Carl Persis, a candidate for Volusia County Council chairman, answered the following questions via email and in person:
1) What should be done with regard to the housing market?
As county chair, I want to help small business owners by reducing regulations and other costs, which make expansion prohibitive. By creating jobs and growing our economy, more people would be working. With more people working, there will be fewer foreclosures. Homeowners would have the money to take better care of their houses and property. Having more people with the ability to maintain their current home or purchase a different home will lead to a rising demand for houses, and an increase in property values.
Local governments can also help property values increase by providing a high quality of life and services for its citizens. Our municipalities need to be clean and safe. Code enforcement needs to be diligent. Roads, bridges, bike lanes, trails and recreation areas must be maintained and well planned. The better our local governments provide these services at a reasonable cost, the better and more attractive our area will become.
2) Is there room for further cuts to the county budget or would that mean sacrificing services too much?
During the past four years, I supported reducing the county budget by $50 million and a reduction of more than 500 employees mostly through attrition. The Volusia County General Operating tax rate ranks 44th in the state; not second, which is the figure often used by political opponents.
The fact is Volusia County has a major cost other counties do not have, that is 50 miles of coastline, on which we allow beach driving while protecting sea turtles. This major expense coupled with low property assessed values adversely affects our tax rate; however, even with these conditions, our county’s general operating tax is one of the lowest in the state, which reflects the county efficiencies, which took place during the past four years.
While the county has done a good job reducing the budget, as the new chair, I would continue to look for additional ways to make government more efficient and increase partnerships with cities and the private sector.
3) Why should people vote for you instead of your opponent?
I am better prepared and more qualified than my opponent to serve in Volusia County’s highest local elected office. This is not a position for a beginner. In 2013, there will be a minimum of three new county council members. They will be looking at the Chair for leadership, experience, and guidance.
I will explain why I am better prepared and more qualified to lead Volusia County:
As a local resident for 57 years, an educator for 35 years, including 28 years as a Volusia County public school principal, my local roots run deep, as does my dedication to helping families.
Working as a principal in a variety of locations made me keenly aware of the challenges parents and grandparents face every day. I learned how difficult it is for many adults to find local work in good paying jobs, which provide health benefits. I am sensitive to the daily struggles many adults in our community face to keep their children fed, clean, well dressed and ready for school.
As an Ormond Beach city commissioner and mayor for seven years, as well as a member of the Volusia Council of Governments, I know the issues cities face and how difficult it is for each municipality to keep taxes low while providing high level of services.
As a Volusia County Councilman for seven-plus years, I know the complexities of county government. With a budget of nearly $600 million and more than 40 departments, the chair must be knowledgeable of the past, understand the present, and be ready to face the immediate challenges. As an administrator and public policy leader for 28 years, I have the consensus building and facilitation skills necessary to form a professional and productive county council team.
My opponent has never held elective office at any level. He has lived in Volusia County for 11 years and during this time, never completed an application to serve on a city or county advisory board. Now he wants to be county chair.
Compare my opponent’s lack of interest in local matters with my record. I love Volusia County and have dedicated my adult life to helping children and citizens. With my 35 years of local public school service, seven years of experience in city government and seven years of experience in county government, I am now ready, better prepared and more qualified than my opponent, to serve as Volusia County chair.
I consider public service an honor and look forward to leading Volusia County and making it the best place in the nation to live, work and play.
The following is a synopsis of a follow-up interview in The Observer office:
Carl Persis sees the path to improving the housing market as being through overall economic and jobs improvements, which he wishes to accomplish by “form(ing) a … local, small business advisory committee” and asking, “What is it that county government can do to help … your business grow?”
One problem consistently mentioned to Persis on the campaign trail is that there is “too much regulation … red tape … (and the process is) too costly. … I think we could always do better. We have taken steps … (like) putting out an online permitting system. … There’s got to be more convenient ways …to be able to access that (permitting) information.”
“It starts with the overall structure. ... The county manager calls me the most … fiscally conservative person on the County Council. … we’ve been cutting a lot.”
“I’m very concerned of safety on the beach and keenly aware” of the challenges involved with driving on the beach. Due to these concerns, Persis has been a strong advocate for “off-beach parking. … I’m proud of that. … I was able to convince the council … to implement the one-way driving on the beach.”
Jason Davis is in favor of a zero-based budgeting system. When faced with this option, Persis responded: “I think … if you’re in a very small business, you can start something like that, but this is a $600 million budget with over 40 complex departments … so instead of that … we direct the county manager to give us a mini budget workshop at every council meeting,” an effort which this current council has already done. “It’s just so big” and “it’s unrealistic in a government that complex and that varied, I’d rather do it in little small pieces.”
On comparing his experience with Davis’ outsider status, Persis said: “Before you can become a principal, you have to become a teacher. Before you become a judge, you have to have been a lawyer. Before you can be the captain of a jet you have to have at least been in a crop plane first. … You have to have had experiences and you have to have had some history that you can do the prior job before you can be asked to do the next level job.”
Overall, Persis thinks he should be elected to the position of county chair because “it’s just a whole lot of things that I can bring to it. ... All these experiences, and all local, all Volusia County experiences, certainly give me a broader understanding” of where the county’s been and where it’s headed. “We owe it to the public to make progress. … That, to me, as the chair, I’ve got to accept that responsibility and form a good team and one that everyone in Volusia can be proud of. … You’ve got to have some experience. … You don’t just walk in the door and know how to do that. … I’m better prepared and more qualified than my opponent.”