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Milissa Holland Will Run For Florida House, Energizing Flagler’s Chances For a State Voice

| May 17, 2012

'One of my strengths over the last six years has been as a consensus builder across both sides of the aisle,' Milissa Holland, a county commissioner for the past six years, said. 'I've always voted with my heart and my conscience.' (© FlaglerLive)

Milissa Holland, the forceful and popular Flagler County commissioner—she was elected with 65 percent of the vote six years ago and ran unopposed two years ago—said today she will run for the Florida House, giving the county its first solid chance in 48 years to have direct representation in Tallahassee by one of its own, and giving Democrats the rare chance of a pick-up in a House dominated by the GOP.

“I’ve been very proud of what I’ve accomplished here in Flagler County and I love what I do as a county commissioner, and it’s very difficult to make the decision to leave all of that,” Holland said. But, she continued, “it’s the first time we will have a full representative in 48 years. It’s extremely important. If you look at the district, this is why we pushed the census so hard in an effort to have our voice heard. We knew the opportunity was there to have an entire representative, and Tallahassee made that determination that we should. They didn’t give St. Johns a whole seat and give us a portion. And they didn’t do it with Volusia either. They stated that Flagler County has gotten to a place where our voices should be heard as equally as many other counties in the state of Florida.”

Holland will make a formal announcement at Holland Park in Palm Coast Monday (May 21), at 1:30 p.m. The park is named for her father. She will be filing a letter of resignation regarding her county commission seat, but the resignation won’t be effective until Nov. 6, so she will remain in that seat until then. At that point the governor has a choice to either appoint a replacement or call for a special election. Frank Meeker, the Palm Coast city council member, is the name on the lips of many people who follow the two governments as a leading contender, including his own.

Holland’s decision, following months of speculation and weeks of rumors, upends a race that until now had featured Travis Hutson, the 28-year-old Republican novice with heavy GOP support, and Doug Courtney, a Democrat from Flagler County and perennial political candidate who has yet to win a race, or come close.

Holland would have been a formidable candidate regardless, but the district’s new boundaries vastly improve her chances: Precisely 60.12 percent of the electorate in the newly drawn 24th House District is in Flagler County (by voting age population, not registered voters), with 20.51 percent in St. Johns and 19.37 percent in Volusia, making Flagler’s voters the clear heavyweights in any contest—the more so since Volusia’s and St. John’s slivers of the district themselves split the remaining votes.

The question was not whether Flagler could field candidates to take advantage of the new boundaries, but whether it could field viable ones. Donald O’Brien, an insurance executive from Palm Coast and a Republican, briefly campaigned against Hutson but dropped out abruptly last week.

Holland, 40, brings deep experience to the contest, a sense of legacy—her father, the late James Holland, was a Palm Coast founder and city council member—and political acumen that helped her forge alliances across party lines: just last summer she was appearing alongside Sen. John Thrasher, a staunch Republican, before the Florida Cabinet in a battle against a local development Holland and the county commission had fought for two and a half years. She prevailed.

“I think there are a lot of Independents and Republicans that will support her regardless of her party affiliation,” Barbara Revels, who chairs the county commission and had been urging Holland to run for legislative office, said.  She’s right: Holland has several prominent local Republicans’ admiration and outright support.

“I think we’re losing one of our most valuable assets in the county. I hate to see her go,” said Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts, a friend and frequent political ally, who was drafted to run for office 11 years ago by Holland’s father. “On the other hand, an infusion of dedication and commitment and concern and competence and compassion in Tallahassee is not a bad thing for us either.”

Asked directly whether he would support her candidacy, Netts paused, then said: “Yes. Republican, Democrat, that’s less important than what you stand for. I thinks she’s always been a person of integrity, of honesty, commitment to the constituents. I don’t know what more you could ask.”

Alan Peterson, a Republican, fellow county commissioner and occasional opponent of Holland’s on some issues, was equally categorical about his support of her candidacy, “because this is essentially local government, and whether we’re Republicans or Democrats doesn’t make any difference at all, it’s your philosophy and your outlook on government and what you think is important,” Peterson said. “I think Melissa knows Flagler County very well, I think she knows the people in Tallahassee, I think she’s had experience dealing with the Legislature in Tallahassee, so there are a lot of very good reasons as to why she would be a major asset and benefit for the residents of Flagler County. I mean, it’s very diff icult in my opinion for somebody to be elected to an office who has never had any governmental experience, and her opponent would be one of those who has not had any experience.”

Hutson did not immediately return a call about Holland’s candidacy Thursday evening.

Revels is contending with a mixture of relief and anxiety, Holland’s decision cutting both ways for Flagler County: her voice on the commission will be unquestionably lost. The resignation is irrevocable, at least for this election cycle, whatever happens. On the other hand, Revels had been despairing at the absence of a strong candidate running for a House seat as if gift-wrapped for a Flagler County voice. (It’s no small matter that Holland’s decision also relieves Revels of some guilt that she wasn’t herself running, since she is likely the only other local candidate with as strong a case for higher office. She lost to Bill Proctor, Flagler County’s current representative in the House, by a few hundred votes in 2004.)

“I’m so excited that we have an incredibly viable candidate to represent Flagler County, knowing how hard Milissa fights for her constituents and her county,” Revels said. “She’s got the knowledge and the connections. Its going to be wonderful for us. But on the other hand all those things I said,” Revels continued, repeating Holland’s qualities, “she’s done all that on the commission and it’s going to be a big hole to fill with a lot of unknowns for us.”

Revels, for years the realist echo to Holland’s idealism, continued: “It is a risk for her and she and I discussed that it would be incredibly terrible if she were to resign the commission and not win. But I think just knowing her reach within the county, how well she’s known, how  well she’s handled all of her constituent services, she’ll have many people cross the isle.”

Some of that cross-isle appeal across the county was audible in—for example—the voice of John Rogers, a Bunnell city commissioner. “That’s wonderful. That’s absolutely wonderful. We’ve got to get her elected,” he said immediately when told of Holland’s decision. Rogers is a Republican. “I vote the person, not the party,” he says, explaining his enthusiasm: “She has a chance of winning, that’s why, and I think she would do a great job representing Flagler County.”

Courtney, the Democrat now facing Holland in the Aug. 14 primary, on the other hand, was more subdued, describing the coming race as “very challenging,” but giving Holland a chance “as good as mine” of winning. He said he had broader contacts and background in the district’s three counties.

Meeker, the Palm Coast City Council member with his eyes on a commission seat, weighed his words carefully when asked about Holland’s candidacy: he is a member of the Flagler County Republican Executive Committee. He has obligations. “My loyalty oath is to the party,” Meeker said. “This is a partisan election, and as much as I like Milissa Holland, I have to support who the party picks. That’s just the way it is. And I think we have a very strong candidate.” Meeker was not yet speaking definitely of running for the commission, though he said he’d been thinking about it plenty and studying county issues.

For now, however, the attention will be on Holland for creating what Meeker describes as “an exciting race” in contests generally defined by plodding issues and sometimes doddering candidates. It’s not a coincidence that the clincher, for Holland, was a moment with her soon-to-be 16-year-old daughter Tori, who often accompanies and assists her mother in community and civic events and has developed civic initiatives of her own.

“The defining moment came when my daughter made a comment to me on everything that I’ve been able to accomplish here as well as fighting, taking issues to Tallahassee, that affect our residents for the last six years,” Holland said. “In her words I’ve been there for six years acting upon the residents’ concerns, and it certainly had positive impacts on a multitude of issues. She had encouraged me to step up and do this at  this moment in time. I had to come to terms with it for me. This had to be right for me. I’m somebody who’s very passionate about this community. I’m also passionate about the issues I take on.”

And now, she said, it is.

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35 Responses for “Milissa Holland Will Run For Florida House, Energizing Flagler’s Chances For a State Voice”

  1. tulip says:

    The stormwater fee of $96 a year that is on our utility bill will be eliminated and the fee will be based on our electric bills. Some of us will pay about the same, some will pay more, depending on usage. I don’t know how it works or those on FPL budget plan. Also, EVERYBODY will pay into it, whereas everybody doesn’t right now.

    I keep hearing people have no money—granted some don’t, but everywhere I go I see full eating places, people running around with smart phones, i pads and pods,etc. and a lot of other electrical gadgets people must have. This all cost money, where does it come from if they “have no money”

    As far as eliminating the 1/2 sales tax—-for every $2.00 spent we will “save a penny? Wow, I”ll be rich in no time! Now, all those pennies will add up to help the county and cities. Also, sales tax money is contributed by visitors, tourists, that purchase things here in Flagler county. I would rather keep the tax the way it is and collect sales tax money from “outsiders”, therefore sharing the burden, than eliminate it and face the possibility of even higher taxes that won’t be contributed to by anyone else.


  2. Alex says:

    I hope Mr. Meeker will respond to palmcoaster’s comments regarding PC Utility and money spent by the utility.


  3. Frank J. Meeker says:

    Oh, where to start. Linda H. Of course we’ve known for years of possible failures, and have had some, the structure across from Mother Seton, two different failures on Florida Park Drive, the last weir before Graham Swamp come to mind as examples. Most of those failures had to do with water piping under the fabriform weirs, eroding the dirt used to form the dam and leaving a hard shell of fabriform and concrete. Think of a scope of ice cream with some of that chocolate sauce that hardens into a crusty shell, and then melt the ice cream out. That is what those structures looked like. What we’re seeing now is different. All materials used in building the drainage system whether cross connecting pipes under roads, pipes discharging into ditches, the metal that holds the flashboards which control the water levels,…all of those individual pieces of material have an expected useful life, usually around 25-35 years. Since it was all put in place at about the same time, do you think it is unreasonable that it is all failing about the same time? Doesn’t surprise me one bit.

    Tulip. Thank you, you hit the points perfectly pointing out that the utility franchise fee being designed to replace the stormwater fee with a more diverse funding source more appropriately distributed throughout the community. In fact, even with the proposed utility tax, on average, people would pay less than the $8 they pay now. My portion will be a bit more as I use a bit more electricity than average. Those who use less will pay less. But the cost will be shared by more commercial and industrial users which will help to keep the cost reasonable assuming future councils don’t get too greedy. As I said at the council meeting, if you or somebody else has a better option for funding this need, I’m listening.

    Palm Coaster, the Utility is a separate and stand alone entity not funded by the general fund at all, but is rather an enterprise fund. Their source of income is user fees. The more water you use, the more you pay. It has nothing to do with the ad valorum taxes we all pay and is not supposed to be mixed with those funds. It is not appropriate to use money from the water and sewer enterprise fund to repair “works” in another area funded by the general fund, or as in this case, the Stormwater fund which itself was supposed to be an enterprise fund. Of course the others are the golf course, tennis facility and the IT department. I should probably define and enterprise fund at this point.

    GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) requires state and local governments to use the enterprise fund type to account for “business-type activities” – activities similar to those found in the private sector. Business type activities include services primarily funded through user
    charges. NCGAS 1 defines the purpose of enterprise funds as:

    “…to account for operations (a) that are financed and operated in a manner similar to private business enterprises — where the intent of the governing body is that the costs (expenses, including depreciation) of providing goods or services to the general public on a continuing basis be financed or recovered primarily through users charges; or (b) where the governing body has decided that periodic determination of revenues earned, expenses incurred, and/or net income is
    appropriate for capital maintenance, public policy, management control, accountability, or other purposes.”

    Moreover, it is important to note that the total cost of the activity does not have to be paid for by the user charges. The government (or other governmental entity – in this case HUD) may subsidize a significant portion of the costs of the enterprise fund.

    You are correct, the utility funded Coquina Coast, and I want to say it was 2.5 million, as one of the members of the Coquina Coast Desalination plant Cooperatives. This is a whole ‘nurther discussion, and this is supposed to be a forum about Milissa running for the House seat, but there is a lot more to the Desal issue than just the cost. It has to do with the seven or more years the city was in with the water management district trying to secure additional water from the aquifer, it has to do with the duration of that consumptive use permit, it has to do with the District’s policy that longer duration permits can only be used if an alternative source of long term water supply is included in the review, it had to do with the best available information at the time indicated a population increase that would exceed our allocation, etc. This permitting program is so costly, that is why I have been pushing for higher rates to those who buy water outside the city limits. If you are part of the city, there are benefits that you should have that somebody outside of the city shouldn’t. The cost of water is one of them in my opinion.

    Now, the Wal-Mart deal had a number of interesting elements to it. One was to encourage Wal-Mart to build a big superstore in the near future. Council had a letter of commitment on that from Wal-Mart, but the Old Kings road improvements were done for one reason,…get them to buy the property under the belief if they owned it, they would be more likely to build on it when the market was right. The 6 million was utility money that was set aside in their (the utility) five year capital improvement plan for placing utilities in the ground from Sr 100 to Palm Coast Parkway. In order to make the Wal-Mart commitment, that amount was used to make the road improvements, and those land owners that benefited from those improvements are required to pay the money back.

    Lastly, I agree with something else you said. I ask Mr. Landon routinely, why am I using consultants for this work when you tell me I have a professional staff. Usually, the answer is “oh, it has something special associated with it that needs a PE signoff”. I don’t by that and I’ve raised the issue in workshops and at business meetings, but am not getting any other “takers” so asking the question is about as good as I can do for the time being.


    • Linda H. says:

      I appreciate your reply, Mr. Meeker. However, I am going to have to disagree with any tax/fee set in stone for 30 years and especially one that could go as high as 8% usage per month. Because of the cost to the citizens, this is something I think should go to the voters first. And I’d like to hear how other municipalities are handling it. Can you tell us that?

      There is no question we need to be doing something different, I’m just not sure this is it.


    • Think first, act second says:

      Based on your last paragraph, if you ask Mr. Landon a question and he gives you an answer you do not believe, what do you do further. How do you evaluate his job performance if he is not receptive to taking advise/criticism from his employers, you and the other 4 members of the council. What is the position of Mr. McGuire, DeLorenzo and Lewis on not receiving answers to their questions, and I would like your response, I know I can ask them.


  4. Frank J. Meeker says:

    Think first act second,…thank you for noticing the point about the loyalty oath.

    Frank Meeker, Palm Coast City Council
    District 2


  5. Hank Rearden says:

    Mr Meeker,
    Did the loyalty oath “thingee” apply when you supported 3 democrats for City Council over qualified republicans?


  6. palmcoaster says:

    To our Councilman Frank Meeker. I thank you for your extended and detailed reply. Not that I agree with all the reasons as you pointed:
    1) When ICDC (ITT Community Development Corporation) projected and filed the plans for the creations of Palm Coast the expected population to be served by their water utility, was originally much higher than was when we were the highest population explosion county on the country. How come 4 years ago all of the sudden the SJRWM (Saint Johns River Water Management) decided that we would need to provide another source of water to our utility, thus justifying the waste of 2.5 million in meetings, workshops and permitting for the Desalt Plant thru paying these king ransom consultants? I understand that we have to take your word because then you were our district ombudsman for SJRWM, but the sudden demand from the SJRWM to our Palm Coast utility for more sources of water, was nowhere justified in our eyes.

    2) I was and I am totally aware of what an enterprise, one of them our water utility is and that I always knew as such as well. What is not an enterprise formed yet, is our storm water system and maybe is needed at this point, now that will be funded from the additional taxes in our power bill.
    I was one that supported to buy our utility and I am still glad we did. Because clearly is like pulling gold out of the ground. Just don’t waste the gold or the gold profits.

    3) Utilizing funds from the enterprise water utility account needed for when the Walmart “one day” will come and instead was used to fund the Old Kings Rd infrastructure tells me that “a lot of flexibility is utilized when pleased” wether GAAP or NCGAS… just takes a bit of bending the rules. Then if we get the Walmart to show up, the money for their utility infrastructure is gone…. When all those benefited land owners will be paying us back the 6 millions? Because our budget is under strain now and if Walmart owns the land may want to show up soon. Can council demand Walmart to comply with the letter of committment? Because is really peculiar that we “the people” have always to comply with the approved projects to corporations or developers, but they always get off the hook easy and even trash any documents signed to us. I thought we have in our payrolls hefty legal departments compensations to defend our interest, don’t we…?

    4) With all due respect to our Commissioner Milissa Holland as this was to be her editorial and comments instead….but I am sure she understands, as this issue as well mirrors on the county. Tomorrow at Tuesday 9 AM county and city discuss again in the Community Center located on Palm Coast Parkway and Clubhouse Drive the half cent tax distribution and the I 95 Interchange. All those residents not on a 9 to 5 job, better attend…in spite that as usual, won’t be allowed a say…

    5) Should be a unified Council and Mayor request for vote of approval on the utilization of all these king ransom rates consultants that achieve zero. Mr.Landon said some PE needed. As I understand we have on the city payroll Mr. John Moden a PE director of the ESWD. How come, for the Parkway East Development 2 meetings, the City of Palm Coast Community Redevelopment Director Mr. Ernesto Abreu was not present? Is he a Professional Engineer (PE) in that occupation, as he receives even higher compensation than the lady county (PE) Engineer Ms Alkhatb Kifah? Even Mr. Jose Papa presenting both meetings is our City Senior Planner at another high rate pay. None of them capable to do as simple as research as paid to those consultants?

    Thank you again Mr.Meeker and please lets keep trying to lobby for the residents tax payers and local businesses that sustain us all.


  7. Jim says:

    Why would we want to elect someone who will not return phone calls about problems in the county? We need someone who is committed to and for the people, not personal gain. I will never vote for Milissa Holland, Wake up Flagler County.


  8. The Honest One says says:

    Jim, I am so glad there are still some intelligent people around in Palm Coast. Maybe you can try to educate the ones that have no clue as to what Melissa Holland Obrien is all about. “AGENDA 21″ folks, read all about it on the Internet.


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