Heidi Shipley, Palm Coast City Council Candidate: The Live Interview
FlaglerLive | August 23, 2014
Heidi Shipley is a candidate for the Palm Coast City Council. Two seats are up this year: District 2, an open seat, as incumbent Dave Ferguson chose not to run, and District 4, where incumbent Bill Lewis is running again.
District 2 has drawn three candidates: Joel Rosen, Anne-Marie Shaffer and Shipley. District 4 has drawn four: Woody Douge (pronounced DO-jay), Lewis, Steven Nobile and Norman Weiskopf.
Maria Barbosa (Dist. 1)
Andy Dance (Dist. 1)
Toni Baker (Dist. 2)
Lynnette Callender (Dist. 2)
John Fischer (Dist. 2)
Janet McDonald (Dist. 2)
Michael McElroy (Dist. 4)
Trevor Tucker (Dist. 4)
County Commission Candidates:
Dennis McDonald (Dist. 2)
Nate McLaughlin (Dist. 4)
Frank Meeker (Dist. 2)
Mark Richter (Dist. 4)
Palm Coast City Council Candidates:
Woody Douge (Dist. 4)
Bill Lewis (Dist. 4)
Steven Nobile (Dist. 4)
Joel Rosen (Dist. 2)
Anne-Marie Shaffer (Dist. 2)
Heidi Shipleyu (Dist. 2)
Norman Weiskopf (Dist. 4)
If a candidate wins at the Aug. 26 primary by more than 50 percent, that race is over: the candidate is the next city council member representing that seat. Should either or both races fail to produce a winner by outright majority, then the top two vote-getters will go on to face each other in a run-off in the Nov. 4 general.
Though delineated by districts, all residents of Palm Coast who are registered voters may cast a ballot in the election, regardless of where they live, regardless of party affiliation, including independents. It is a non-partisan election. Council members serve four-year terms and are paid $9,600 a year.
FlaglerLive submitted identical questions to all council candidates, who replied in writing, with the understanding that some follow-up questions may be asked, and that all exchanges would be on the record. Each candidate was also given the opportunity to ask his or her opponent questions. Follow-up questions, when necessary, appear in italics. When a candidate fails to answer a question, that’s noted in red. The questions and follow-ups attempt to elicit precise answers, but the candidates don’t always comply.
The Questions in Summary: Quick Links
- Candidate Basics
- Economic development
- Town Center CRA
- Red-light cameras
- Medical pot
- Home-based businesses
- Palm Coast’s Business friendliness
- Making Palm Coast great
- Arts and culture
- Tax revenue
- Water and desalination
- Council dynamics
- Evaluating Jim Landon
- Other candidates’ questions
The Candidate: Heidi Shipley.
Place and date of birth: Winthrop, Mass., Oct. 30, 1963.
Current job: Campaigning full-time.
Net worth: See financial form.
Party Registration: Independent.
Websites: Website; Facebook.
Besides the city’s requirements and obtaining 135 plus petitions in my district, I have years of leadership experience. I worked for seven years for John Hancock Life Insurance Co. dealing with the public in regards to death claims, loans and endowments and then moved on to Senior Case analyst: Excellent problem solving ability. I worked at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority in the budget department and helped prepare the 1989/1990 Budget Report. After my children were born I continued to work as an assistant facilities manager at North Suffolk Mental Health where I helped develop a program that is still used today for their various state and local inspections, giving me an understanding of the inspection process. I was solely in charge of the bid process and contract issuance for 64 locations throughout the Northeast Region, giving me an understanding of the bid process. When I moved to New York, I opened a much-needed indoor playground for children in my area that I designed and managed, familiarizing me with small business needs. I learned to get residents motivated and engaged in the community with various holiday and child safety events. As a woman in business I was awarded the contract for the biggest post office in New York City, the Morgan Annex. As owner with at times over 200 union millwrights, giving me an understanding of unions. We completed that job. After moving to Florida as a single mom I re-educated myself through Keiser (determination), remained at Central Florida Regional Hospital and moved up to be there Lead Mammographer, showing the ability to achieve. Beyond that I feel I am most qualified because I care about the people in Palm Coast. Every chance I get I try to sit with them and not change their views but try to understand them and find a way to resolve their issues.
What was the job you were awarded a contract for at the New York City post office branch?
The job awarded was for conveyor installation. The job ran for two years and was successfully completed. The actual people who ran the job were all union workers except for home base.
2. Tell us who you are as a person—what human qualities and shortcomings you’ll bring to the council, 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.
As a person I am a proud mom of two sons and two step-daughters. I have three grandchildren here in the community and two that attend Palm Coast schools. My temperament is ambitious but peaceful. My enemies, I hope I have none, but if I do, I’m sure they will inform you. My friends would say I get too passionate about things and I have a habit of calling it the way it is.
What faults might you have that would have a bearing on your way of doing business on a board?
My fault would be that I would be stubborn. If I don’t feel that we are voting on something that people actually want or if something to me just doesn’t seem right, I would question it. I think we all feel at times things should’ve been given a second look. I also think I would want to take more time to explain things to people a little easier so they understand why a decision is made. Sometimes residents are upset about decisions made because of lack of communication.
3. Candidates for city or county government routinely speak of bringing jobs if elected. Do you think it’s in your power—and your job description–to bring jobs? If so, how would you? Are you satisfied with the city’s economic development focus by way of the Business Assistance Center?
I think it is in everyone’s power to bring jobs to this community by referrals from other businesses and general communication on our internet. What we say about our community affects us more than we sometimes want to believe. How we handle the companies and businesses that are here today will determine if other companies will follow. My first goal would be to work closely with any new business application. Is it city council’s job? no. We have departments set up to do that but we can always be a help. Together with the code enforcement and small business association and inspectors I would like to make a checklist for each business trying to open and work at setting goals to achieve opening day. Make it more of a good experience to open a business in Palm Coast instead of a binder of regulations and codes some out of town businesses are not aware of. We are unique in Palm Coast but we also need to be a little more flexible.
The Business Assistance Center I have not had to personally deal with as far as opening a business. What I can say is that the small business owners I have interviewed extensively are very dissatisfied and wanting change. I am not sure if the Business Assistance Center is to blame for the concerns of these owners, the small business associations or lack of communication. If we are to grow Palm Coast, even to the extent of just keeping the businesses we have, change must happen.
You raise significant and important issues, but you also say say “we can always be a help” in working with new business applications. But local government’s elected officials are barred from micromanaging their administrations, or even meddling in the administration, as opposed to conveying their directions to the manager. You are describing a level of involvement that would likely clash with the permissible–unless you are describing what you would do at the council’s level exclusively. Can you clarify?
I would want to be a part of the opening and help if it were in my district. I would like to work with the business owners to see that the inspection system, I heard of when I interviewed all these business owners, changes. To make a checklist they can use, to have only one inspector per business and to make sure they are familiar with that type of business. If I am unable to do that, Then I’m sure someone in management would at least like to hear my thoughts on it and see my collected data and try to resolve the issue. I’m hoping it’s a team effort.
4. The Town Center CRA has had its share of controversies over the years, not least the way it was designed as such. It subtracts about $1 million a year in county government revenue. And it hasn’t lived up to its development promise. Do you think it’s time to sunset the CRA? If so, why, and if not, why not?
Critical Voter Information:
It has been too long with too little, I agree. At a time where every dollar counts it’s hard to make a decision on when is the right time to throw in the towel. Trying to see the bright future in every plan, I feel that we will see a change once city hall construction takes place. I understand the concept of the CRA and they have been successful in other areas of Florida such as Ybor city in Tampa and areas of Fort Lauderdale but the conditions were different. The reasons for the CRA were different. As with every project that needs to be reworked or reinvented since I started campaigning, I would have to weigh the pros and cons of shutting down the CRA. What incentives do business owners receive at a time when we are about to build that area. Costs can only be estimated at this time. Working and talking with people from several areas that have successfully redeveloped and others that have not I am trying to find the right fit for our situation.
5. Red-light cameras have divided the city between ardent supporters and ardent opponents. On which side are you? Explain your defense or opposition to the cameras. If you support keeping them, would you support adding more or reducing their numbers? If you would repeal them, how would you propose to break the contract with ATS before the contract’s end date in 2019? How would you then address safety concerns at intersections?
First, I would like to say that I have been corrected regarding how the contract was changed on the red light cameras extending the contract till 2019. This was a majority vote. I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or worse but I want to state facts. Second, I did sign the petition to remove the red light cameras. I believe they were first put in place for safety reasons at a time when that was all you saw on the news. Concerned residents approached city council and asked for better safety and we ended up with these cameras.
The original plans were for these to be traffic violations but they continued to be pulled from until they were over $150 that did not even give half back to the community. That is quite the traffic fine. I would like to work on removing the cameras more than anyone because in a time when people can’t make ends meet and live paycheck to paycheck, this fine can be overwhelming. I also would like to see proof of the safety issue at each of these camera locations. Some may need to remain or another solution found.
With that said, the cost to remove these cameras would be costly. Not only to the people who have been running the red lights but to all of the residents of Palm Coast. Some who never may be affected because they have never run a red light. I would propose if they must remain to lengthen the yellow light and to campaign to not run red lights. Then the camera company makes no profit, people will arrive safer and no extra funds come out of taxpayers’ pockets. The camera company will see there is no profit and take its equipment and go elsewhere.
6.Evaluate the level and quality of policing in the city. What changes, if any, would you push for, and how would you pay for them, if those changes entail an increase in services? Would you favor Palm Coast having its own police department?
My father was a police officer and we lived in a suburb of Boston. I knew there were certain areas that I could not walk at night alone. I have never felt that way in Palm Coast living in the various areas. That does not mean there is no crime. Many people around Palm Coast who never read a paper or never go on the internet would only hear the quiet of Palm Coast. I know that there are crimes happening. I know it is everywhere we turn. There are houses in my neighborhood that have had attempted break ins and items stolen from cars. Officers constantly moving and patrolling and watching areas of concern would be the first step. Be more visible. As always, I believe more activities for teenagers would help also. I still do not think we need the expense right now of opening our own police department. We need officers to patrol areas of concern and to keep doing what they are doing. We need to give them our full support. In time if our needs change my feelings may change, as of right now, though I would like to see the jobs created, I think it would be too large an expense.
More police visibility would normally mean more deputies on the streets, but also a greater cost to Palm Coast in its contract with the sheriff. Are you wanting to go in that direction, and if so, where would the money come from?
No, I believe I mentioned in one of my first questions that I do not feel the need at this time in Palm Coast for more police. Just more presence in an area where there has been noted activity of crime.
7. Where do you stand on Amendment 2, the constitutional proposal to legalize medical marijuana? Palm Coast is considering regulating eventual medical marijuana dispensaries—assuming the amendment passes—in similar ways that it did pill mills or would less-than desirable businesses, through restrictive zoning. Do you support the approach? If so, explain why, or why not.
As someone who has worked with cancer patients and seeing the toll chemotherapy takes on them and working weekend mornings imaging patients in NSICU and ICU, I feel that any relief should be available to ease their pain and suffering. These dispensaries should be zoned out of residential areas and be regulated but to have something available that helps and not allow it to be used is disturbing.
8. In 2012 the council was sharply divided about home-based businesses, finally voting 3-2 to deny a low-impact home-based bakery business from going ahead. Since home-based businesses are a growth industry, the matter may arise again, and your vote could decide it one way or the other in Palm Coast. Understanding that the city already makes room for certain home-based businesses “where information-oriented business activities are limited to paperwork, computer, mail, telephone, and filing,” for example, what’s your position on home-based businesses—how would you liberalize or restrict them?
I am a firm believer that small businesses if supported by local government and held to the same standards as in the retail locations, can become the big business of the future. I see many people that sell cakes and baked goods from their home. Some that were unable to find jobs that support them, some as a hobby and some to test their product and eventually they will be in our marketplace.
My concern is with the safety of the food preparation. Many of these businesses that we do not allow do so anyways and are not under safety or sanitary conditions. Every cake that goes out though that we do not allow permits for we do not get taxes for. I say we allow the businesses to be open and that they go through the inspections a bakery at a supermarket would go through. It never hurts to have a package be mailed out proudly stating it was made in Palm Coast, FL. Money they make will eventually be spent at a local restaurant or department store.
9. Along the same lines of business and the business climate in Palm Coast, there are often-repeated claims, some of them documented, that the city is not business friendly (recall Panera’s retreat from two planned stores to one), businesses speak of too-restrictive regulations down to the sort of landscaping and buffers they’re required to have or a laborious inspection process. On the other hand, the restrictions ensure that the city doesn’t turn into replicas of stretches of U.S. 1 in south Florida. What is your analysis of the business climate in the city and the city administration’s management, in step with council direction? What concrete changes would you call for? Alternately, what would you build on that you see is working?
Taking this question as one of the most important questions in the progress of Palm Coast I set out to interview business owners. Not only were they willing to do extensive interviews with me but they also connected me with other business owners they knew. The response was heart-breaking.
Let’s start with Signs – Monument Signs are designed so that as you drive down the road you can see what stores reside in that plaza. Five of the owners I spoke with cannot get variances to add their name on an existing sign (plaza originally designed to accommodate six stores and now has nine) or to add additional signs. Basically if you have not heard of them or seen them in an ad you would not know they are there. Many restaurants depend on that spur of the minute decision to try out a new location. If you cannot guide them in with your sign, how do you exist? For a business such as an insurance agency or doctor’s office, that may work. You obviously have an appointment or know who you will be using in advance. But many restaurants or specialty stores depend on traffic flow.
Next – I cannot stress enough the value of consistency when it comes to inspections. Too many of those interviewed stated that they were given items to address from one inspector only to be followed up with a different inspector with different items on that list. This was costly and very unprofessional. I would like to see one list. If I am opening at a location, I should have a set date to meet with inspectors who will them prepare a list of items to address and I know I can check these items off my list, and in a timely manner they will be checked and I can open for business. We after all want them to open to generate people to the area and taxes.
I personally would feel honored to help businesses in my district open and to guide them through the process. I realize this is not my position and there are officials that specialize in that. But one could only imagine if our way of thinking changed and a person approached us to open a business and we welcomed them, thanked them for choosing Palm Coast and the Business Assistance Center and inspectors and city council members all made sure it happened in a timely fashion how different it would be.
I have three businesses that want to expand but say the hassle is too great. As a landlord I would be less than happy with Palm Coast and as an owner I would search out a more expandable location. I have begged them to wait till this election is over in hopes that new ideas will help. The list goes on and the owners feel like city officials are not working with them. If elected this will change.
You are describing many of the aims of the Business Assistance Center. Is it not meeting those aims, in your estimation? Having impressively walked the pavement for business, have you spent time with the director of the BAC to compare notes?
No, I have not and I believe I mentioned that I have not had to personally deal with the BAC. You have me there and I deserve what I get. I should have gotten both sides of the story. I was dealing with the question at hand though, so I was taking the side and the mind set of the business owner. I was hoping after this article came out the BAC would ask me who the business owners were and help them with their plans and assure them that Palm Coast is on their side. But you are right, I should have found the time to contact them also and get their side.
10. What defines a great city—beyond its employees, its manager, its council, its great people and its beautiful medians—and what will you do to make it so? Please give at least three specific examples within the scope of what’s doable by you as a member of the council. Also, give at least two examples of where Palm Coast is failing as a city, outside of infrastructural or economic issues.
A great city as one that progresses and achieves its goals as it interacts with the people within its borders to create a place where people feel secure in their future.
- Work with small business to create a business friendly reputation for Palm Coast
- Keep the lines of communication open with the people in my district so they will know why decisions are made.
- One of our biggest assets are the schools. Let’s support the great people who got us there.
As a city we are failing in the first two but as one is an economic issue in itself I will add that being known as a trap and kill community reflects on our decisions made in the past. We are better than that. Trap, neuter and release is a very important issue for very humane reasons.
11. How do you support the arts locally (beyond, say, signing your name to a proclamation or attending a show)? What would you do as a member on the council? Palm Coast’s budget for the arts has been declining: $33,000 in 2009, $20,000 in 2011, $25,000 this year. Why the decline, and should a city of this size be so stingy when it comes to the arts?
In the time that I worked nights at Boston Symphony Hall at the time of the great Seiji Ozawa I learned to love the pops. Living in the outskirts of Boston and NYC me and my children could easily go to events and art exhibits or live plays. My son loved music and is great playing the guitar. Unfortunately, there were no places for bands to practice and the music was always to loud and he eventually traveled to Ormond Beach and Daytona to get together at small places to play. My house displays artwork from local artists and my granddaughter takes ballet at a local dance studio and I hope to someday have her involved in singing and theatre. The decline in budget is probably lack of interest in the people making the budget. I think the answer is that simple. Should we spend more on the arts? Of course, it brings culture to an area and teaches children to reach towards their artistic side.
12. It is almost certain that during your tenure, the city will need more revenue: in the last two years, it increased the stormwater fee from $8 to $11 a month for the typical house, and it increased water rates 22 percent, spread over three years. If you have an issue with those raises, please explain how else you would have addressed the city’s needs. Looking ahead, where would you seek additional revenue—an increase in the property tax? The addition of a utility franchise fee? Any other ideas?
Anytime people ask where revenue would come from it is not a simple here or there answer. The people who sit for the whole year focusing on nothing but the amount in and the amount out and most of all areas of need should answer that. I understand that ultimately city council votes but the three year increase on wastewater is already two-thirds of the way through. The final 4 percent in October ends that. Its important to understand that projects that we start today and use money for today are for projected needs. Picture this, a community grows and we are handing out permits as we go along. We are currently using approximately 70 percent of our water. As we get closer to 100 percent, the state stops issuing permits. Now we have to start a project that takes three years to complete in order to issue the next permit. We are not ready. Do we hold production? When we are unprepared we have limits to our water usage and then people are upset once again. Storm water fees are questionable everywhere. The blame usually falls in poor handling of the original city plans as swales and ditches are over burdened. We are constantly needing to keep up with federal standards. A three dollar increase a month for safe water conditions does not concern me. Reducing the need for the city to pump water from underground and taking from our natural wetlands does. Property taxes rising is not the way out though.
But what is the way? Would you support a utility franchise tax? Any specific revenue proposal?
I’m sorry, I do not have the right information in front of me at this time to give you an answer.
13. Assuming strong growth resumes on your watch, and the half-dozen odd DRIs in the city begin to build up. Would you support reviving the city’s desalination initiative to ensure the city’s water supply in the future?
We live on an ocean. Using what we have is great. One of the biggest costs of desalination of water is the original investment and then the cost to run it which I would suggest solar power to offset that cost. I would support it and try to see if there was some way to market it (the salt is a byproduct of the process) which could produce some jobs and have bottled Palm Coast water. I actually have a few experts in the field who could make a trip down here and help us in the process. It’s the future.
Desalination plants are so power-hungry that some have their own power plants co-located on the same grounds. For a solar power field to provide enough power to a desalination plant, the field would have to encroach on vast expanses of tiny Flagler. With such power needs and investment cost issues, how would Palm Coast afford going in that direction?
Desalination plants are so power hungry that some have their own power plants co located on the same grounds. For a solar power field to provide enough power to a desalination plant, the field would have to encroach on vast expanses of tiny Flagler. With such power needs and investment cost issues how would Palm Coast afford going in that direction?
I was thinking as the question said, in the future, as we know solar is getting cheaper and the cells are getting smaller. I think desalination plants are a great idea. Bottom line would be doing a cost/benefit analysis and finding out what our return on investment would be.
14. What makes for an effective council member, what makes for a lousy council member? Give examples of both, and give us your analysis of current council dynamics. Who on the current council does your philosophy most closely aligns with?
To be effective you have to connect with the people of your district. I started small with the people in my immediate neighborhood and moved outward to connect with other areas. I do not dismiss people airing their concerns because sometimes people just want to know someone is listening. In other cases, they want action and I am up for the job. A council member who is ineffective in my view would be someone who only addresses what is on their agenda or what their views are.
Mr. Ferguson is leaving and I have already thanked him for allowing me the opportunity to run for city council. I wish him well. Currently the dynamic is ineffective. I think a change in district two and four will make all the difference in the world. I think two votes can mean a lot. I would like to say my views align best with the next city council member for district 4.
In as much as every candidate attempts not to answer this question, it fairly goes to your philosophy in relation to your colleagues and to the dynamics of the board, which voters have every right and expectation to understand as much as possible in order to make an enlightened choice going into the voting booth. Can you try again?
Sorry, very hard to answer.
Yes, but far from the hardest question you’ll face even on your first day on the job. Having had time to mull it over, can you give us that in sight about you as a councilwoman?
If I had to say who I was most like, as far as what I have seen so far, It would have to be Mr. DeLorenzo. I noticed at meetings he looks up when people are talking which is a great trait (to me should be a must) He takes the time to explain things to people at the meetings when they do not understand. I have had people say when I’m out in the neighborhood, I’m doing good,” that’s how Mr. DeLorenzo ran his campaign”. I’m not sure we will agree on everything, but I think we could debate well through issues.
Jim Landon receives a lot of criticism from every direction. It is my belief that you cannot judge someone until you have actually worked alongside them and see if they are as the media has judged them or in reality they are unfit for their position. Decisions made in the past and attitudes regarding certain issues have made me question the officials in Palm Coast but I have seen the same in other positions. It is always easy to attack another’s position to take the attention off yourself. I am running based on what I can do for Palm Coast.
The candidates in District 2 all chose to spare each other more questions.