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2022 Election

AskFlagler County Commission Interview: Janet McDonald

Interview Criteria

  • The object of the interview is not to grill the candidate, nor to give them softballs. Ideally, in their answers the candidates provide to voters a useful insight into their ideology, their priorities, and their knowledgeability and preparedness for office.

  • Questions are sent to each declared candidate in the 2022 races for School Board, County Commission, and Palm Coast City Council. Each candidate receives the same exact questions as the other candidates for the same office.

  • The only edits made are for spelling, formatting and basic grammar (i.e., ‘their’ when it should be ‘there’). Censorship of profanity may also be applied if it were to become applicable. Otherwise, answers are presented in their full form as the candidate provides them.

  • Answers are subject to fact-checking if they contain information that’s blatantly misleading or untrue (misrepresenting factually verifiable information, misquoting a statistic, etc). Clarifications will be added underneath the candidate’s answer if applicable. The answers will still be presented as given even if a fact-check or clarification is needed.

  • Some of these questions were contributed by constituents whom candidates would serve if elected later this year.

Candidate Interview

-In your words, what are Flagler County’s greatest strengths as things stand now? What are its areas most in need of improvement?

“The greatest strength is the variety of people who were raised here or who adopted Flagler County as their home because it is so unique and they invest in it daily. The greatest need for improvement is the access to be part of the decision making panels. We have experts from all walks of life living within our borders, abounding with common sense and willingness to share expertise, yet are opted out of a seat at the table or voice in workshops, planning boards, and council meetings…or when given 3 minutes of ‘obligatory’ public comment, most who share feel it is an effort in futility, as decisions seem to be predetermined in the back rooms. Our elected councils need to plan globally, when appropriate, and in context of the whole when individually affected…As Chief Seattle is quoted: We are all on the Web of Life, and what each does affects all on the web.”

-How important is decorum, both in meetings and in everyday life, in a County Commissioner?

“Very important for each and every one of us, in every role each Flagler County member has! There are times when spuriously or fallaciously attacked, one needs to defend and clarify mischaracterizations. And there are times when emphasis needs to be made and positions need to be respectfully defended, though delivered more vociferously than common speech.”

-One of the top concerns on the minds of Flagler residents is the rate of growth within the county. What impact can a Commissioner have where growth is concerned, and what’s your outlook on the issue?

“I agree, and I believe it is because planning has been done in jurisdiction silos without an overall [Flagler County] plan that was created with contributions from all areas. Our population is small and unique enough with experts from every field, who, I know, would be willing to contribute to a Vision for Flagler, rather than the League of Cities/Counties plan in which every county has ‘everything’ and unique is so last century! I’ve heard remorse from so many that “this isn’t the Flagler County they came to ‘x’ years ago”…and what they see now is not going in the right direction for a healthy community.”

Describe how high a priority it is for you to maintain the county’s green space. If it’s low, explain why. If it’s high, what are some practical ideas you have to promote keeping more of it?

“High! The air we breathe, the plant and animal kingdom networks, the stability of our soils and subterranean biomes and waterways are directly affected by the health of our natural treasures and buffers that we see. Again, I know collaboration among all invested citizens and electeds to have a commitment to respectfully plan, serve, protect, and develop this unique county and community is possible through focused commitment of time, talent, and treasure.”

-What experience do you have overseeing budgets? Describe what your priorities and approach will be in evaluating the county budget if elected to the County Commission.

“[As for budget experience:] Personal, business, and school board. [As for approach:] My initial impressions is to reign in legal, as far as poor purchases and contract issues and
engineering mismanagement (Matanzas).”

-Expanding upon the last question, what are one or two areas you’d like to see budget cuts, if any? What about budget expansions?

“Every year needs to be evaluated and short and long term goals need to be addressed. I’d have to learn rationales and timelines for prioritizing focus for spending cuts or expansions.”

-Evaluate the current County Commission in how it navigated the negotiation of impact fees with the school district. Are there any parts of that process you believe could’ve been done better?

“If we could turn the clock back, it would have avoided much distrust, if the BoCC had allowed/welcomed the School Board to join in the impact fee study to get a common perspective on growth projections and establish impact fees to be able to take advantage of the four best years (out of last 20) in our economy. With the School Board having to do their own study two years later, the up-to-date data was rejected by the BoCC, creating another wall of distrust. Their expert did confirm that School Board’s data was more current and valid for the 1.5% rate of growth
we experienced annually during the last several years. The terms of collecting the impact fees was another point of contention for smaller builders, though surrounding counties collect fees from all at initial application.

“Had the BoCC worked together with the School Board and other municipal electeds for the benefit of the existing community, whose services we are responsible for providing, rather than pull out of the FL Statute driven ILA (Interlocal Agreement with representation from Flagler Beach, Palm Coast, and Bunnell) and sabotage a countywide working group to focus on a small group of rate-payers, much effort and energy could have been directed toward a common solution instead of a contentious waste of energy due to blatant disregard for the long established process meant to service all well. The governmental bodies who are the service providers know the elements and costs that are needed for the expansion of services that new development and residents need. All members of the ILA have equal votes, and the County Commission is responsible to collaborate and plan with ILA members, not special interest rate payers.”

-The latest numbers from the regional Chamber of Commerce place the county’s unemployment rate at 3.4%, an increase at 0.7% from the month before. How high of a priority is job creation, and what specific measures do you advocate to go toward that goal?

“I believe government is responsible for making the most business friendly environment to allow approved personal business initiatives to thrive.”

-Lastly, give a broad campaign pitch to those who are still undecided.

“I love Flagler County and am committed to contributing to protecting the vital unique assets of Flagler County’s natural and historic treasures with a focus on respectful development. I have invested eight years serving on the School Board, during my chairman years we achieved a B+ and an A rating. I believe some of the collaborative processes we used on the school board would facilitate the workings of the BoCC, and provide bridges for “all county long range coordinated planning.” I self-fund all of my campaigns and am not aligned with any special interest groups, yet welcome feedback and ideas from all who contribute to Flagler County’s best! I communicate with constituents and respond to all emails and calls.”

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Written By

Chris Gollon is a Flagler County resident since 2004, as well as a staple of the local independent music scene and avid observer of Central Florida politics, arts, and recreation.

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