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, or in a more conventional look forward. The results are being published this week over five evenings. Mayor Milissa Holland’s piece appeared Monday, Council member Robert Cuff’s on Tuesday, Heidi Shipley’s on Wednesday and Nick Klufas’s on Friday.
By Steven Nobile
I spent the first 20 years of my life growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y. In those 20 years, I learned many things about myself, such as my entrepreneurial, athletic and competitive spirit, my boredom with formal education and my impatience with idle people. I also met and married my wife of 36 years. My son was born in Brooklyn. When we left New York on an adventure to Florida, the very first thing we missed was the food. But after a few years here, I really missed one thing that is not as easy to replace as food: that’s a sense of community.
Brooklyn was a vast city, busy, noisy, smelly and dirty. But I knew everybody in my neighborhood. That didn’t just include people my age but everyone who lived there. It was a wonderful melding of family generations. Most households, or at most a house or two away, sheltered at least three generations of family members. You were born there, grew up there, had a family there and then retired there. It was simply wonderful, until you looked around and saw the mess. That’s why we moved to Florida.
After a few stops in various cities in Florida we stopped in Palm Coast and decided this was the place, not because of what it was, but because of what it could become. A large number of residents at the time came from New York, so we fit in just right. Besides, no one else in other Florida cities could understand my Brooklyn accent. What I had hoped we would cultivate in Palm Coast was the multi-generational family tree concept. I hoped Palm Coast would become a place to grow, live, play, work, start a family and retire.
Palm Coast was in fact a great place to raise a family, live and enjoy life. Our family grew after a few years in town. But the only thing lacking was adequate employment. I had a few businesses in Palm Coast that did business outside of Flagler County. I then began contracting my services to other companies in cities from Melbourne to Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa. I never really had an opportunity to work in Palm Coast or Flagler County, but I decided I would travel to the jobs, and opportunities would come when my children were of age. When it was off to college for both my children it was also basically the last time they’d be residents of Palm Coast. Neither was able to find employment locally. Both ended up in other cities. One of my children attempted to return, but it was difficult, so we actually started a business to give her employment. That’s one way to get a job. But most people don’t have the capital to just start a business and begin drawing a salary. So when I was approached to run for the City Council District 4 seat, I thought this could be my opportunity to see if others felt the way I did about how Palm Coast needed to grow economically.
I was elected, so I assume there did.
In sum, my vision for Palm Coast is that we become a multi-generational, family oriented community where it is a great place to grow-up, go to school, work and play, start a family and retire. Currently we boast of Palm Coast as a great place to live, play and work. Present and prior leaders have achieved much of this with good success. But we need to delve into the “work” component more.
In The Future
Moving ahead two years from today, what I would like to be able to say to the people of Palm Coast is that over my four-year term, we have succeeded in moving the city toward the realization of this vision. We have begun to change the culture across the organization to refocus on this vision.
Defining a vision for Palm Coast, its purpose and its promise to residents and businesses.
To see this vision realized, here’s what I like to imagine we will have done: We will have first developed and defined the vision, putting to rest the arguments over the type of community we are. Are we a retirement community? Are we a bedroom community? Everyone should be able to visualize an image of what or city will become at some point. We will have made the vision specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound and strategic.
We will then have created a Mission Statement for the city organization as a whole. This holds the organization accountable to the residents of Palm Coast by defining the purpose of city government, defining what it is to provide residents and businesses. We will also have created a set of values to direct the organization and how it deals with residents and businesses in our city. The will then have made the necessary changes, with public input, to the City Charter through a review of the Charter to ensure it is aligned with our Vision, Mission and Values, and to ensure that these ideas are fully and regularly propagated throughout the organization and the city.
We will have taken this and linked it to what prior councils and administrations have accomplished, which is a great deal, in our Strategic Action Plan. Over the four years of my term we will have refined the processes and frameworks to help us achieve the whole vision, not just in parts. Though we have not yet seen the rewards of this process, we must look at it like putting gas in your car. Your car is built to go. But it requires two things: someone to operate it and direct its path, and energy to power it. This strategic visioning process has provided our city and our administration the direction and energy required to get us there.
The next step was to put the new process into play and help grow towards our vision. So we will have revisited Prosperity 2021, the long-term blueprint the city has been operating from for several years, to make adjustments to the plan and to give it real teeth. The first thing we will have done is to add to Prosperity 2021 a detailed plan for the development of Town Center–fostering a multi-use environment where business, pleasure and life mingle together to attract younger residents wherein we can begin attracting new professional businesses.
Younger residents will be the next generation of Palm Coast who will move from the multi-use environment to the single-family home environment when they grow as a family, and then someday into their retirement role, along the way helping Palm Coast become a better place. We will also have created a new strategy for the long-term develop of community centers throughout Palm Coast along with activities to support our older (but young at heart) residents while continuing to provide activities for our growing youth.
We will also have begun a strategy to develop our industrial areas along with plans to bring in businesses and help startups to take hold here. This approach, along with our work with the county and state government to help develop a public transportation system in Flagler County and Palm Coast, will make everyone and everything accessible.
These changes that will have occurred over my four years as council member will move Palm Coast into the future and provide future councils with the tools they will need to maintain that positive direction.
Steven Nobile, a business owner, was elected to the Palm Coast City Council’s District 4 seat in 2014. Reach him by email here.