George Hanns has never been really gone since he lost his bid for a seventh straight four-year County Commission term in 2016.
If you don’t see him at ribbon-cutting around town, at social events, at European Village, at Princess Place Preserve, always with his trusty tripod and a lanyarded ID suggesting a nebulous association with local media, or at least social media, you see his name on the covered bridge at Princess Place or on plaques on numerous buildings that bore the imprint of commission funding during his quarter-century tenure. Even fish and wildlife see him. An artificial reef offshore is named after him, as is a covered bridge at Princess Place.
“It’s not like I retired and went away, went in a shell, I’m still very active and promoting what’s going on in Flagler,” he says.
Now Hanns wants to run again for the County Commission, this time as a Republican, in 2024. He was a Democrat the entire time he’d served, and for most of his life going back to his Chicago days, where he was a self-employed carpentry contractor. “There are so many times a subdivision I supported and worked hard to bring in and then it was predominantly Republicans moving in,” Hanns says. “I was fortunate over those years they still supported me. Unfortunately, it was a no-win situation in 2016.”
That was the year the commission lost its last two Democrats (Barbara Revels was the other) in a Republican surge that hasn’t really stopped since. Hanns was defeated by Donald O’Brien, the Republican now running for Paul Renner‘s term-limited House seat at the Legislature. So Hanns switched about a year or two ago, and now wants to get back in the fray.
“I think about it and I don’t really miss it, the long meetings, sometimes the way people vote irritates the hell out of me, it’s hard to keep your mouth shut. But I believe I will do that,” Hanns said today of running again. “I still have energy. When I think about it, I think: my God, my name is on every building in the county, and there are so many projects I was involved with in the county.” He adds:
Hanns was 46 when he was first elected to the commission in 1992. He is 76 now, the same age as Commission Chairman Greg Hansen, a few years younger than Commissioner Dave Sullivan, who’s 81 and will not run again in less than two years. O’Brien is 63.
Hanns thought of running for mayor of Palm Coast, but was dissuaded after David Alfin, who won that race, told him he was running to honor his son. Alfin’s son, an FBI agent, was shot and killed in the line of duty not long before Alfin’s decision to run. Hanns said he would not run against him in those circumstances, and now has turned his eyes back onto the commission, where he clearly enjoyed himself for over two decades, if before the era of scorched-earth politics.
“Nothing derogatory about the existing commission at all, but I definitely will run. Well, I shouldn’t say definitely. I do intend to run, and I don’t change my mind very often,” Hanns said. He gave credit to current commissioners Andy Dance and Hansen for being visible in the community, but said he doesn’t see the others as much.
He has one regret for his time as a commissioner: voting for the acquisition of the old Memorial Hospital in 2013, an acquisition that turned into a nightmare after the building was reconstructed, at immense expense–the county is still paying for it–before it was turned over to the sheriff as an operations center.
A few years later, in 2018, two years after Hanns had left the commission, the agency had to leave the building because too many employees complained of sick-building syndrome-like symptoms. Water had intruded in the building and built up mold in various places. “That was the only part I could say I wasn’t pleased, my efforts to do that,” Hanns said. “In all sincerity, we were trying to do good for the sheriff, and that facility was available. We spent a lot of money in there.” It was only last December that the Sheriff’s Office once again could call an operations center its own.
Hanns doesn’t know how a significantly more Republican county will take to a prodigal former commissioner. He says his friendships run the gamut, though he has no connections inside the party: he never ran in Democratic Party circles then, he doesn’t run in Republican Party circles now. With two open seats, the election is expected to draw a large number of candidates, with two already lining up for the O’Brien seat: Hanns, and Ed Danko, the first-term Palm Coast City Council member.
Nick Klufas, who will be term limited at the end of two terms on the city council, intends to run for Sullivan’s seat.
“I believe I’ve made a difference and I have a lot more to offer. I’ll get more done in a bad day than most will get done in a good week, and my history shows that,” Hanns says. “I have a lot of energy, I do a lot of things in the community, and I want to make it better.” When asked what’s driving him to run in particular, he returns again and again to Princess Place, where he regularly gives tours, and where he still has some influence with the county, if something there needs attention–with the exception of a long-disused swimming pool he wants restored.
In terms of policy and politics, Hanns was more circumspect–a vulnerability that would make his run difficult: running on history in a county where a large part of the electorate is post-Hanns retirees will not help him–other than to say that he was glad Joe Mullins, whom he called a “disgrace,” was no longer on the commission. As for O’Brien, who had trounced him by 20 points in 2016, he said he wished him well.
Danko is part of that new wave of retirees Hanns will have to contend with, not just as a political opponent. When asked his thoughts about running against Hanns, Danko texted: “Who is George Hanns?”
After learning of Hanns, Danko added: “The fact this guy just switched from Democrat to Republican tells me all I need to know – RINO! Republican in name only.”
Longevity aside, Hanns was known for his one-liner humor on a commission that has been especially dour and pious since he left. Example, from 2010: “If you live in Flagler you become bi-lingual, if you will. I speak Bunnell.” Or, at a commission meeting on the tax rate in September 2013: “I’ve looked at the clock and Swamp People isn’t on until 10 o’clock, so we have time.”
He often riffed on his beloved companion Sophie Zabas, who died in 2016, a loss that demolished him weeks before he lost his election. She, too, had his sense of humor, he said. “I didn’t get to talk much this weekend at home so I’m trying to make up for it,” he said at a May 2014 meeting of the commission, when he was chairman.
He hasn’t lost it. When asked his age during today’s interview, he said with the kind of table-turning wit of Reagan’s joke about Walter Mondale in 1984: “I will be 77 in October, and I can’t wait. I hate sixes.”
The dude says
I mean anything is better than liddle Eddie Danko… literally anything.
But this county doesn’t need another old, white dude in a position of authority, especially one who’s already taken quite a few bites from that apple.
Time for boomers to move on and enjoy the cush retirement that they’ve made damn good and sure all who come after them will never have, and let those who will be here long after they’ve moved on take the reins.
I will take this ‘old, white dude’ GEORGE HANNS as a commissioner any time than an air-head boomer who has no knowledge of the county or it’s history. Good luck
The dude says
A big part of the reason this county is such a crime infested shithole country is because you all keep electing the same thing over and over.
Your brain is impenetrable and impervious to the accrual of knowledge.
Sadly, you function like a trashcan in reverse. So much detritus has accumulated
in there that there’s just no space for logic or what’s proper.
Bless your heart.
Hookah Smoking Caterpillar says
This dude does not abide.
Palm Coast Citizen says
It’s definitely true that we could use some younger people more reflective of our growing diversity in Flagler County, but what are our options? It’s a tough ring for younger folks who are busting their tails to afford housing, gas, and food to be collecting signatures and hitting the campaign trail. It’s challenging to launch a campaign on a lunch break and the weekend, espeicially if one has a work commute to Jacksonville or Orlando! It’s the retirees we’re mostly going to get, so we may have to wait a little for more people to retire to get more people in the fight.
For now, George Hanns would be a safe bet against the uncertainty of absurdity that seems to infiltrate our elected positions. :)
Jack Howell says
Good luck, George! I am proud to call you a good friend. Should you do this it will be interesting to watch. As we say in New Orleans “Laissez les bon temps rouler”.
Dennis C Rathsam says
This is the trouble in this 1/2 ass county!!!! Where,s all the young blood in this county? Its like a giant do over…Thanx for your 24 years. But we need to move on from the past. Your ideas have come & gone. The voters got rid of you once, & we will do it again.
Deborah Coffey says
Congratulations on the “crap” you managed to put into office!
Aw, he’s just a crepehanger.
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN says
QUESTION: Why would he ever want to make a come back after all those years of serving and after all those mistakes that were made by previous FCBOCC which brings our county to today, we need to see what he voted on, and how he voted affects us and our county adversely today.
wishful thinking says
George Hanns? Never owned a home but voted on property taxes. Never sponsored anything other than saving a tree. He talks for hours at a time about himself. No thanks
I hope Brian MacMillan files for this seat. He would bring intelligence, experience as editor of a newspaper for years and knows everything about Flagler County’s 10 years of happeings…., and he is a gentleman first class. He shows respect for everyone and is a loving father of 5 and husband. He would bring dignity Please run for this seat Brian – please…
Around $60,000 in salary!
$60,000 plus benefits.
Nate McLaughlin says
The absolute epitome of integrity!
Mr. Hanns worked as a salesman for the old Sears Hometown store. He sold me a refrigerator and washer-dryer combo back in 2000 or thereabouts. He’s a very personable guy with a winning personality.
I believe that he was a paratrooper as a young man.
Good luck, Mr. Hanns!
Bob Atack says
We would be lucky to have him back!
Pissed in PC says
I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure the stench of Stanko Danko doesn’t hold another political seat in this county.
The dude says
The olds seem to be pretty excited about his candidacy.
That’s pretty much all we need to know.
Vote for this man to maintain the status quo… such as it is.
Roy Longo says
Good luck Commissioner Hanns. You are a pillar of strength and integrity and your sense of humor is needed on this commission. You have my vote.
Nephew Of Uncle Sam says
Served 24 years as a Democrat and now thinks he has to be a RepubliCon to get elected. I won’t Vote for a sell-out or anyone with an (R) after their name until they clean up their house.
Aunt Catfish's granddaughter says
Good luck to you, George. You are a great guy and always involved with the community. After the likes of that rabid georgian who polluted the Flagler commissioner’s office for too long, it will be nice to bring back sanity. And NO to anyone running for Renner (who voted against nursing home residents and citizens’ rights over and over again) except for Adam Morley, a decent, honest Floridian family man who CARES about our quality of life here in Florida.