Rita Press announces retirement, but plans to be more active.
A familiar face will be missing from the Planning Board dais next year. After 19 years, Rita Press, a well-known community activist, has decided to retire from her seat on the board.
“On Christmas Day, I’ll observe a birthday,” she said recently. “I’ll be 80 years old.”
In all of those years, she only missed three meetings. One was because of a tennis tournament and two for family weddings.
And her husband, Marty, was always in the audience.
“He deserves a medal,” Press said with a smile. “He probably set a record.”
While no longer on the board, Press will likely still be seen at meetings, except she’ll be at the podium where citizens speak. She believes that with her knowledge of local government, she can help advocate for the public.
“I’m going to be active in the community,” she said. “I want to work with residents and city staff for the betterment of the city.”
Marty Press said he found the meetings interesting through the years.
“We’re political junkies,” he said. “We talk about the issues. We never get tired of it.”
The Presses were early advocates for the Loop, a local scenic roadway, and now both serve on the board of the Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail.
She will also continue with her work at Citizens of Ormond Beach, where she is currently president, and concentrate on the quality of housing and the neighborhoods. With CFOB, she was very active in the “zombie” housing issue which resulted in new codes and monitoring of houses that are in the foreclosure process.
“The folks on the Planning Board that I have served with through the years were always thoughtful in their decisions,” she said. “They were always courteous to the speakers and tried to address everyone's concerns.”
She also is very complimentary about the city Planning Department staff, saying they always had time to meet with her and answer questions.
One of the positive changes over the years was the addition of Neighborhood Meetings, where developers and city staff meet with residents.
“They are wonderful,” she said. The only change she would like to see is more information from the neighborhood meetings provided to the Planning Board.
She was also involved in the requirement for drive-thru restaurants on Granada Boulevard to be approved by a City Commission vote. Also, at one time motor homes were allowed to be parked in driveways, and now it’s against city code.
Press also recalls that she suggested adding a fountain to a retention pond years ago, and now it’s a common addition.
A business background
Press was a housewife until 1983 when she came up with a product and started a business called LABELEZE INC. She ran the small business for 15 years and then sold it.
The couple retired to Florida 26 years ago. Their children had moved to Florida, and they liked the small town atmosphere of Ormond Beach.
In Ormond Beach, Rita and Marty were SCORE counselors for 10 years, helping small business owners. Before retiring, Marty Press worked in merchandising for a shirt manufacturing company in New York.
Press was nominated for the board year after year by City Commissioner Bill Partington.
“She was always prepared and always did her homework,” Partington said recently.
Also, being active in the community, she had a strong sense of what residents wanted the community to look like, he said
“She and Marty are wonderful people,” he added.
Her involvement with the city included serving on the Smart Growth Committee, Environmental Advisory Board, citizen committee in establishing Andy Romano Beachfront Park and the citizen advisory committee for the city manager search in 2008. She also was goodwill ambassador for the City Commission from 2004 to 2011.
She has been president of CFOB since 2001.
At the Planning Board meeting where Rita Press announced her retirement after 19 years, Chairman Doug Thomas said there should be a chair named after her in the meeting room. Press responded that there are already three chairs with her name on them. In the front row, there are chairs with the word, “press” for media seating.
“She was always prepared and always did her homework.”
BILL PARTINGTON, city commissioner