County Commission District 5: Paula DeBoles-Johnson

1) Interests and Reasons for Running

A) Tell us a little about yourself, where you live, and your involvement in your neighborhood (issues impacting your neighborhood).

I’m originally from Orlando; I moved to Tallahassee to go to FAMU in 1986, met my husband and got married. We’ve lived in Indianhead Acres since 1997. My husband and I have been active in our church for 29 years; we each lead a Scout troop and have done lots of community service. I’ve served on local boards- the Commission on the Status of Women & Girls, the Southern Scholarship Foundation, Elder Care, TPD Citizen’s Advisory Board, Airport Advisory Committee to name a few.

B) What event(s) led you to run for elected office?

I had been planning to run for school board a few years ago and then later I planned to run for the commission, but family illness and then choosing to support and not run against some other people delayed my plans. When Commissioner Dozier chose not to run, I knew my opportunity had come. So, it wasn’t one event, it was years of engagement in the community and feeling that I could do some good as an elected official.

2) Comprehensive Plan Update Process

A) Are you familiar with the comprehensive planning process and its role in guiding growth and development, and protecting neighborhoods? 

Yes, I am familiar with the Comp Plan.

B) What role should citizens have in deciding on growth and development policies for our community?  

We wouldn’t be having all this public outcry if the public had been allowed to participate throughout the entire process. It just makes sense to involve people in every aspect of the process.

3) Process Used to Decide on the Use of Public Properties

What role should citizens and neighborhoods have in deciding on the use of public properties and how do you think that should work, for example in the development of the Northwood Mall site?

What I saw in my work with AmeriCorps is that if you allow people to participate, you’d be surprised at the innovative results and the feeling of community. I think we should use our technology, for things like online meetings, to give everyone a chance to participate.

4) Growth and Development Decisions

A) ATN believes that growth and development decisions are key to making urban neighborhoods walkable, bikeable, and livable. Do you agree? If so, what specifically would you propose to implement these concepts?

I agree. We all need safe spaces to be outdoors. Indianhead has no sidewalks and we had to take our children to the St. Marks trail to ride bikes.  Everyone needs exercise. Children also need to be safe waiting for the bus and walking to school. Communities should be the ones to identify what they need. After all, it’s our money.

B) In your opinion, has the Commission done enough to equitably share tax dollars and guide growth and prosperity generally, and more specifically, to implement the Southern Action Plan? What else should we do to ensure growth is equitable and benefits all of our citizens?

I am a county employee; there are lots of things we do well, such as the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) program, which helps people move out of poverty. I’d like to see more money invested in that and more services to help people move up. Citizens are crying out for what they want and government should help people in the community flourish.

5) Commissioner/Staff/Management Roles

What do you see as the appropriate role between staff and the commission in decision making? 

I think people are not well versed in this, they don’t understand that staff’s job is to provide and synthesize information. However, it is the commissioners’ job to ask questions and be sure you understand the material.

6) Issues of Interest to Candidate

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

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.

7) Votes on Key Issues

A) If you had been a commissioner during the vote to expand the Urban Service Area to include the Welaunee Arch (2800 rural acres) north of I-10, how would you have voted? Explain your answer. 

You need to hear from staff and from the public and then do what’s best even if it makes people unhappy. I think they should have waited and tried to see if there was more common ground.

B) How about the vote to give $27 million of Blueprint money to FSU for stadium upgrades? Explain your answer. 

Absolutely not. The situation between FAMU and FSU was not at all similar and the money could have been put to much better use.

8) Additional Comments We appreciate you sharing your time and thoughts with us.  Is there anything you haven’t had a chance to tell us yet that you would like our neighborhoods to know?  

I want to serve our community and no one would work harder than I would to do a good job.

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