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George Hanns, Flagler County Commission Candidate: The Live Interview

| October 23, 2016

Flagler County Commissioner George Hanns is the longest-serving elected official in the county. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County Commissioner George Hanns is the longest-serving elected official in the county. (© FlaglerLive)

This week and next we are running the Live Interviews of the candidates for local office in the Nov. 8 general election, with early voting beginning on Oct. 24. In the county commission races, the Democrats’ interviews, as with George Hanns’s below, are running for the first time. Other candidates’ interviews were published ahead of the Aug. 30 primary, and will run again in the relevant races.

George Hanns is a Democratic candidate for Flagler County Commission, District 5. His opponent is Republican Donald O’Brien. Hanns, a retired builder, was first elected to the commission in 1992 and has served longer than any other elected official in the county. O’Brien is an insurance executive.


Three seats are up on the commission in this election cycle, and a fourth seat, that of the late Frank Meeker, will be filled by governor appointment. That means that potentially, all but one seat on the commission–the one currently held by Nate McLaughlin–could turn over.

All registered voters in Flagler County or any of its cities, regardless of party affiliation, including independents and members of minor parties, may cast a ballot in this race on Nov. 8 or in early voting, regardless of address or district.

Flagler County Commission members serve four years. They’re paid $50,900 a year.

FlaglerLive submitted identical questions to all candidates, with the understanding that additional questions might be tailored to candidates individually and some follow-up questions may be asked, with all exchanges on the record. The Live Interview’s aim is to elicit as much candor and transparency as possible. We have asked candidates to refrain from making campaign speeches or make lists of accomplishments. We have also asked candidates to reasonably document any claim or accusation. Undocumented claims are edited out. Answers are also edited for length, redundancy, relevance and, where possible, accuracy. If a candidate does not answer a question or appears to be evading a question, that’s noted.

But it’s ultimately up to the reader to judge the quality and sincerity of a candidate’s answers.

The Questions in Summary: Quick Links

The Basics: George Hanns

Place and Date of Birth: Chicago, Oct. 5, 1946.
Current job: Flagler County Commissioner, District 5.
Party Affiliation: Democrat.
Net Worth: $202,882.88 (See the financial disclosure)
Resume.
Website: None.

1. What qualifies you to be a county commissioner?

With over a quarter century of proudly serving Flagler County residents, I can say without hesitation that I am my own man, not beholden to any self-serving individuals or groups. My devotion to duty, caring ways, and positive attitude, ability to recall specific actions of previous boards with developers, capital projects, and other board decisions have earned the respect of many Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters. In short, I have the drive, desire, and heart to continue as County Commissioner for another four years.

Your statement–“I am my own man”–bears examination, particularly in light of your claim further below that you have “never had a conflict of interest.” The record indicates otherwise in at least one glaring regard. You have at every election taken thousands of dollars from companies controlled by Mori Hosseini, the former owner of Plantation Bay. You have taken at least $3,000 from his companies in this election alone (though his companies are listed under numerously different names: South Hampton Developers, Pioneer Investments of Port Orange, CC North central). That $3,000 is the majority of the money you’ve raised, your loan to yourself aside. When you voted to acquire Plantation Bay, which you call “a big deal” in another answer below, you not only knew it was a clunker, you also knew you were relieving Hosseini of his responsibility, long shirked in contravention to state regulations, to have properly maintained the utility. You took thousands of dollars from him, election after election, then you bailed him out, at taxpayers’ expense. How is that being your own man? And why did you not recuse yourself from the Plantation Bay vote to acquire the utility?

I am my own man in that I always make decisions in the best interest of the County. Your implication that somehow because I accept a campaign contribution I cannot make a forthright decision would mean under that logic then anyone running for public office accepting a campaign contribution cannot vote their conscience.  I am fortunate to have some folks that have supported me for years because they believe in me and yet they understand the rules.  I have voted against them on at least two occasions and have publicly raised concerns as necessary.  I have very few signs and take few contributions for this very reason, I campaign on my service and my record.  At $3,000 in contributions I would say  others take much more to run ads, radio, t-shirts, signs etc.   I am sorry I do not buy ads as they are too expensive.  Our voters are well educated and know who works for them long before voting. Obviously I read FlaglerLive.com.

Jump to Donald O’Brien’s answer.

2. Tell us who you are as a person—what human qualities and shortcomings you’ll bring to the board, what your temperament is like: what would your enemies say is your best quality, and what would your friends say is your worst fault? Give us real-life examples to illustrate your answer.

I am a dedicated patriot, father, family man, builder, teacher, and elected official. I have never voted on anything in a way that would embarrass my family. I am a good listener and thoroughly research all items that come before us because I take my final vote very seriously. I respect all those whom I serve with, and I am always open to new information to help me make a final decision.

My temperament is that I’m easy going. On occasion, I use humor to keep tranquility on the board. Sometimes things get a little tense, so I bring a little humor in to ease tensions and get everyone back on track.

My enemies would say that I have dedication, loyalty, and a willingness to make the right decision regardless of political pressure. I can say the same of most commissioners I’ve worked with – we’ve all tried our best to keep negative politics out of decision making to represent ALL of the people we serve. As for a worst fault, on occasion I’ve been known to express myself in a lengthy manner, and I sometimes use – let’s say — colorful phrases.

Jump to Donald O’Brien’s answer.

3. What are the three most critical issues facing the county, and where do you stand on each?

a. Taking care of our county employees – It is imperative that we are supportive of our county employees in every way, such as rewarding them for their hard work, providing the best health care available, promoting from within whenever possible, and doing what we need to do to keep them from moving elsewhere. Our employees are Flagler County’s most important asset, and I believe in hiring professionals and letting them do their job.

b. Capital projects – Keeping up with Flagler County’s growth over the past 25 years in office has educated me in finding ways to improve our community and the life of our residents. Capital improvement projects have been a priority, and we must learn to separate the needs from the wants and dedicate ourselves to resolving the most pressing issues — the sheriff’s operations center and jail have now become a reality, road improvements, the 800-megahertz system, the library, west-side fire station, Bay Drive Park, storm water management in the Hammock, and the national guard armory at our airport. These are some of pressing items that I support 100 percent.

c. Community services – We are continually challenged with many issues in our community, such as mental health, homelessness, drug dependency, senior citizen care, and mass transportation. These are just a few examples of our fast-growing community’s service needs, as well keeping up with the trend toward decreased criminalization of marijuana possession.

It is curious that in a county of 100,000 people you choose to place the welfare of 400-some county employees at the top of your list–employees who tend to have better job security and, if not great pay for the rank and file, at least good pay relative to the county’s mean salaries, and certainly great pay for managers and directors, several of whom approach or exceed six figures. You also call them Flagler County’s “most important asset.” Without denying the importance of government employees, is that not putting the means of government ahead of the purpose of government?

I believe taking care of the people that take care of the 100,000 is important.   I believe that we just witnessed that with the Hurricane Matthew.  The caring and skills that our employees showed helping our citizens was tremendous.  I saw firefighters, deputies, school teachers, public workers, volunteers all working together.  I could not be more proud of our community and its public agencies. You have to attract and retain good people to provide quality services. Rather than characterize something as one over the other, as a County we have many priorities that have to be balanced and for me taking care of our employees has always been one of them.

Jump to Donald O’Brien’s answer.

4. What do you think county government is doing well, and how will you build on that? What do you think county government is doing poorly, and what will you do to improve matters?

I do seriously believe that we on the board spend our county’s tax dollars wisely. I believe our citizens are being taken care of with services the county provides, such as EMS response, social services, the elections office, the new jail, E911, the county courthouse, and beach lifeguards, and they’re also enjoying things like the libraries, parks, boat ramps, nature trails, and other tourism opportunities that the county funds. I am very proud of the services we provide for our elderly, with adult day care, Meals on Wheels, and Flagler County Transport. We also have a food bank and are working with the Salvation Army on a grant to reduce the number of homeless veterans and to provide services for drug addiction and mental health issues. As well as funding the free clinic.

We are also proud to support the Flagler County employee clinic and its expansion for our employees. It’s one of our most successful projects. Although there is always room for improvement and we are far from perfect, we use what resources we have available to do the things I listed above. In short, for a small county, we get things done in Flagler County. When visiting places such as Tallahassee, when we exchange ideas with commissioners from other counties, we find that many of them are in awe of what we have done in Flagler County and what we have to offer. And our taxes remain one of the lowest in the state – ranked in the 40s among the 67 counties in the state, I believe.

You essentially gave us a list of current government services, but did not tell us how you would build on certain of these services–or, perhaps not so realistically, all of them, since you listed them all, and you gave us no sense of where you think county government is going poorly. Surely this is no utopia in your mind, and with your 24 years of service to draw on for perspective. Can you provide us with a more critical analysis of where you’d like to see improvements?

In government you should always be working to do better and there are areas that I would like us to do better such as improving the utility situation at Plantation Bay.  But having said when we find these areas as a Commissioner and a County we work hard to fix them, such as that situation.  I think there are many things we are doing right and rather than focus on the negative, I believe we are addressing the things we can improve on.  I believe people continue to move here and I  love living here because over the years I have been able to do a lot more correctly than poorly.

We are not asking you to focus on the negative; the question goes to the good and bad of government. But you are giving us the impression that all is well, beyond Plantation Bay–or, if all is not so well, you are unable to cite examples of problem areas, which may raise a question about your closeness and familiarity with the workings of the government you oversee. Are there really no other specific issues than Plantation bay you can point to as problem areas? 

The funding of future needs like the new library , west side fire station as well as storm water management are always on my mind and is a problem. Staff is working on Grants and other funding sources. I have a history of having a positive attitude as well as having a professional Staff that finds funding sources . Our population from 1992 to 2016 shows that we have kept up with capitol improvements that have provided the Quality of Life that we all enjoy and yes our backs will always be against the wall.

Jump to Donald O’Brien’s answer.

5. What would you change about the EMS, or ambulance, system in the county and in Palm Coast, if anything? Where do you stand on consolidation of fire services with cities, understanding that cities would be resistant: would consolidation save money? To what extent do you think turf and pride as opposed to bottom lines prevent consolidation?

I believe we have a world-class EMS service. They’ve been recognized worldwide for their professionalism. In fact, Flagler County has won first place in the entire world at the EMS competition in Prague, Czech Republic twice.

I don’t think we need to change anything. To keep our services at a high level, we’ll continue to add ambulances as needed, as well as continuing with the FireFlight helicopter service for firefighting, emergency medical response, and to aid our sheriff’s department. As for consolidation, in the 1990s, Flagler County formulated a plan to consolidate fire service, where all the money went into a pot and stations throughout the county would be able to replenish their equipment by drawing from the pool. Unfortunately, several municipalities were opposed to it. I was in favor of it then and would be in favor of it now if we could resolve the turf battles. I’m not sure if it would save money, but it could because Palm Coast would use the majority of the resources because they have the majority of the county’s population.

Jump to Donald O’Brien’s answer.

6. Explain where we are as a county with our 800 mhz emergency communications system and evaluate the county’s approach in updating the system, explaining where you see flaws or strengths in that approach. Palm Coast and the sheriff consider the county’s approach to be laggard. Do you agree?

The 800 megahertz system is very reliable and is used by first responders every day throughout the county. What it replaced about 10 years ago was a much less reliable VHS system, which had many areas of the county that were not covered. As the county has grown over the last 10 years, areas have built up that were once rural and now require better radio communications to prevent lapses in emergency communication, so we must continually put up more towers or put boosters in existing towers. I will always be supportive of anything to do with public safety. Public safety is paramount, and we do what we need to do to protect our residents. We need to balance the desires of residents who do not want unsightly towers with what we determine is a need for adequate protection. We don’t have the resources to protect everyone without having these towers.

To improve coverage, you will most likely have impose a bigger bill on taxpayers than the $10 million expense of the current system, dating back to 2003. Are you willing to increase that cost to hold true to your statement about public safety being paramount, and if so, how do you propose taxpayers should pay for that increase?

On the 800Mhz system, I believe we can do a major technology upgrade to the system, improve the system coverage and capabilities for our first responders, all for about the same cost as our original system. Technology in the radio world has improved and come down in price over the last decade, the same as computers, smart phones, tablets, etc. If we can do it for about the same price as the original system, this in effect will have no effect on our taxpayers as the same revenues we currently use would finance these improvements. As more details come forward we have some decisions to make, but I have already voted for new tower locations and have supported these efforts.  Be careful of those who say a lot of outlandish things about cost and problems because they probably do not know what they are talking about. It has been the best system this County has ever had and it is served our first responders well.

Jump to Donald O’Brien’s answer.

7. Palm Coast and the county have a sniping, at times competitive, at times antagonistic relationship, as if between fiefs. To what extent are the two elected bodies responsible? To what extent are the two government’s managers responsible? How will you help foster a less medieval relationship?

The county and municipalities, including Palm Coast, strive to not have a duplication of services. It’s unfortunate that there are been some differences between the county and municipalities, but when we do have our differences, we do our best to have it resolved between the city manager and county administrator. Many issues are resolved amicably. We work together to provide tourism, economic development, sporting events, parks, nature trails, and much more. There is by far more good than bad.

It just seems that sometimes the city government spends more time analyzing what the county is doing in areas where the city provides little funding, such as social services, EMS, and elder care. It is difficult for me not to think about the town center CRA and how it has hurt the county with the loss of much-needed tax dollars going to a private developer every year. I believe a future board will be able to resolve these issues amicably.

Your answer leaves us incredulous: it does not at all appear that you have done your best to resolve issues, since several issues–water at the airport, the 800 mhz system, ambulances in Palm Coast, to name a few — have caused ugly frictions between the two governments, especially in the past four years. You have been on the commission long enough to have gone through the water wars of the previous decade as well. But we have little record, or memory, of you using your long experience, seniority and, by your own accounts, dedication and knowledge, to so much as have one-on-one meetings with Palm Coast officials, let alone champion a better working relationship with more than the occasional wish, or word, to that effect. Given your years on the commission, why should we expect that you’ll make a better difference in the next four years?

The reality is that sometimes it is easier for people to focus on the negative instead of the positive (more drama to talk about).  In the last couple of months we have worked together for an interchange and roadways to the north, we held a ground breaking for the national guard, we have worked hand in hand through a hurricane, we have dedicated memorials to the loss of a joint colleague, Frank Meeker, the County has supported the City at the Transportation Planning organization, and we gave the City a 5 acre park piece at Belle Terre and new Airport Road.   These are just a few examples of the positive things we still do together aspects that rarely make the news. Sometimes we are going to have different views on some issues and sometimes we are going to fight about, privately or publicly, but in end we both do great things and we often don’t get credit for the many more things we agree on and do together.

Every one of the joint projects you cite have in fact been reported on lavishly by all four major media outlets locally, so to suggest that these matters “rarely make the news” is false. But you have still not answered the question: when there have been problems, frictions, gridlock, to what instances can you point showing your ability to bridge the divide, beyond words? We cannot recall any. And  why should voters expect you to be any different in the next four years?

Much of what I do is well known by the people who appreciate my dedication. I have input an every agenda that we deal with and when I agree with other commissioners there is no need to not go along with them or say the same thing. I have never been controlled or instructed how to vote by special interest groups or individuals. Over the years and in every election some people have enjoyed hurting my family and my integrity by posting insults in the comment section on your website or in the past at forums (2012). At times you have left out dialog at workshops as if the commissioner was not even there. IE The Library in Bunnell and most recently the Ag Museum, where I made an spoke extensively on preserving our agricultural history. Which I believe along with Commissioner Revels led to a 3-1 vote in favor.

Jump to Donald O’Brien’s answer.

8. Where do you stand on a civil citation program for first-time offenders caught with small amounts of pot, and other minor crimes?

I am always in favor of law enforcement having options to reduce overcrowding in our jail for minor offenses, and I do not believe in penalizing someone for life over a minor infraction. There needs to be a more leniency shown for less offensive crimes where fines or counseling would be more suitable. Also if someone is suffering from an incurable disease such as cancer, I am for most anything that would give them some relief from pain and suffering. We just spent $17 million on an expansion of our county jail — we need to use it to house real criminals. It doesn’t need to be filled with misdemeanor crimes, such as small amounts of marijuana or stealing a loaf of bread to feed their family.

Have you just told us that you are in favor of decriminalizing larcenies?

I have told you that if permissible in Florida law I am favor of giving people a second chance for first offense misdemeanors, rather than ruin their life with a criminal record.  I don’t want to waste taxpayer money at a County jail for minor first offenders, nor eliminate their job opportunities and see them have to move onto bigger crimes to support themselves. It is also my understanding that a civil citation does not necessarily decriminalize anything but instead seeks to suspend the record for a first offense.

Jump to Donald O’Brien’s answer.

9. Between March 2010 and March 2016, Flagler County residents holding jobs increased by 52 percent (or by 15,000). Only a few dozen of those jobs can be attributed to the county’s $500,000-a-year economic development department, keeping in mind that the department’s most touted job coup—the 300-job promise of Aveo Engineering at the airport—was a bust. Is that department still necessary? Can you point to substantial reasons and examples that make its expense worth the price to taxpayers?

Economic development is what drives an economic engine to create employment opportunities within our county. We must be a player in the business of recruitment of new business as well as retention of existing businesses.

We have been very successful in recruiting new businesses — such as Gioia Sails, Coastal Cloud, Beutlich Pharmaceuticals, Delta Engineering, and Kanthal Corporation — and in retaining existing businesses, such as Sea Ray Boats, Palm Coast Data, and more.
Economic development is not won or lost with one project or one strategy, and our economic development staff is highly rated by JAXUSA. I still have high hopes that Aveo Engineering will be located and up and running in Flagler County, although nobody has a crystal ball to know the future.

I do believe the economic development department is necessary. It’s the only opportunity we have to address new businesses coming into this county and region. We must be active in showcasing our county as a potential location for business opportunities to create more jobs.
Flagler County cannot compete in many regards with areas with populations 10 or 20 times larger than us. Some companies are looking for free land, reduced taxes, or money up front to relocate. However, we are attractive because of our quality of life and because of the tax incentives that both the county and state offer companies based on the number of employees they hire.

Clearly, judging from the enumerations and similarities of your answer to that of your fellow-commissioner, Barbara Revels, you have been provided the appropriate talking points. But you haven’t explained how the overwhelming majority of jobs that have been added to Flagler County residents’ households had nothing to do with your economic development department, or that indeed many jobs the government did play a role in grew at the county airport, without the economic development department, but rather thanks to the very active airport director there, Roy Sieger–underscoring the redundancy of an economic development department. Are you claiming that the addition of 15,000 jobs would not have been possible without that department, though the department had nothing to do with those jobs?

While we are very proud of our accomplishments at the airport, economic development is a long-term, team sport that does not all occur at the airport.  People can be critical if you don’t do economic development or if you do economic development.  We choose to do economic development to continue to diversify our tax base, increase job opportunities for our residents, grow our existing companies, and keep our young people home.  While no economic department in the Country can claim they caused the vast majority of job loss or gain due to national or world economic trends, our economic opportunity department has been successful in recruiting/expanding/retaining hundreds of jobs. Those jobs tend to be higher paying, put millions of dollars annually into the local economy through wages and goods/service and in turn create other jobs and local business opportunity.   For the annually amount we have budget each year taxpayers have received a great return on investment.  We have to participate and work at it to be successful. Believing that things will happen magically is naïve and unrealistic.

Jump to Donald O’Brien’s answer.

10. The past four years were dominated by major capital projects: a new sheriff’s operations center, an expanded jail, the taxpayer-subsidized transformation of the old courthouse into a parochial school, and the acquisition of the Plantation bay utility. What, on your watch, will be the next batch of major projects? Rate, in order of importance, the following projects: a senior center, a new library, a west-side fire station.

They are all important, but Plantation Bay utility — the water plant — is a big deal. That’s a public health issue and priority No. 1.
Then I’d say the west-side fire station, the new library in Bunnell and expansion of the existing library in Palm Coast, storm-water management in the Hammock, and public transportation. I’d also add the National Guard armory in the airport.

How do you propose to pay for the very expensive repairs needed at Plantation Bay, the fire station and the library? Other than providing a road and land for the National Guard project, which is already under way, what has the county got to do with that project, since it is entirely and already paid for with federal dollars?

You have listed off a few projects that as a Commission we are working on now or working towards in the coming years.  Some of the projects are not designed yet so the actual construction costs are not known and therefore the actual dollars are not known. But I will go over them based on where they are at currently

a. Plantation Bay. Sewer Plant and System Upgrades 4.5-5 million, we will us a combination of low interest loans, impact fees, and grants to construct these improvements. Water Plant Upgrades – Not designed. Cost $4-5 million?  We will use a combination of a $2 million Florida Department of Environmental Protection grant, impact fees, other grants and a low interest loan to construct these improvements.

b. Library – No property/no design. Cost unknown. We will use a combination of library grants, library passport revenues, donations/fundraising and existing local option sales tax.

c. Fire station – No property/no design. Cost unknown. We will primarily use local option sales tax.

While it is true the National Guard at this point is ready to go, your diminishment of the County’s role is “incredulous.”  The reason the National Guard is here is because of the County.  The County worked with the Guard consistently for almost a decade.  The County dealt with three commanding generals and their staffs, changes in Commissioners, state and federal legislators, and changing economic conditions.  The County got the grant for the road, for the utilities and contributed funds off its own from it gas tax.  It worked with the Guards early design consultants and when those plan were incomplete, had to change, etc. the County redid the plans with it consultants.  The County did an interlocal with the City, got permits from the City and County as well as the Water Management District and the Army Corps for wetlands/stormwater.  The County constructed the road, utilities, contacted for electric and fiber, built left and right turns.  Negotiated two different leases for the property. Lobbied state and federal legislators every year.  The County cleared their site, built a retention pond for them, and welcomed them home from Afghanistan.  The County located them in the other facility, did yet another lease for that facility, built 400K of improvements, and welcomed them home from Afghanistan.  All of these efforts and these improvements moved the project up on the State and Federal priority lists.

There was no diminishment of the county’s role in the question. The original question was about projects in coming years, not accomplished projects. We have reported extensively about the county’s role in working with the National Guard to bring the facility here. But that has been accomplished. What’s ahead does not involve the county: the project is entirely paid for with federal dollars. Grandstanding about the National Guard is your prerogative, but it doesn’t answer the question. Again, the question is about projects specific to the county’s needs and plans. Sticking to those needs, why is the county still so far behind on acquiring property or designing a library or a fire station? And why have you, as the county’s representative on the library board, not done more to push the library expansion projects forward?

I’ve worked very hard to have the library to be located in Bunnell at the the County Compound site. Also I spoke in support of Holly Albanese and the Library Board. I do not grandstand and every project I have been successful with I’ve always said we accomplished this as a board. I am proud to be a U.S. Army Veteran (1963-69) having enlisted at a time when others were burning their draft cards and fleeing to countries like Canada. When funds are available these projects will become reality.

Jump to Donald O’Brien’s answer.

11. Evaluate the performance of County Administrator Craig Coffey, listing strengths, weaknesses and areas of concern.

Since first being elected in 1992, we have had four county administrators, and Craig Coffey has served in that role for about eight years. In my opinion, he’s very professional and does not play favorites or politics among the commissioners. He is a veteran. He is someone I trust, has many outstanding accomplishments, and should be commended for his day-to-day running of Flagler County, which is not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination.

His strengths are his ability to simultaneously juggle every long-term project with day-to-day operations. He is judged on a daily basis on his performance and receives suggestions and compliments from this county commissioner and others as well, I believe. He never polls the board or discusses what other commissioners are thinking. He is very mindful of the Sunshine Law and does not cross that line. I do not find any outstanding weaknesses in Craig Coffey, and I admire his ability to handle the personalities of the five county commissioners. He presents us with the facts, and we the Board make the decisions.

Do you hold him entirely harmless in the frequent clashes–between him and Jim Landon–with Palm Coast?

I believe he is fighting for the County’s position, just as Mr. Landon is fighting for the City’s position. Council Members and Commissioners respectably, are free to correct their manager if they disagree with the City or County position represented by their manager. I don’t believe anyone should be held harmless in a dispute, no different that when arguments ensue with friends, relatives or a spouse. Typically everyone is a little right and a little wrong. In my heart, when you hear about disagreements with the City, I do believe that Mr. Coffey and the County are often not the aggressor, often responding to attacks.  However, having said that we do work together much more than we fight and much more than we are given credit for.

Jump to Donald O’Brien’s answer.

12. In this election, all three county commissioners are facing challengers. If you’re one of those challengers, and understanding there is inherent value in the experience of an incumbent and the institutional continuity, history and understanding that the incumbent represents, what are three reasons that justify removing him or her? If you are the incumbent, what are three reasons that justify keeping you beyond institutional advantages?

I have a history of making sound decisions and always keeping in mind what’s best for Flagler County and its residents. I know there is a distinct difference between running a business and county government. What works in the business world – where the priority is profit — is not always the right decision when dealing with the future of a county and its residents. But most importantly, I have never had a conflict of interest or had personal gain by my decision making. I have earned people’s trust and confidence over the years. My six terms and 25 years in office speaks for itself.


Your are giving us good slogans, and slogans that equate to what should be the bare minimum qualifications for public service–not evidence of distinction. You are not giving us reasons voters should keep you beyond those bare minimum qualifications. Can you try gain?

When I say my record speaks itself it is not a slogan.   Over my 24 years on the Commission, I have supported and helped develop a community that all can be proud of and many enjoy to live in. As a Commissioner I do not build things directly I help ensure that we have the people and resources in place to accomplish this.  The many, many projects that I have supported over the years have helped make this a great community.   We have created a robust trail system, I have helped acquire tons of parks such as the Princess Place and Graham Swamp, Linear Park and the Lehigh Trail to name a few,  I have supported fixing the Beverly Beach Utility System, improvements at the airport, the national guard coming here, Environmentally Sensitive Land Program, Helicopter, Quality Paramedic ALS response, etc.  I have not been the lead in every project, but I have been a steady presence to help shape the County at every turn as it grew from a rural County of about 20,000 to a County of over 100,000 today.  Call it a slogan if you must but it takes at least three votes on the Commission to make good things happen.

Jump to Donald O’Brien’s answer.

13. Who, on the current commission, would you most closely model yourself after and why? If you’re an incumbent, please choose from the remaining four commissioners.

I have respect and have learned from each and every commissioner I’ve ever served with. Most I have been proud to follow, and a few I have learned that I don’t want to be that type of commissioner. But I respect all of their commitment to public service. On the current board, I can point to positive traits from each commissioner. I admired Frank Meeker’s intellect, Barbara Revels’ dedication, and Charlie Ericksen’s lifetime of achievements as well as being a veteran. Most closely, I admire Nate McLaughlin’s devotion, being a veteran, his caring ways, and humor. Nate is a person you can trust. Note: This is not an endorsement.

Jump to Donald O’Brien’s answer.

14. Have you ever been charged with a felony or a misdemeanor anywhere in Flagler, Florida or the United States (other than a speeding ticket), or faced a civil action other than a divorce, but including bankruptcies? If so, please explain, including cases where charges did not lead to conviction.

No to all questions above.

Jump to Donald O’Brien’s answer.

15. Question customized for George Hanns: After 24 years on the county commission, you speak as if your record is unblemished, and that it is reason enough to re-elect you. But in that long career surely you’ve had regrets. Give us two or three votes you do regret, explain to us what you learned from them, and how you voted differently because of those experiences.

I do have regrets over some votes over the years, but overall I would say they are few and far between.  I have always tried to vote my conscience based on the best facts I have available. I will also tell you I have learned from each one, and I believe I am wiser today from those lessons.  However, as an elected official, I have very few secrets, I choose to keep these to myself.  Maybe sometime after my eventual retirement, I might tell you over a beer if you are high bidder on my homemade Lasagna at the annual Carver Auction.

You tell us you have very few secrets, but votes are no secret, and you have not answered the question: can you tell us specifically about two or three votes you regret, what they were, what you would have done differently, so voters can get a fair sense of how Commissioner George Hanns learns from his mistakes? 

A few of my regrets: Not insisting on a government-use only reverter clause when the county gave the original library (Palm Harbor Shopping Center) to the new city of Palm Coast (they sold the building ), allowing the trimming of the 400 year old Moody Oak at Moody Homestead Park, Not pushing the state legislature hard enough over allowing the Community Redevelopment Agency at Town Center that has cost the county and city tax base millions of dollars in lost revenue over a thirty year period, to a private developer. My pitch to buy the old hospital in Bunnell in July 2002 was rejected by the county commission, and that decision in 2002 by the commission not to buy it then has cost us dearly. This is an example of some of my regrets.

Jump to Donald O’Brien’s answer.

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3 Responses for “George Hanns, Flagler County Commission Candidate: The Live Interview”

  1. Rich Mikola says:

    Republican or Democrat, George is the one!!!!

  2. Fredrick says:

    George could support Hillary and I would still vote for him.

  3. Ron says:

    Time for a change. Your time is up!

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