Why do I want to be Mayor of Tallahassee?

In middle school in 1987, I participated in a program where students “ran the city for a day.” In this photo, I received an award from Mayor Harley.

In middle school in 1987, I participated in a program where students “ran the city for a day.” In this photo, I received an award from Mayor Harley.

For the past twelve years you all have given me the opportunity to serve as your County Commissioner and for that I am very grateful.  Also, for the past twenty-two years, I’ve been working directly with local governments all across this country.  My political experience, my professional experience, and my academic experience have lead me to this moment.

I am from Tallahassee and I love Tallahassee.  It made me who I am.  Tallahassee is also the community that my wife, Ginny, and I decided to raise our two boys in.  For selfish reasons I want to make this the best community I possibly can. 

And finally, we are at a crossroads.  No matter who wins, the majority of the City Commission is going to be brand new and it is important, in order to properly write the next chapter in this community, to elect the right leadership.  Someone that can bring this community back together, that can work in a positive coalition with the City Commission, that has established relationships with the School Board and with the County Commission on day one.  That’s what it’s going to take.

We need a mayor that has a vision, the experience, and can restore public trust.  And that’s the mayor I want to be.

What ideas do you have for improving access to quality, comprehensive healthcare (including mental health) for residents in Tallahassee-Leon County? Also, do you support a local ordinance protecting women’s reproductive rights?

Our healthcare decisions are some of the most personal decisions we make and those should be between a woman and her doctor. One way that we can improve access to quality, comprehensive healthcare in Tallahassee-Leon County is to support the creation of a Children’s Services Council. While not every woman in Tallahassee is or will be a mother, we know the importance of mothers and mothers-to-be having regular interactions with healthcare professionals. This is important for the health and growth of children as well as for the mental health of the mothers. A Children’s Services Council can provide these much-needed services to expecting mothers and new mothers. Additionally, Leon County adopted a Paid Parental Leave policy that provides six weeks of paid leave to county employees to care for and bond with a newborn or newly-adopted child.

It is also important that we continue to hear from the community about what is needed and potential solutions. I am proud to have helped establish the Commission on the Status of Women and Girls which promotes issues affecting women and girls in our community and serves an important advisory role to the City and County Commissions.

I support a local ordinance protecting women’s reproductive rights.

Single parents are 4 times more likely to live in poverty than two parent households. Forty percent of children live in single parent households, and 80% of single parent households are headed by women. What policies or programs do you propose to reduce poverty and improve financial stability for single mothers in Tallahassee?

These dire statistics are part of why I introduced the concept of the Children’s Services Council. I am honored to currently be part of the Planning Committee that is conducting a thorough needs assessment to determine where the greatest need is and where the most good can be done if Leon County voters approve this dedicated funding source in 2020. I am a firm believer in a Children’s Services Council and the meaningful impact it can have on our community’s children, but I also know that we must take a two-generation approach to addressing poverty or we will not break the cycle. This is why we must ensure that parents have steady, good-paying jobs and access to the right resources. To do this, we are going to have to get creative in the services and opportunities we offer as a community and get serious about training our workforce.

What are your plans to address Tallahassee's crime rate?

I am proud to have earned the endorsement of local first responders, including the police and firefighters.

I am proud to have earned the endorsement of local first responders, including the police and firefighters.

As Mayor, I will fight to put more police officers on our streets, to rebuild trust between our communities and the police that protect them, and to ensure that TPD has the best technology available to support our law enforcement.

I will also work to continue the technological developments taking place at our state-of-the-art Consolidated Dispatch Agency.

I am interested in holistic solutions to our community’s challenges and believe that including re-entry programs in our future economic development is a vital piece of the puzzle.  By offering economic opportunities to those re-joining our community after incarceration we can begin to tackle the recidivism rate one job at a time.

Human trafficking, both sex and labor, is a serious and pressing issue in our community. How do you propose to address this form of exploitation?

While human trafficking may be less visible in our community than other forms of crime and exploitation, I take it very seriously. In 2016 Leon County partnered with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to develop and deliver a training program for front-line County staff to recognize and report the signs of human trafficking. I am dedicated to finding solutions that work. I know that this means that in addition to the necessary training of City employees, we can continue to support and coordinate with organizations that are on the front lines of this issue every day, like the Big Bend Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

How do you propose to improve public transportation, which could include reducing transit time, extending schedule hours, and increasing stops and/or routes?

It is time for another comprehensive study of the transportation needs in our community. Additionally, we need to explore what other similarly-sized cities have done well to improve their public transportation. Through my 20+ years working with cities all across the country I have had a front row seat to the most innovative solutions to cities’ challenges. I am excited to bring that knowledge to City Hall. Innovation will not happen in Tallahassee if we do not make it a priority. Because of this, I propose creating an Office of Civic Innovation that will be dedicated to finding big, bold solutions that will help us build a better Tallahassee.

Finally, we must maintain our commitment to reducing urban sprawl. We have been focused on this at the County and we must continue this focus at the City with policies that encourage growth in the Urban Services Area. Reducing urban sprawl means that our transportation needs are concentrated; this will reduce travel and wait times and offer flexibility to increase stops and/or routes as necessary.

Leon County ranks 38 out of 67 counties in Florida with a Gender Earnings Ratio of 84.1%, meaning that women earn $0.84 to every dollar earned by men in comparable positions. This figure is down from five years ago when the ratio was 89%. What are your thoughts on the gender pay gap, and what are your ideas for eliminating wage disparity?

I am proud that Leon County has just completed a gender pay disparity study of county employees and found no wage disparity. As a County Commissioner, I have worked to make Leon County an example for others in the community to follow. Equal pay for equal work is not only the right thing to do, it is better for our economy. However, we continue to look for ways to improve and because of this the County no longer requires job applicants to disclose their previous salary on their application. This small change helps to prevent unintentionally perpetuating past wage disparity.

How will you balance development in our community with our current way of life?

Ribbon cutting at the Lake Jackson Community Center in 2013.

Ribbon cutting at the Lake Jackson Community Center in 2013.

We have worked in past years to zone parts of our city for commercial development.  Now we must be sure that we are utilizing those designations and working with the community advisory board on the comprehensive plan to foster commercial development that increases everyone’s quality of life.

Also, the city must do more to work with the Leon County School Board and support our schools.  The quality of our schools impact where residents move within the city so I believe that we need to create an environment where it doesn't matter what school your child is zoned to attend--they will receive a high-quality education regardless.

Safe, quality, affordable childcare and housing are increasingly out of reach for families in Tallahassee-Leon County. What are your ideas for addressing the widening gap between essential services and residents’ ability to pay for them?

There are two fronts on which we must fight this battle. The first is closing the gap. I think it is time for the City Commission to consider our community’s role in providing assistance to those who most need it to pay for childcare. We know that many women drop out of the workforce or are unable to work full-time because of their childcare needs, whether it is the expense of childcare or the fact that there are no childcare options for the time the parent has to be at work. Closing the gap for some may need to come in the form of financial assistance, but for others it may mean that they simply need more flexible childcare house.

The second front we’re fighting this battle on is income. Simply put, the gap between those who have a lot and those who have very little continues to grow in Tallahassee. As Mayor, I will not only be dedicated to putting citizens to work, I want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to advance in their careers through training opportunities and by recruiting more high-wage jobs to our city. It is time for the city to have a Mayor who aggressively works to bring new businesses to Tallahassee that will address the job needs we know we will have over the next 20 years and to make sure that our citizens are trained to get those jobs when they do come to town.

According to preliminary data collected in 2018 by the Tallahassee-Leon County Commission on the Status of Women & Girls, nearly half of the women surveyed have experienced sexual violence in the past year. What policies or programs do you propose for protecting women in public spaces and the workplace?

Addressing sexual violence is one piece of our larger efforts to reduce crime in our community. One important step to achieving these goals is to make sure that all of our various law enforcement agencies are communicating as efficiently and effectively as possible. I have proposed working to get as many agencies on the same software as possible so that everyone can have the realtime data necessary to take swift action. This is especially important since those who commit sexual violence are often repeat offenders. But beyond software and communication, we must ensure that everyone feels safe. I’m proud that when I was student body president at Florida State University, I was a partner to complete the emergency blue light stations across campus that can be used at any time to directly connect with campus police whenever one feels threatened or sees suspicious activity. Finally, we have to set the example. There must be zero tolerance for sexual harassment and sexual assault in our workplaces, and it is our job as community leaders to set that example.

How will you address crime and corruption in City Hall?

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It's time for a strong leader to stand up and right the ship at City Hall.  We are all fed up with the distrust and dysfunction in our government and it is time to move forward.

I am ready to be the leader that unifies our community and works with the City Commission and the City Manager and his team to rebuild a strong, functional city government for the residents of Tallahassee.

Domestic abuse remains a significant threat to women in our community, one that crosses socioeconomic and cultural boundaries. What are your ideas for protecting women from abuse, in all forms, in their homes?

In addition to supporting better communication among our law enforcement agencies, we must continue to support proper training for members of our community, especially our law enforcement personnel and teachers. At Leon County, we developed a comprehensive policy and training program that informs and empowers County employees to recognize and address domestic violence, sexual violence, and stalking in the workplace. Our current strategic plan sets the bold goal of training 100% of County employees; we should do the same at the City.

Bullying, cyber-bullying, substance abuse, school disciplinary actions, and suicide is rising for girls in our community, according to the 2016 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey and the 2016 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey. What are your ideas for protecting girls and improving their well-being?

I will continue to advocate for the creation of a Children’s Services Council, since we know that, among other things, this is one of the areas that we believe we can have a strong positive impact. Additionally, we must continue to support the organizations in our community that are on the front lines, such as the Apalachee Center, where I served on the Board of Directors and as Chairman of the Board.  I am particularly excited about the new partnership between Apalachee Center and Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare that will bring even more dedicated mental health beds to our community and provide much needed resources. We must also properly train teachers, school staff, parents, and the community on these issues so that they know the warning signs. We must develop a comprehensive community strategy that brings the school system, county and city governments, local law enforcement agencies, mental health professionals, neighborhood groups, and the faith-based community together. This will ensure that we are all heading in the same direction and that we can best utilize each group’s unique strengths. Finally, we know that in addition to educating parents and community members about bullying, our schools must have clear rules and policies that are backed up by consistent enforcement to help educate our children as well.