This year's address focused on last year's improvements and what Volusia is reaching for in 2020.
Each of the issues facing Volusia County today — from affordable housing and helping the homeless to protecting natural resources and creating jobs — represents opportunity, said Volusia County Council Chair Ed Kelley at the State of the County address on Tuesday, Feb. 11.
“The opportunity to exhibit bold leadership that helps propel our county into a successful and bright future," Kelley said.
This will be his last time delivering the address, as he is not seeking re-election in 2020.
The presentation on Volusia County's current state was mainly delivered via video, this year's which employed futuristic effects in line with the "2020 and beyond" theme of the event. The council members spoke about developments pertaining to six different categories: "A caring community," "a safe community," "protecting natural resources," infrastructure development," "community life" and "economic development."
Each of these categories has a major impact on residents' quality of life, Kelley said.
“We always concern ourselves with the details," he said. "We never want to lose sight of the big picture.”
Kelley said 2019 was a year full of change and progress. George Recktenwald become the new county manager, the county hired an internal auditor and a dozen new department directors were confirmed; some were hired within the county, while others were hired from outside.
The county is also eyeing increasing the amount of aerospace jobs in the area. The State of the County address booklet stated Volusia County has "all the right stuff to capitalize on the explosive growth that's enveloping the booming aerospace industry just across our southern county border." Last year, Volusia engaged in strategy sessions with Space Florida. Now, government, business and education leaders are trying to ensure the county has the regulatory climate and workforce to attract the industry.
“We’re not saying we’re going to go out there blasting rockets off from our beaches," Kelley said. "That’s not the point. But we are so well positioned in the manufacturing triangle — from Melbourne to Orlando to Daytona Beach — and we are the eight largest manufacturing county in the state of Florida.”
Looking back at 2019
In the last year, the county has worked to improve its emergency medical services, including stationing an ambulance in Ormond-by-the-Sea and beginning a nurse triage program to manage nonemergency 911 calls.
“We always concern ourselves with the details. We never want to lose sight of the big picture.”
Volusia County Council Chair Ed Kelley
Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post spoke about the off-beach parking lots opened at Argosy Park in Ormond-by-the-Sea and the one in Ormond by the Cardinal Avenue beach approach.
She also touched on the major terminal renovation project currently in the works for the Daytona Beach International Airport, which hadn't been renovated since 1992. Delta Air Lines and American Airlines are two major carriers that provide service from the airport.
“With so many projects in the pipeline for the new year, I look forward to Volusia County building on its successes of 2019," Post said.
Councilman Ben Johnson highlighted the improvements to Volusia County Fire Service. In March 2019, the council approved nine new firefighter positions and approved the relocation of two fire stations over the next two to eight years.
Councilwoman Barbara Girtman spoke about the opening of the First Step Shelter last December. The county provided $2.5 million toward the shelter's construction, and for the next five years, it will contribute $400,000 annually for operations, according to the State of the County address booklet.
When it comes to protecting animals, Councilwoman Billie Wheeler brought up the new animal abuse registry on the county's website.
In Ormond Beach, Security First opened its new headquarters in Ormond Crossing, and Brown and Brown began construction on its own new headquarters in Daytona.
“It was another impressive year of economic growth in Volusia County as evidenced by new and expanding businesses, record employment and continuing construction activity," Councilman Fred Lowry said.
2020 and beyond
Councilwoman Deb Denys said the issues plaguing Volusia aren't unique — other communities are also dealing with challenges in protecting water resources, stimulating the economy and smart growth. Regional is the new local, she said.
“These are universal issues that require collaborating and a regional approach across jurisdictional boundaries, and that’s exactly what we’ve done," Denys said.
"The power of regionalism" is best seen by the hope to expand the aerospace industry footprint in Volusia County, she added.
“And the results from the recently concluded Bryce Supply Chain study confirm that this golden opportunity is in our horizon," she said.
Kelley said that in 2020, the county will be working to bring more affordable housing; and continue working with local, state and federal governments, the business community and civic organizations to make sure growth is being managed "sensibly."
“Managing it in a way that benefits and enhances our county, and is consistent with the community standards that you’d expect," Kelley said.