Palm Coast’s New Founders:
Milissa Holland On the Continuity of Change
FlaglerLive | January 9, 2017
Between the 2014 and 2016 elections, Palm Coast got an entirely new City Council–the first time the council has turned over that quickly and completely. The only equivalent in the city’s history was the founding council of 1999, giving this council a chance to be Palm Coast’s new founders. It’s a rare moment in the city’s 17 years. Whether the council chooses to make its defining mark may not become apparent for a few years, with the benefit of hindsight. But with that in mind, FlaglerLive asked all five council members to imagine the Palm Coast they would like to look back on at the end of their term, and write what they see as a way of setting out their vision–whether as a state of the city address that looks back on their years, as Mayor Milissa Holland does below, or in a more conventional look forward. The results are being published this week over five consecutive evenings.
By Milissa Holland
Now that Palm Coast has commemorated its 20th year of incorporation, we can look back and take pride in just how far we’ve come. Twenty years still makes us a young city, so our history is certainly not ancient. ITT Corporation purchased this property fifty years ago, planning and building a beautiful, peaceful city among the forests, waterways and estuaries that filled this land. Next, the residents came, including my own family. My dad, Jim Holland, quickly became one of Palm Coast’s Founding Fathers. Me… I was just a teenager.
Today, Palm Coast has grown to a population of nearly 95,000, attractive to people because of its founders’ original vision of what a community can be when quality of life remains the heart of everything. It was a vision based not just on the profit potential of land development. Early civic leaders chose to preserve and build a future on the natural environment that existed here. This was a deliberate decision-making process. It is perhaps the thing I love most about our community.
What is it that has inspired our residents to want to live, work and play in a city that treasures preservation of its natural beauty and gives us a compelling sense of place? Our emotional attachment to Palm Coast pushes us to strive to make it better. As Mayor of Palm Coast for the past four years, I’ve watched our city continue to thrive and I’ve helped to make choices that enhance what is special about living here. The decisions our City Council made have impacted all of our lives.The present state of Palm Coast is excellent. Our neighborhoods and businesses are flourishing. Our sensible management of growth and infrastructure has brought in new families and enterprise. Our educational opportunities continue to expand. The outstanding recreation amenities that we offer, such as soccer and baseball fields, golf, tennis, hiking, biking, boating and fishing continue to flourish. Here are some of our Council’s recent accomplishments:
- Our brand new Community Center has become a major hub for special events, family get-togethers, expansion of new youth and senior recreation projects.
- Commercial, retail and residential growth and development in Town Center, along U.S. 1 and State Road 100, has increased and diversified our tax base.
- Cultural arts options have grown in our community with the upgrades completed at the Flagler Auditorium and the addition of our new outdoor, covered-performance stage by the Palm Coast Arts Foundation.
- Our Wastewater Treatment Plant II is helping to meet the needs of this burgeoning commercial and residential base.
- The addition of several miles of new trails has provided connectivity with the existing 130 miles or more across Palm Coast.
- We’ve seen substantial advancements in workforce development by being proactive to create technology and medical-sector curriculums in our higher-learning institutions that allowed us to match jobs with current and new companies that have relocated and expanded here. Also, our support for trade job opportunities has allowed us to hire local businesses for public sector construction projects.
- Technology is also taking advantage of our Fibernet capabilities. The council has been working closely with our school district as the Flagler County School Board continues to take a lead in the state with regards to technology in our classrooms.
- Tourism continues to grow, not only because of our valuable natural resources, but also because of our extensive sports amenities. We see regional soccer, flag football, baseball and lacrosse teams competing on our fields in Palm Coast, boosting our own economy and exhibiting so much that our community has to offer. We continue to invest in these amenities, not only for visitors, but also for our own families to enjoy.
- Thanks to our expanding tourism, realtors have been selling so many homes in Palm Coast – not only because of the inventory of lovely homes, but also because potential buyers are noting the quality of life resources the city continues to offer. Palm Coast’s cooperative relationship with our realtor and home building communities continues to succeed at a growing rate.
- Public safety in Palm Coast remains one of our strongest assets. Quick emergency response times have continued to burnish the reliability of our first-responders in the eyes of community residents. Crime rates remain low, as the City Council maintains its collaborative efforts with our Sheriff’s Office to promote the value of community policing as the best way to keep our neighborhoods safe.
- Our City/County cooperative partnership has resolved our cell phone coverage issue within certain areas of Palm Coast. We’ve also worked closely with the County to upgrade the 800 megahertz emergency communications system to provide more prompt government communication when it’s most urgent.
“It remains our everyday challenge to stay true to who we are.”
As I look both backwards and forwards, I recognize that it is only together that we can achieve these accomplishments. It took more candid and cordial communication and collaboration between the government leaders of the City of Palm Coast and Flagler County. Over the past four years, we’ve initiated the first regular monthly sit-downs to open dialogue on subjects that affect everyone in our community. We’ve also encouraged more dialogue within the community, creating public forums for residents to put forward their hopes and vision for the kind of city we all believe we can create together. These efforts have been genuinely successful as I believe the council and I have earned your trust. We will continue to work hard every day to maintain this trust and to manage our city wisely in a fiscally responsible manner.
Four years ago, I originally ran for Mayor on a platform of continuation with responsible change. I hope to continue to preserve all that we hold close in Palm Coast. I love this City. It is my home and it is your home. Together, it remains our everyday challenge to stay true to who we are. I sincerely hope that four years from now, we are still moving together in this same direction. I hope our future generations will look back at us and say it is their good fortune that we protected this magnificence just for them.
Milissa Holland was a Flagler County Commissioner for six years and was elected to the Palm Coast City Council last August. Reach her by email here.