As I prepare to assume the chairmanship of the Board of County Commissioners, I want to reflect on my thoughts on this transition and the year ahead of us.
This past year has been one of the best years of my life, I love this job, and I remain humbled by your support and confidence. I will try to do the best I can to earn your continued support-but if you disagree with me on something—call me! Let’s talk, let’s meet & I’ll listen!
Last year we struggled with many challenges as a community, and we have persevered. Many of the challenges remain, and there will be many more to come no doubt. But as a board, I see great potential in our combined ability to lead and solve many of these complex problems going forward.
The greatest single challenge that lies ahead is our budget. We’re under severe pressure for a number of reasons, and maintaining fiscally conservative stewardship of your money will be our number one priority. With an expanded homestead exemption waiting in the wings (which will cost the county roughly $5 Million in lost revenue) we’ll start out with even less recurring revenue. Because I believe we must live within our means, I won’t support raising the millage rate on Escambia County Property owners—which means we must increase our tax base with intelligent, business-friendly decisions that foster growth.
Another concern is our jail. We’ve selected a firm, the plans are set, and this facility should be completed within the next 26 Months. In addition to finishing our new jail, I am laser focused on finding creative ways to safely reduce our costs associated with running this facility.
Economic development is another important topic that is crucial to our area. As the Pensacola area continues to diversify her employer base, more jobs will become available, and employment outcomes for residents will continue to improve-- but we must continue to strive for jobs diversification in our area. Manufacturing, high-tech jobs, and continued maintenance and growth of the small business sector are vital. We will focus on diversification while simultaneously supporting the final stages of acquiring OLF8 in Beulah to further add to our jobs base.
Finally, I look forward to making the process of government more efficient and civil.
Every hour we meet, our staff is idle in the chamber, unable to be in the field doing their jobs. Moreover, when we have marathon meetings that last for 5,6, 7 or more hours—we are alienating a segment of the public that wants to participate. We should be prepared for meetings in advance of the meetings and utilize only the time necessary to conduct our discussions and deliberations--- and not one minute more.
Whether it’s a budget disagreement or a controversial decision the board must make—we must be civil and refrain from making principled disagreements on policy and finance into a zero-sum game of absolutes devolving into ad hominem personal attacks. This must end. The motto I’ll strive to emulate as your chairman will be to praise in public, be critical in private, and treat citizens, fellow elected officials, and every employee with respect and dignity—just as we want to be treated.
As I transition into the chairmanship-- I want Escambia County citizens to know two key things: I thank you for giving me the honor and the privilege of serving you, and I will work as hard as humanly possible to improve our county in my time here.