Are there one or two issues you would like to work on and/or take leadership on as a Commissioner?

County Commission
District 1

Terrance Barber

As I’ve tried to bring up in earlier responses, I want to create a sustainable and effective public infrastructure for the Black-owned and operated businesses to survive and thrive while they serve the surrounding neighborhoods and communities. We don’t solve poverty by displacing poor people from their homes, bringing in more affluent people, and then adding amenities. We need to do a better job developing and supporting Black business people, their businesses, and helping them to buy the buildings in which the businesses operate. Doing so helps the neighborhoods revitalize for the existing residents as well as the businesses. The core idea is to create the conditions that enable people in low-income areas to live, work, and play within their communities . . . that’s the thriving and sustainable way forward.

Second, and related to the first, is that I would like to get past the talking and into action regarding a focused push for affordable housing that is truly affordable. As with businesses, I would like to lead the effort to increase Black home ownership significantly. In too many neighborhoods, the rents are so high that combined with other household expenses, people can’t save for a down payment and mortgage payment that is usually less than the rent and builds equity over time. But, whether for renters or homeowners we need to make housing more affordable in impoverished communities.

Donna Pearl Cotterell

Yes, I would like to play a lead role in Leon County’s proactive approach to addressing poverty. To me, this approach would be driven by the perspective of extending not a handout, but a helping hand. One essential way to address poverty is to help residents start small businesses. We’ve seen how microloans have worked to get small businesses started and grow into successful businesses in developing countries and some places in the US.  For instance, it can be something as simple as growing food, vegetables, fruits, chickens, whatever, such that the resident can earn some cash to supplement their current earnings. There are many small businesses that could work on this approach. I believe this would impact many more people than trying for higher wages in many jobs . . . though I do support the $15/hr. minimum wage. For many people, though, even that will not be sufficient to meet their expenses. These side jobs also would not need to be tech-oriented; frequently they are rather low skill and that means many people could do them right away given the right supports, supports that Leon County could provide especially with various private and public partners.

Second, I would like to support literacy, especially for children. I’m a middle school teacher. I see children that did not learn to read well by third grade and as they get to middle school they can no longer keep up. The kids are then traumatized and fall further behind and soon are looking to drop out of school. Their parents, often the victims of poor schooling themselves, may not have what it takes to help their children with literacy. While this may seem like an “education problem,” I view it as a community problem that we need to work together to address. For instance, Leon County could work with the school system with before school and after school literacy programs, the county libraries could improve their bookmobile-based programs or other forms of community outreach for literacy. We need to get creative to support literacy, keep kids successful in school, and develop productive citizens as we reduce the juvenile crime and violence that is far too prevalent today.

Bill Proctor

Yes.  First, as I mentioned, I want to improve the infrastructure in District 1 in a way that improves the quality of life for residents but doesn’t lead to cost increases that drives them from their homes. Besides adding safe sidewalks and more small businesses, I’d like to be active on completing the road expansions on Capital Circle Southwest and Woodville Highway and the upgrading of the Fairgrounds.

Second, I’ll be pushing for certain neighborhoods in my district to be annexed by the city. Currently, these neighborhoods are on city utilities, but they are not receiving other city services, nor can residents vote in city elections. Since a substantial part of utility payments go to fund city services other than utilities, this situation is taxation without representation. Being in the city could help them with getting roads paved, sidewalks built, and other needed improvements.

County Commission
District 2

Sabrina Allen

Housing and Land Use. Looking more into implementing affordable housing, especially for residents of District 2. District 2 residents need a fair shot just like Districts 4 and 5. We just need the same consideration as everyone else. I see these issues in the comprehensive plan but I don’t see any commissioners currently advocating for it. I get what I need, what I want, and what I ask for because it is usually the right thing and if it is the right thing, then it will happen. I know I can get it done for District 2.

Lynda Bell

Lynda Bell chose not to be interviewed.

Christian Caban

As you can tell, I’m big on infrastructure that improves the quality of life, particularly for those in District 2. That is, making sure our roads are safe for cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists, that traffic flows well, that we have proper drainage and sewage management, and the like.  ithin that, I’m particularly interested in the development of the Airport Gateway.  e need to make sure we deliver as promised by getting citizen input early and throughout the development process. I’m also interested in improving the community benefit of Innovation Park.   feel the Mag Lab, particularly, is underutilized as an economic engine. Finally, and getting back to students, I would like to see Lively Technical College, city and county governments, and the local business community work together to get more students through high school, learn a trade at Lively, and transition to sustained employment in their chosen trade.  his approach could not only give students a viable career choice, it would give local trade=based businesses qualified workers, and for residents should result in lower housing construction and maintenance costs as we have a sufficient capable workforce.

Hannah Crow

Responsible growth, blue collar jobs, homelessness. Homelessness needs a wholesale approach; I’d like to work with the homeless task force. Food insecurity- access to fresh food- is another big issue.

Overarching all of this is the need to communicate with the community. This is critical. People must know what resources are available to them and what help they can get. Commissioners need to have an integrated relationship with all the community leaders of all types to be able to share this information.

Will Crowley

First, as we just discussed, I’d like for people in District 2 to feel that government works better for them. We have something like a 17% voter participation rate in the district. I feel this is driven by people not feeling government has been working for them. We need to change that. Second, the Airport Gateway will have a major impact in the district; it will be impacting many neighborhoods and can have significant environmental impacts as well. I want to be closely involved in that project to make sure it is actually a benefit to the district.

Max Epstein

  1. Comprehensive Stormwater master plan between the City, County and Blueprint. There needs to be immediate action to preserve and improve our water quality in our area. Right now, things are done very piecemeal. 
  2. Remedy Lake Munson. 
  3. Reparations for the individuals who were displaced by FAMU Way and prevent it from happening to more historically black neighborhoods. For example, right now unless you are constantly and meticulously looking at the plans, you would easily miss that they are planning to remove an entire neighborhood. 
  4. Advocate for 32304 infrastructure and economic investment and reranking Blueprint projects.

Manny Joanas

Manny Joanas chose not to be interviewed.

County Commission
District 3

Joey Lamar

I would like to take the lead on homelessness and crime reduction. Homelessness is a huge problem throughout Tallahassee, especially on the North Monroe Corridor from Tharpe Street going past Fred George. This problem has gotten significantly worse over the past four years. We must provide housing to help get the unhoused off the streets. Housing will provide the mental stability because they are living in a place of their own. Then, we can help them find employment and they can integrate back into our communities.

The second issue is reducing crime. Young people who don’t wish to attend college need to learn skills that translate into good-paying jobs such as electrician, carpenter, and plumber. Plumbers start at $31/hour. Electrician at $25/hour. If we can move these young people into skilled labor positions, they can be a positive impact in our communities, make a good living and not graduate with a lot of student college loan debt, like I did. The gap we must bridge here is exposure. The programs we have in place are great, but if no one knows about the opportunity, they cannot take advantage of the service. We need to bring back career days in high school. Also, let’s allow them to shadow a worker for a day. They have to know they have viable non-college options. Increased employment, including wages, leads to a reduction in crime. 

Rick Minor

South Side development is one issue. We especially need to mitigate the potential effects of gentrification. I don’t want to see the South Side improved in a way that pushes people out of those areas.  Whenever it comes to improving the overall quality of life in a community, we need to do two things: 1) invest in infrastructure but also, at the same time, 2) help the workforce develop more skills so they can raise incomes and reduce poverty.  So, for example, we need to help people in South City earn more money so they can afford to buy a home there and pay the mortgage, as opposed to having their rent increase and be forced to relocate to a different area.

As we make these infrastructure investments in the South Side and in other parts of the County – including my own – we need to help people learn new job skills so they can earn higher incomes. Even without a college degree, there are good-paying jobs in IT that a good training program could prepare people for. This will help reduce poverty and eliminate food insecurity so that we can improve quality of life.

Damon Victor

One of my top priorities would be creating safe pathways and working with the City, Blueprint, and CRPTA to finish the infrastructure on the west end of Tharpe Street. This is doable and can be accomplished. I would also like to see better access to health care and fresh food for historically underserved areas, as well as better digital connectivity in poorer communities. Another top priority is protecting the environment, and more specifically our aquifer and water supplies. This would include maintaining and improving our systems of sewage spill reporting, septic to sewer conversion, wastewater and stormwater management.

County Commission
District 5

Paula DeBoles-Johnson

I’d like more money in SHIP to do more good, expand help to minority-owned and small businesses, and focus on community safety. Our young people are in crisis. They need a safe place to be, to get food, and get homework assistance. Other communities have done this successfully. We need to have the will to do it, to spend money on the front end on prevention and support and on public-private partnerships to create jobs.

David O'Keefe

First, affordable housing, rental and home ownership. That is a crisis in our entire country and there are levers of power that a County can use. We need to be doing everything in our power to address this and if we only have the power to do small, incremental things for our community, then we need to do everything we can to address this crisis.  People in our community are suffering.  In my family, we experienced foreclosure and this led me to go to school to learn about how money works and to become a CPA. I understand how this issue is intertwined with so many others.

Second, community first development. Take Blueprint and Office of Economic Vitality- we need to change what they are now focusing on, the conventional economic development strategies like trying to get big hotels, big companies— “premier landmark projects.”  These may create jobs, but do not necessarily help the community. 

What we need to be doing now is to look at the private market, identify the gaps and focus on filling those gaps in local services. For example, we have individuals driving to other cities to get specialty medical care.  We could be finding out what medical specialties and facilities we need and turn our development staff to recruiting, developing, incubating— whatever it takes to get those new services here.  The same for skilled nursing facilities or day care and more. There are things we don’t have enough of.  If we turned our economic development focus on these, it would create jobs and alleviate stress on individuals and families. This focus on community needs is so much better than funding hotel buildings. By doing this, we would see a very different community here in Leon County in a very few years.  

Jay Revell

Our housing affordability crisis. Our community is quickly becoming, if it has not already become, a place that is viewed as unaffordable. This has not always been the case. We need a multi-faceted set of solutions.  It touches a lot of other challenges in our community. 

Creating a more equitable economic situation in our community. If you are someone who wants to build a life in our community, you should not feel as though there are multiple barriers in front of you to do so.  You should feel you have the ability to start a business, find a job that pays a livable wage, or find a home you can afford in a safe neighborhood. There is a wide gap in our community between those who think there are barriers and those who think no barriers exist.  We need to try to close that gap. We talk a lot about reducing poverty or violent crime which are intrinsically linked. 

I am on the board of Goodwill Industries of the Big Bend and this has helped me recognize that violent crime is usually an act of desperation. We need to do everything in our power to change that trajectory. We have people in our community facing this on a daily basis who need hope, jobs, training, and a strong support system. 

Dustin Rivest

Addressing poverty – jobs, education, housing all of which greatly reduces crime and violence.

Citizen engagement – will change the way we look at what our constituents want our community to look like. Right now, citizens are not engaged at the level that gives me any confidence that our commissioners are doing the real work of the people. 

County Commission
At-Large Group 2

Rudolph Ferguson, Sr.

Yes! First is public safety as this is a major concern. We have guns in broad daylight and nighttime. We have seen a major uptick in guns coming into our county. I have been a voice against gun violence for a very long time. Businesses cannot grow, people and developers do not want to come here when we are the wild, wild west. Second is homelessness, somewhat of a segue to crime, and poverty. So many just want to stay alive. There has also been a major uptick in homelessness since we have the only shelters in the 8-9 county region. People come here from other counties because we have shelter. But solutions are not far from us. We need a regional solution, and a national grant may help. The other issue is affordable housing, which is becoming a major crisis. Rents are going up. Everyone needs living wages. Public servants need to be making more money, including police that are willing to have a passion for people.

Josh Johnson

Yes, the one that pops into my mind as a teacher of economics for local governments – we can all agree how we keep local small businesses healthy and that is by undergirding businesses. It has been difficult crawling out of the pandemic but we have to make investments where people work. We should put ways we are spending money on small businesses under a magnifying glass. Make public investments to re-engage and re-build workforce for our economic health. Use our existing public resources in specific ways that affects affordable housing, small business, or our environment and natural resources. Investment benefits rise on the shoulder of government.

Nick Maddox

Yes, first is affordable housing and looking at how we can create a sense of place among that housing. Not only public assets like the Orange Avenue redevelopment project but more how do we create affordable housing. Secondly – working with law enforcement and our sister governments to address crime through poverty reduction, livable wages, building a trades workforce – these are the real issues that need our help. The sheriff and police are moving forward. Affordable housing and public safety are linked. We need smart strategic growth and ensure that the comp plan identifies where and how we grow, how we manage ourselves, how and what kind of economic development. We need certain types of jobs and know that the help we are giving, the training, is going toward jobs that produce livable wages. 

Dominique ('Nikki') Danielle Zumbo

The greatest need in our community is access to care. Too many people are not getting proper medical care. Friends, colleagues, neighbors don’t know the resources that exist. It can be too expensive and take too much time to get prescription drugs. In addition, having – or not having – a job brings constraints. People may not feel comfortable asking their employer for time off to seek medical care and those without work can be busy seeking a job and lack funds. I would like make access to care more effective and timely, for example reach telehealth on line and increase access to mental health services. Too many people are struggling with suicide calls and PTSD on the rise. More listening is needed. I learned a lot about these issues in a FEMA emergency management course.

City Commission
Seat 3

David Bellamy

The main thing is the quality of life in our impoverished areas.  We’ve got to fix crime, poverty, and provide affordable housing. I have been speaking to many people on the Northside and I have been able to convince the ones that beforehand were skeptical that you need to invest in our town.  You don’t have a poor area, you have THE poorest in the state.  You don’t have a high crime area, you have THE highest crime area in the state and investing in our impoverished areas with crime control, affordable housing, whatever it is. It’s a cliché, but it is a rising tide that will raise the entire city.  You can’t have a healthy city with those two monikers.

Think of how many businesses have clients fly into the airport and then won’t drive them down Lake Bradford Road. If you have an area of the town that you are embarrassed of, that is unacceptable, especially when we are not a city that is that big and we are relatively well off.  It’s really just been a matter of not putting our nose to the grindstone and fixing it.  This is not Chicago where we don’t have the resources to fix it… we have the resources.  It’s a matter of applying attention to it.  And again, in Step 1, I would like to think I could have some immediate effect on this if I win. Demanding that services be applied to the Southside, and to our impoverished areas just as they are anywhere else in town.

There are empty lots in Bond where it’s okay to throw trash.  I don’t mean a bottle but there are bags of household garbage and mattresses and the City doesn’t come clean that up. Can you imagine that in Killearn or Southwood?

Jeremy Matlow

Affordable housing and what is going on in the housing space is paramount. This ties into the Comp Plan and the Urban Service Area expansion. There’s been deception in every expansion of the USA that it will expand affordable housing, but none of the new development is really affordable. Most housing in the new development will be $280,000 to a $300,000 for a single-family home. There must be a more active role on this issue to ensure that low and extremely low-income individuals can find a place to live. This issue dovetails into the homelessness issue we are experiencing. Trying to get the homeless into an affordable unit with the ‘housing first” initiative.

The second issue, hard for officials to talk about, and that is the violence, gun violence and poverty. This goes hand in hand with what we do now with results to be seen in 10 – 15 years. Are we building a city where we’re investing equitably where everyone has the same educational, and career opportunities to choose a different path? This is not something that shows immediate results but we must continue to drive it forward.

City Commission
Seat 4

John Dailey

Yes, one issue is economic development and job creation. Development of the new Tallahassee Airport international facility will enhance economic development and good jobs. We need to define how to best use the Northwood Center, Lake Ella, and Lake Bradford properties.

The second key issue I am working on and committed to is increasing the stock of affordable and low-income housing and evaluating strategies to increase our stock of both.

Another issue is curbing gun violence. We have committed $1M/year for five years to implement programs to curb gun violence and this is an important issue we are working on.

Kristin Dozier

City government needs to be more transparent and responsive to the citizens it serves and I would make this a priority. We have good people working for the City, and setting the tone starts at the top with the city manager, commissioners, and administrative staff. I’d advocate for a performance audit to improve efficiency/reduce cost/and enhance community engagement, and use the money saved from this analysis to address the community’s needs. I’d change the culture in City Hall so. Staff feels free to engage with citizens on issues, instead of the current approach of the City know best. The Performance Audit would be used to increase transparency, efficiency, and citizen engagement, and free us to work on the key issues, such as providing incentives for affordable housing and streamlining the process with dedicated staff, and seeking additional funding for low- and middle-income housing. I’d step-up collaboration on affordable housing and working with homeless providers. The building permit system is too slow and cumbersome, one of the slowest in the state. It takes too long to get new innovative and green products approved and new types of construction methods approved.

Michael Ibrahim

Homelessness and homelessness.  This is the biggest issue facing us today.  We need to solve this problem.  Other places have, for example, Finland.  We need to invest in tiny houses for people who are trying to find a job and care for themselves, to help them get on their feet.  If people have mental health problems, we should try to help them too.  We need to invest in a solution; if we just ignore this problem, it will only get much worse and harder/more expensive to solve.

Whitfield Leland III

My focus would be on poverty. For 42 years I have been fighting guns and drugs. We need to focus on the people who use the guns and why, and then we could decrease gun violence. I would allocate $2M/year for 5 years to address poverty. Poverty is the root cause of violence and crime. We should work to build the capacity of grassroots non-profits so they could better serve their communities. They know what is needed in their own communities. The private sector would boom when you provide the community with what is needed to strive to achieve. If we did this, we would address violence and displacement. If we address poverty, we will solve most issues. We need to have community-oriented grassroots citizens sit on all of our advisory boards and Community Action Teams (CAT). Regular community people who advocate and know what is happening on the ground should be appointed to serve.

City Commission
Seat 5

Shelby Green

Reopen and resume service at the Amtrak station. Amtrak is getting additional funding, and the Feds are pushing funding for infrastructure. We live in the Capitol City which has not had commuter rail service in about 17 years.  Reopening service and making rail service available to our student population, business travelers and vacationers would allow Tallahassee to be a sustainable, connected and open city Data helps to understand what needs to be done, what the barriers are to getting it done and then providing the opportunity for solutions and updates. A sustained and continuous data system including collection, regular review, updates etc. needs to be developed across the board so that a more targeted approach can be taken in identifying problems and solutions.

Adner Marcelin

There several issues:  affordable housing, alleviating poverty in the neighborhoods, ethics and accountability. 

With regards to affordable housing, we need to maximize housing opportunities for the benefit of working people. Again, the city commissioners need to be responsive to the needs of the community.  We have to make an investment in eliminating urban blight, restoring our infrastructure to restore neighborhoods and communities.

Related to ethics and accountability, if a person or organization has business before  the commission for an upcoming vote, they should be prohibited from making a donation to a commissioner before the vote. Or the commissioner should recuse him or herself from the vote. I support ethics laws, using the Judicial Qualifications Committee ethics rules as a model.  

Dianne Williams-Cox

There are 1900 affordable housing units in the pipeline right now. In addition to affordable housing we also need low-income housing and ways to identify how to provide that. 

Also, we need to continue to look at ways to impact poverty. TEMPO is a positive initiative for that.  I’m a big supporter of TEMPO. Also, our current program called Future Leaders Academy is a summer program for young people helping them to find jobs and earn money legitimately. I want to expand that program to year-round and not just in the summer.