Just a week following Zephyrhills Mayor Gene Whitfield’s announcement that he will not seek re-election, two candidates have pulled papers with the city clerk to run for the soon-to-be vacated seat.
According to the Pasco County Supervisor of Elections, Nick Deford and Melonie Bahr Monson have confirmed to have pre-filed to run for the Mayor’s position in the April 11, 2023 Municipal Election. Both candidates are political newcomers.
Deford, pastor of the First Church of the Nazarene in Zephyrhills, has been a resident of Zephyrhills for eight years and has been familiar with the city for most of his life. Through his ministry, he works with several local non-profit organizations such as the Zephyrhills/Wesley Chapel Ministerial Association and the Samaritan Project. He is a friend of Meals on Wheels of Pasco, Zephyrhills Pregnancy Care Center, Healing Hearts Cafe, and Food and Fellowship ministry.
Monson enters the race as a lifelong Zephyrhills resident who currently works for the family business, Bahr’s Propane Gas and AC. Monson served as the President and CEO of the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce for eight years starting in 2014, where she was deeply involved with local, county, and state elected officials. She managed the Zephyrhills Economic Development Coalition and working to help strengthen our community.
“I am excited to be a candidate for the office of Mayor of Zephyrhills,” Deford said. “The next few years are crucial for this city as we continue to forge a pathway of responsible growth mixed with regard for our historical foundations. My passion, purpose, and experience will bring Zephyrhills successfully into the future.”
Deford has always had the thought of joining the local political arena, but waited for the right time. With Whitfield opting not to seek re-election, Deford feels the timing is right as the city is facing some growing pains.
“Part of the process as this town grows is seeing that everyone is taken care of having responsible growth,” said Deford, who said he has secured the endorsement of Whitfield. “Not stopping growth, but making sure it’s done responsibly. I want to be part of that process.”
Deford isn’t heavy into politics, but does follow the issues of the country and his community.
“The nice thing about this is that it’s a non-partisan position,” Deford said. “I don’t have to have a political stance on it. I just have a vision for where we’re headed and how we might get there.”
Monson credits her hometown roots and years of dedicated service to the community for positioning her to run for Mayor and to continue to be an ambassador for Zephyrhills.
“This is something I’ve been talking about for a number of years and I made it clear that I wouldn’t run against Mayor Whitfield because I feel he has done an amazing job,” Monson said. “Once he announced his retirement, I decided it was time to go for it.
“I am honored to have the endorsement of Councilwoman Jodi Wilkeson and the support of many prominent leaders in the community.”
As a first-time candidate for any office, Monson feels she’s prepared for the local campaign trail.
“I’ve never done anything like a campaign, but for the last eight years, I’ve been an advocate for this city,” Monson said. “I’ve done everything to prepare myself to get to this point. I am looking forward to continuing my work toward positive growth and enhancing the assets of our community. I am poised to serve alongside our local leaders and residents in keeping Zephyrhills the hometown we know and love.
Monson said she heard rumors that others may join the race. “I wouldn’t be surprised,” Monson said. “I hope when they look at the candidates that are already out there, they think that either one will be great.”