Economic Development and Opportunity
I was raised in one of the poorest zip codes in Florida—32304. My hard-working parents—an electrician and Leon County public school teacher—sacrificed greatly to find a way to move our family from a trailer park to a more stable and safer neighborhood. I believe that kind of advancement should be available to anyone who wants to pursue it—no matter their zip code.
The opportunity to build a stable life for a family ultimately involves the ability to access and maintain a job with sufficient and/or higher-level wages. Our elected officials’ responsibility is to enable and facilitate the development of a diverse (and preferred) local/regional economy that produces a variety of jobs with great wages and career paths. While the abundance of economic development assets in our community demand we continue to attract new and support existing businesses that often require four-year and post-graduate degrees, our community must also recognize the immense value in middle- and high-skills trades jobs that can lead to fantastic careers and business ownership opportunities. We must have a renewed focus on emphasizing career paths, entrepreneurship opportunities, and the training and industry certifications that can be accessed by a broader range of young and second career seeking adults.
The safety of every citizen in our community, no matter what neighborhood or area of our county they live, is and should always be the highest priority and focus of our local government. While strong enforcement will always be important—especially in the area of violent crime—the commitment of building authentic and trustworthy relationships across our entire community is as important. This not only applies to law enforcement and our citizens but also from neighbor to neighbor. We all have opportunities to serve each other whether it be through mentoring in our most challenged schools, providing critical transportation services to the most underserved, or making an effort to break down barriers where they exist. I continue to believe that we will only see a sustainable decrease in crime when we experience a reduction of poverty and expanding and diverse economic opportunity in every area of our county.
Reducing poverty and crime LONG-TERM starts with ensuring that every child in our community is prepared physically, intellectually, and emotionally to succeed beginning in Kindergarten. The foundation of Kindergarten-readiness is critical in leading to a child’s ability in 3rd grade to successfully read at the prescribed grade level–one of the most important and well-documented educational metrics in determining an individual’s future success. Investment in pre-birth to age five critical care and education services across our entire community is the greatest investment we can make in reducing poverty and crime long-term, and ultimately providing the best opportunity for economic success and stability.
My experience has demonstrated to me that good governance is grounded in unconditional integrity and happens when institutions and their leaders combine a strong ethical foundation with strategic decision-making; I aim to bring that focus and commitment to integrity to the Leon County Commission. The County has a history of being recognized for providing great services and I hope to build upon that service standard by providing workforce talent development, balanced economic development and opportunity, and a focus on reducing poverty and crime.
High Skills Job Training
We should always encourage a young people to pursue their dreams of a profession or career they are passionate about. It is my view, however, that over the past 20 or so years we have communicated to and ingrained in our youth that if they do not pursue a four-year or graduate degree they cannot be successful or achieve their fullest potential. I believe this simply not to be true—particularly for individuals that may not be motivated to go to college, have the resources or circumstances to enable them to attend college, or in some cases simply do not have the aptitude.
There are extremely good careers awaiting motivated youth that want to make a great career with substantial pay. These careers exist in a variety of middle and high skills trade jobs accessible through targeted industry certifications and training—many that can be completed within a year to 18 months and that lead to almost certain job placement (many in the 90-95 percent job placement range). I believe we truly need to emphasize and inform our youth of these “options” beginning in middle school and continue to inform them throughout high school. We should be expanding the reach and practical engagement, and services of Lively Technical College, TCC, and other institutions (public and private) with our middle and high school students, as well as our employers in the community so that our future workforce is a sustainable pipeline for their anticipated needs and prospectively the source for the next business to start in Leon County!