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Candidate Williams' arrests starting to sting

Andy Williams -- Republican standard bearer in the race for the District 1 seat on the Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board -- is behind bars again.He was arrested for a third time Tuesday morning since winning the Aug. 26 Republican primary.

That makes nine times this year Williams has been arrested on various charges, including battery, shoplifting and felony cocaine possession. His latest arrest was for failing an Oct. 16 drug test required as part of probation he received as a result of the drug charge.

However, adjudication has been withheld -- meaning Williams is allowed to remain on the ballot to face 16-year incumbent Joan Lord-Papy in a rematch of the 2004 race.

It's unclear at this point what, if any, implications Williams' latest arrest will have on his candidacy.

State Attorney's Office spokesman Matthew Helmerich said if Williams denies violating his probation yet again, a court hearing will be held to determine his guilt.

"Should the court find he did violate his probation, presuming he wins, he would be required to vacate the seat," Helmerich said.

Lord-Papy defeated Chris Zuelch in the Democratic primary, while Williams surprised many by defeating Pat Unferth.

Williams was arrested and released Aug. 29 -- three days after the primary -- for missing a scheduled drug test. He then missed another drug test and was jailed for nine days before being released again Sept. 30.

"I was released because I was not using drugs," Williams said Monday -- the day before his latest jailing. "I forgot to go to the test. I was exhausted with the campaign and running my apartment building, it's a stressful time for all of us."

Williams says if elected, he hopes to see more workers hired because they can kill mosquitoes more effectively than expensive equipment like trucks and airplanes.

"Employees can spray more effectively and kill mosquitoes rather than have the overspray affect the environment," he said.

Williams has also been critical of the amount of money being paid on average at the district.

"We can use more people at a fair wage," he said. "The budget has $7.5 million for payroll. There's only 71 employees and that's an average of $84,000 per full-time employee."

Lord-Papy says she's running because she wants to continue the progress the board has made during her 16 years in office.

"We've come a long way since I've been on the board and change is not always good," she said. "We've got good people there and it's the best Mosquito Control in the whole country."

Lord-Papy voted in favor of cutting $2 million during a budget hearing for the fiscal year 2009, but she defended the often criticized $8.1 million the district holds in reserves.

The district approved a final millage rate of .3798 that is 15.34 percent below rollback and is expected to earn the district $10 million in taxes.

"Any good business has to have a good reserve. Look what's happened to the county and the city," she said, adding ad valorem taxes are at a 20-year low.

The two candidates also disagree on whether the district should purchase property in Key West to construct a new office building. Its lease with the city of Key West for the land expires in 2014.

Lord-Papy claims the current building is in disrepair and that the city's offer to Mosquito Control to purchase the land the building sits on is not a fair one. Williams said the district should not make large capital expenditures because of its new building in Marathon.

"Most mosquito controls have their own property and don't have to leave," Lord-Papy said. "That's what we accomplished in Marathon."

"I've been through the building and it's very clean on the outside and professional on the inside," Williams said.