TAVARES – Lake County Commission District 5 candidates Josh Blake and Peter Tarby hold vastly different views on the role of government in everyday life.

Blake, the Republican candidate who defeated long-term incumbent Commissioner Welton Cadwell by 5,308 votes in one of the largest upsets in the primary, said the proper role of government is to adequately and efficiently fund public safety and public infrastructure.

“When it comes to the budget, public safety is the top priority,” Blake said. “There are things you need to have and things you would like to have. Law enforcement and good roads: those are things we need to have for Lake County citizens to feel safe and thrive and our economy to grow. Some of the other things play second fiddle to the priorities. You may not be able to prioritize libraries and parks above the things we need to have.”

Blake’s Democratic opponent disagreed entirely.

“Our parks system is something I think is critical to the quality of life we want to have in Lake County,” said Tarby.

While agreeing that the sheriff, first responders and fire department must have their needs met, Tarby said parks also play a critical role in Lake County.

“Cities can’t afford to build parks or take care of them,” he said. “The county has to be involved in those things. In order to have areas in our county that don’t have a house or building on them we have to have our parks.”

Tarby and Blake say their experience in government has prepared them for the job of county commissioner.

Blake, a Lake County resident since 1987, earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. He is a board member of the United Way of Lake and Sumter Counties and an alumnus of Leadership Lake County class of 2011. He worked as a legislative aide to state Rep. Marlene O’Toole, The Villages, in the Florida House of Representatives for the past eight years.

“I think as far as my background I have had the bird’s eye view from the state budget on down and I think what we have had to do in Tallahassee during the recession to make sure that our budget was balanced provides me with some valuable insight into how best to prioritize,” he said. “I am a big fan of outside of the box solutions.”

Tarby said his experience serving on the Umatilla City Council for the past nine years sets him apart. He currently serves as the council president.

“I am past president of the League of Cities,” he said. “I have had the opportunity to work with all the elected officials in Lake County and I know most of them personally. I think that gives me an advantage.”

While the two candidates do not see eye to eye on a number of issues, in the same measure they agree on several issues: both aspire to diversify the economy in Lake County, taking the burden off of taxpayers; they want to lower the school impact fee, one of the highest in the state; and lower taxes.

“It is punitive to expect a working family to roll almost $10,000 into their mortgage,” Blake said of the school impact fee, which is $9,324 for a new single family home. “I don’t think Lake County needs the reputation of being the most expensive place to build a house and raise a family.”

Tarby, 60, served on the committee tasked with recommending the set impact fee.

“We felt the impact fee should have been 83 percent,” he said. “They should have never been at 0.”

The County Commission suspended impact fees from 2011 to 2014.

The economy also weighs heavily on the candidates’ minds.

“I think we have to be more aggressive in going after companies that want to relocate,” said Tarby. “We have to find a way to give some deferment of impact fees so companies can use that money to build buildings and create jobs here.”

It is essential the county have a business climate that is attractive for investment, Blake said. Such a climate can be achieved if you lower taxes and fees, according to the 35-year-old candidate, one of the youngest to run for the County Commission seat.

One way to provide a friendly business environment is to streamline the permitting process, Blake said.

If elected, Tarby said he hopes to “bring a passion back to service.”

“To try to make Lake County one of the best counties in Central Florida to bring your business and bring your family to live,” he said. “I believe I would like to see elected officials in Lake County have term limits. I also believe the increases in our property taxes were excessive.”

Blake said, if elected, he believes his role is to make sure the taxpayer’s interests are represented on the County Commission.

“The Tax Foundation released a study two months ago stating Americans collectively now spend more on taxes than food, clothing and housing combined,” he said. “No one takes responsibility for that burden. We need to make sure that government is efficient. The first thing I plan to do is to sit down with the different departments and find out how they are spending their resources.”