jup Nohausen / Headline Surfer® Headline Surfer® photos / Oak Hill City Commission seat 3 candidate Jup Norhausen, shown in the T-shirt with Henry Frederick, publisher of the internet newspaper, was a no-show for his scheduled June 24 public candidate debate in the race for Oak Hill Commission seat 3 against incumbent Kathy Bittle. She was unable to attend because she was recovering from surgery a few days earlier so her husband, Gary Bittle, readily agreed to fill in for her. A placard with Norhausen's name on it along with his identification as the challenger was placed in front of his seat. Norhausen showed up unexpectedly the following night and was invited to come up to the dais and answer questions prior to a municipal debate for a second Oak Hill seat and the debate for the at-large County Council. 
 

This was followed by the district 3 County Council race with candidates David Machuga of New Smyrna Beach and Justin Kennedy of Edgewater on the dais, but incumbent Deborah Denys was a no-show.

The following night, Norhausen was among several candidates who answered Headline Surfer® questions and those of the audience.

This was followed by the first debate of the evening between Oak Hill City Commissioner Ron Engele, and his Seat 1 challenger, Linda Hyatt, a former city commissioner and vice mayor.

Oak Hill Commissioner Kathy Bittle on the dais in 2011 / Headline Surfer®Headline Surfer® photo / Commissioner Kathy Bittle is shown in this 2011 image from the Oak Hill dais with then-Commiossioner Douglas Gibson and then-Mayor Mary Lee Cook. Gibson would transition to elected mayor in 2012, with Bittle continuing in her second four-year term as the municipal leader in years served, now with eight. She's up for re-election on Nov. 4, and is endorsed by the internet newspaper.
 

This was followed by the main debate for the at-large seat on the County Council with incumbent Joyce Cusack and one of her challengers on the dais. But the other challenger, term-limited district 5 Councilwoman Patricia Northey of Deltona, was a no-show.

The second night of debates drew 85 citizens, all crammed like sardines in why turned out to be standing-room only for several hours.

Headline Surfer was given a head's up by several Oak Hill officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity that Norhausen was advised by Engele not to show up as was his plan for the second night, and true to form, Norhauseen told the internet newspaper it was unlikely he'd be able to attend because he had to go somewhere else. He wasn't specific.

Headline Surfer® advised all the participants in the two municipal and two county races that anyone not showing up without a valid reason (medical or family emergency) would have a name tag placed in front of an empty seat for the video-taped debates.

In terms of this endorsement, Headline Surfer® was pleased to see Norhausen come out for the second night and inverted him up front to answer questions about his campaign. He was appropriately dressed, not expecting the internet newspaper to call him out.

Engele, too, showed up for his scheduled debate, even though he hadn't returned calls ahead of time and let it be known throughout Oak Hill he wasn't going to attend.

But again, the same sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Headline Surfer® Engele had a change of heart after hearing a bigger crowd was expected and even encouraged Norhausen to show up, something neither was willing to acknowledge.

Headline Surfer® will announce its endorsement in the Engele-Hyatt race in a separate write-up. Suffice to say, based on Engele's erratic and often boorish behavior on the dais, the internet newspaper is not endorsing his candidacy.

Engele has let select people in Oak Hill know that he talked Norhausen into running so he can try and create a 3-2 majority on the five-member council. At present, the only other elected official to vote with him is Mayor Douglas Gibson, but the mayor said that's more coincidence than  a united front. The others on the commission are Bittle, Robert Livingston and Vice Mayor Jeff Bracy.

Incumbent Bittle's experience works in Oak Hill's favor

Though Oak Hill Commissioner Kathy Bittle has been on the dais for eight years, which is a concern to Headline Surfer® in its belief that no elected official should serve in the same office more than a decade, she is nonetheless a steadying force on a commission that has shown itself to be unstable in recent years. Especially with a divisive colleague in Ron Engele, who also is up for re-election on Nov. 4. 

And nowhere was that instability demonstrated more than 2008 to 2011, when the small police force was in crisis, led by a police chief with a drug past who lost control of the force, ultimately leading to its disbandment three years ago.

Oak Hill Commissioners Ron Engle & Kathy Bittle are up for re-election / Headline Surfer®Though Oak Hill Commissioner Bittle has been on the dais for eight years, which is a concern to Headline Surfer® in its belief that no elected official should serve in the same office more than a decade, she is nonetheless a steadying force on a commission that has shown itself to be unstable in recent years. Especially with a divisive colleague in Ron Engele, who also is up for re-election on Nov. 4. Engele is shoewn here with Bittle in 2011.

And nowhere was that instability demonstrated more than 2008 to 2011, when the small police force was in crisis, led by a police chief with a drug past who lost control of the force, ultimately leading to its disbandment three years ago.

Bittle was the lone vote against contracting with the Volusia County Sheriff's Office under then-Mayor Marry Lee Cook and Hyatt as vice mayor, but the incumbent gradually warmed up to the new arrangement after the internet newspaper's award-winning coverage showed the three most divisive antagonists were Engele, then-City Clerk Administrator Laura Goodearly and then-Police Chief Diane Young.

But Young's position as chief was eliminated with the disbanding of the seven-member force and Goodearly was fired.

Headline Surfer® endorses Bittle's candidacy for re-election in the Nov. 4 elections because of her knowledge and insight into the city's needs such as the need to convert from septics to sewers. That's in addition to standing up to county officials like Denys and others who have ignored Oak Hill's needs in the area of economic development.

Now is not the time for an unproven candidate in Norhausen whose missteps during the public candidate debates were glaring. Bittle, born and raised in Oak Hill, is a known commodity as a former volunteer firefighter and an involved parent in the Buns Sci-Tech Charter School. And that's not such a bad thing.

Henry Frederick Picture

Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com since 2008. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed close to a hundred award-winning byline stories nearly evenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in West Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.