County Commission District 3: Rick Minor

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 the County Commissioner for District 3 in Leon County. I was born in Miami but I’ve lived in Tallahassee for 20 years. I went to University of Florida and then got a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. I worked in IT and business consulting projects within the United States and all around the world – Germany, Denmark, South Africa, the Canadian Maritimes, and Hong Kong. I was staffed on a project for Texas’ version of Florida’s DCF and the project helped them set up technology to coordinate and connect different agencies to protect children and the elderly from abuse and neglect. I loved the idea of improving government to be more responsive to its citizens. After the project, I transferred to my consulting firm’s government unit so I could focus on government projects from that point on. After consulting for 9 years, I left the firm to pursue a Master’s degree. Then I moved back to my home state of Florida to work on a campaign and fell in love with Tallahassee. I live with his wife and 2 children.

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

While working on the Texas project, I became passionate about how government can be more responsive to citizens and how it can improve its operations to serve the public. That project changed my life because it was a calling and I decided that was what I wanted to do.

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. As a sitting commissioner, I’m well-versed in growth management issues. The Comprehensive Plan is intended to be a framework for this community to plan its future growth. People want smart growth and good planning. The ultimate goal of growth management is to improve the quality of life for people who live here. Growth should be sustainable. It should also respect the character of existing neighborhoods, encourage multi-modal transportation options, and it should be compact and avoid sprawl. As growth occurs, people also want good schools. They want growth that doesn’t undermine their quality of life, but rather enhances it.

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

Citizens can and should be more engaged. Local government can do a better job of listening to concerns and making sure that citizens are aware of these major projects before they get too far along. We need more front-loaded outreach. Too often I hear from people who say: “I didn’t even know this was a project.” That’s not the fault of the citizen, but rather means that government must do better at the outset, making sure that they get the information they need to provide feedback.

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?

A lot. Public properties belong to the public and therefore, they should have a strong voice in deciding how they are used.

The Northwood project is in my district. The City has done a good job getting feedback from the public, and now what the City needs to do is incorporate that feedback into the real designs. Although I don’t have a vote in this because it’s a City property, I did send a letter to the City  Commissioners and the Mayor, urging three requests for the Northwood Master Plan: 1) Integrate the Performing Arts Center into the Master Plan; 2) Strongly consider including senior and workforce housing; and 3) Incorporate park and green space, and green space/outdoor seating next to restaurant/food options.

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?  

Right now, this community has 700 miles of trails and greenways, which I support and believe need to be encouraged.  I personally opposed the Thomasville Road multi-use path because I got a majority of negative feedback from neighbors, who were concerned about the safety of a path crossing the large number of access points on such a busy road. I proposed an alternative (which Commissioners Matlow and Maddox supported), but it didn’t get enough votes. Now that it has passed, I’m committed to working in good faith with FDOT and others to ensure that the path is as safe as possible and as user-friendly as possible and that it minimizes the loss of trees. Once the design is ready for review, I’ll work with FDOT and neighbors to identify any safety issues and then work to address these. I’m generally a strong supporter of greenway trails but, as with any project, you must weigh the pros and cons and take citizen input into account. Ultimately, I represent the citizens. We have a lot of trails to be proud of, but we need more and we need better connectivity.

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?  

For decades, the answer has been an emphatic no, but in recent years we’ve made significant investments in the Southside. Some projects in the pipeline have not started yet. For example, there has been considerable investment in sewers on the Southside. Also, there has been investment in the Orange Avenue apartments. We recently approved 3 apartment complexes to be converted into affordable housing. 

5) Commissioner/Staff/Management Roles

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

I used to be a staff member, so I have both perspectives.  Human beings have biases, as much as we might try to keep them in check. Agenda items sometimes have an inherent bias. It is up to a commissioner to look beyond what the staff has written or recommended. Staff are talented but commissioners still need to read agenda items with a critical eye and ask questions. We should not accept staff recommendations at face value and should always probe and push to have key questions answered. Commissioners have a duty to sift through the facts and do their own research to overcome any potential bias.

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? 

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.

7) Votes on Key Issues

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

I voted for the Welaunee expansion. I wanted to engage citizens and the public and talk with them about the pros and cons. I went to more than 10 charettes [community engagement meetings], more than any other commissioner, and met with ATN, Keep It Rural and Dr. Pam Hall. Without the Master Plan for Welaunee, the landowners would still have been able to build.  For the land outside of the urban service area, they could have developed without sewer. For land inside the USA, they could have developed up to 20 units/acre without any requirement for a Master Plan. They could have sold their land piecemeal, with that land being developed independent of what might be around it. Without a Master Plan, the landowner had the right to do all of that. With the Master Plan that was adopted, there will be staged development so that growth occurs in the southwestern core first and moves out towards the northeast in a very staged way. The Master Plan also guarantees 1,900 acres of green space.  Another reason I voted for it was because I introduced Dr. Pam Hall’s idea for transferred development credits to preserve more open space in environmentally sensitive areas. The Passive Park and the transfer of development credits were important reasons to vote to expand the USA boundary line. With the Master Plan we have a unified plan for that land.  For example, we now have a requirement for a master stormwater plan that incorporates all of that land holistically. We wouldn’t have had that if the Master Plan hadn’t been adopted.

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

Initially, I supported it because FSU is the #1 economic driver in our community, but I heard from so many people who opposed it and who advanced well-reasoned opinions that I was convinced to change my vote. While fundraising isn’t easy for anyone, FSU can raise the money more easily than most anyone else, including Blueprint. The opportunity cost was too high and there were more pressing needs in our community. At the end of the day, I work for the people who live here and their arguments against it were sound.  The majority convinced me that it was the right thing to do, so I voted NO.

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’m proud of the work I’ve done with the people who live here and it’s been a great honor to serve as a commissioner.  I’ve worked hard to increase the number of high paying jobs, and we’ve made progress on reducing crime (although much more needs to be done). I’ve worked with others on anti-human trafficking training and we’re making real inroads on addressing homelessness. I’ve seen progress on protecting the environment and ensuring greater equities in how our tax dollars are spent. If the people of District 3 choose to elect me for another four years, I’ll work just as hard to make them proud as I have during these past four.

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