Last Updated: Friday, 7:13 a.m., with Barbara Revels interview.
Milissa Holland is back. The two-time Flagler County Commissioner who narrowly lost a bid for the state House in 2012 filed today to run for Palm Coast mayor in 2016. She’ll run in a race to succeed Jon Netts, who’s term-limited, and has already scored one victory: with her entry in the race, council member Bill McGuire, who’d been considering the mayor’s race, chose to run for his council seat again instead.
McGuire and Netts both welcomed Holland’s entry in the race, both saying she would be a strong leader on the council. Still, she is likely to face significant opposition, as open seats generally draw numerous candidates regardless.
Holland filed her papers with Palm Coast’s city clerk late this afternoon.
“Obviously Palm Coast has been my home for 28 years,” Holland said this afternoon, shortly after filing. “It’s near and dear to my heart, this community. My father has always played a role with regards to me politically as far as me running the first time, the second and third, and now this time.” When she first ran for the county commission in 2006–and became Flagler County’s first female commissioner in history–shed wrestled between running for county or city. She opted for the county, thinking she’d be of best use there “at a time when, you remember, the county and city were suing each other over the water wars.” Holland saw herself as bridging a divide.
“I equally feel I can be of great use now as a city representative, as I believe I’m uniquely qualified because I have served in a county seat, and can understand county government,” Holland said. Two former council members have successfully made the jump to the county–Alan Peterson and Frank meeker–but no commissioner has yet made the switch from the county commission to the Palm Coast council. “Netts is now termed out and the opportunity turned up for me to run for that seat,” Holland said.
A lifelong Democrat and the daughter of founding council member and Democrat Jim Holland, who died in office in 2002, Milissa Holland about six months ago switched her registration to the Republican Party, and explained her decision as part of a journey and an evolution, all along maintaining that the Palm Coast council is non-partisan.
“As we grow and evolve and things occur in our lives, it changes our perspectives at times,” Holland said. “I’ve had the ability now to understand the inner workings of Tallahassee and I’ve understood and analyzed the state budget for my clients when I was lobbying for them the last couple of years.” Holland worked with the Southern Strategy Group, the lobbying firm. “Your perspective changes on things, you understand who you are and what your belief system is at the end of the day. For a long time I’ve struggled with that fiscal conservative side of me, which is very strong,” though she said she remains socially liberal. “Other than that I think it’s been an evolution win my, life that’s brought me to this point.”
Most of her campaign staff, she says, is still Democratic. Arlene Burnett, who’s been at her side politically throughout, is again her campaign manager.
Barbara Revels, the county commissioner whose career on the commission intersected with Holland’s for several years, and a Democrat, was surprised by the party switch. “I don’t know if that will affect her or not, because a lot of her loyal base in Flagler was disheartened, but on a non-partisan race, maybe it shouldn’t matter,” Revels said. Asked if she understood the switch, Revels said: “I don;t know if I can share what I was told, but the intent had been to get an appointment, and the fact that who she’s been working with is Southern Strategy, Thrasher. She just told me that it was more to her political thoughts, I guess, leanings. So, no, I don’t understand. She and I had a good chat about it one day.”
The switch aside, Revels continued: “I will credit Melissa in the fact that when she puts her mind to do something, she does it wholeheartedly, she’s generally well researched, and she was always very good with her constituent services, as a commissioner, I believe. And again that’s what a mayor does, see to issues, constituent problems, and is a spokesperson for the city, and she speaks well. The question is whether or not she will be able to buck the administration if there’s a need to. Not saying there’s a need to, I’m saying if there’s a need to. There’s a lot of people that talk about wanting to see a new change in administration, and I’m sure it’s just like county commission, same with city council, once you get elected and learn the ins and outs of programs and policy and budgets, you start to, as a lot of people say, drink the Kool-Aid, and you see a little bit different vision of what you might have been critical of before. So that’ll be an issue. Can she do it and will she make a good mayor?> I think that Melissa can do whatever she puts her mind to.”
Holland decided to run for a House seat in 2012 after redistricting created a Flagler-centered House district, with about 60 percent of the electorate in the county, and 20 percent each in Volusia and St. Johns. She appeared at the time to give the county its strongest chance in two generations to have a direct representative in Tallahassee. But Travis Hutson, the eventual winner, outspent her 10-to-1, and in the critical summer weeks of the election, Holland was not campaigning as hard as she had in her previous races.
She lost by a narrow margin, a loss that hit her hard and paralleled difficulties in her marriage to David O’Brien, the former senior commander at the Sheriff’s Office. They’ve been separated since. For a time Holland hosted a show on WNZF and wrote columns for FlaglerLive, then took the job with the Southern Strategy Group. But she was never far removed from Flagler or Palm Coast (she lives in the city’s C-Section). Her return to politics is no surprise. She had been rumored to be eyeing the supervisor of election’s job, after Kimberle Weeks’s fall–Weeks resigned and now faces 12 felony counts–but that job, Holland said, would not have matched with her goals.
That her decision to run for the council was welcomed by its two senior Republicans is an indication of Holland’s establishment credentials, and suggests more continuity than change. She cited two issues when asked about likely priorities of her first tenure, if she were to win: more communication with the county, and maximizing the city’s technological infrastructure, such as its FiberNet, its high-speed Internet network, made available to larger, commercial concerns around town.
“She’ll be a great candidate,” Netts said. “If she runs and she wins, she brings something to Palm Coast that we’ve never had before, and that’s somebody with experience at the county level. We continue to discuss, debate how best to partner with the county. But here’s somebody who’s got inside information on how the county operates.”
Netts and Holland have been close for years, through Holland’s friendship with Netts and his wife Priscilla, and because of her father’s connection to the council. They’ve served on the same boards, crossed paths routinely as mayor and county commissioner, and been more similar than not in their political outlook. Holland’s run for the mayorship would be more of a continuation from than a break with the Netts era. Both, when asked about their differences, seized on the same one: when the county ended the Hammock Dunes Development of Regional Impact, an initiative Holland pushed, the city opposed it (because it was losing out on money and certain rights).
Netts has also developed a prickly attitude toward the county’s Fire Rescue system, whereas Holland drew some of her political support from Fire Rescue ranks and has a friendlier attitude toward the system, though she is not, she says, thinking consolidation.
“I take a lot of my direction from the first city council, which of course included her father,” Netts said. “In fact he was the one who kind of encouraged me to run. I don’t know for a fact but I suspect that she has, maintains, carries on some of the passion that Jim Holland has for the city. I don’t think there’ll be a huge discontinuity.”
McGuire, whose term is also up in 2016, along with that of Jason DeLorenzo, said his concern is to keep the council from falling into the hands of more extreme forces–a direct reference to the Ronald Reagan Republican group from which he broke away several years ago. “I would not run for mayor if Jason DeLorenzo or Milissa Holland were to run because I think either of them would be a good mayor,” McGuire said. “The only thing that would persuade me to run for mayor were if somebody like Anne-Marie Shaffer would run.”
Shaffer, a Reagan group member and now the head of what’s left of the local Republican Executive Committee, ran for a council seat in 2014 and lost to Heidi Shipley. The Reagan group is expected to aggressively field candidates in most local races, as it did in 2014. Should it field Shaffer for the mayor’s race, McGuire said Holland “will eat her alive.”
DeLorenzo confirmed in a brief interview this afternoon that he’s not running for mayor. He’s exploring his political options, possibly off the council.
Holland has three children–two sons, age 20 and 25, and a daughter, 19–and is going to school at Daytona State College, with a focus on health care. She had been consulting with the Southern Strategy Group, but no longer is, now that she is a declared candidate.
I think Milissa would do well as a Mayor. She has a lot of knowledge about the county and the city. Not as much as Netts, but she will learn even more as time goes on and isn’t afraid to stand her ground in what she thinks is right or believes in.
A Lobbyist and Mayor? Please!
Why not? DeLorenzo is a lobbyist, isn’t he? Everybody is cashing in. The only thing I am wondering is why she would want a job that only pays her about $9,000 a year? This place gets more interesting by the day. And aren’t most of our politicians here former Democrats? Congratulations, Milissa.
Anybody but Netts.
Brad W says
Best news I’ve heard all day!!
Ray Thorne says
Best of luck Milissa
Now we need to get rid of Langdon!
Diana L says
Melissa is very smart, thoughtful and has knowledge of this area. I wish her well and will help her campaign.
Put your head between your legs and kiss your butt goodbye says
Melissa Holland made the statement in the media after she began her lobbyist job that she would never get back into local politics, was that a lie? Hopefully the people can look through what is going on and not vote for this woman. A continuation of Netts would be a disaster…..Palm Coast is already the 10th worse city to live in the state of Florida. Get a real job for a change Melissa! I am sorry that when your husband lost his job and his $100k salary ended with the Sheriff’s Office that your marriage ended.
The City Charter needs to be reviewed by the committee and this form of government needs to end!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Nancy N says
Really, you’ve never changed your mind about ANYTHING? Not once? You’re infallible?
I swore up and down for nearly 30 years I’d never have kids. There’s a beautiful 12 year old running around the house now (who wasn’t an accident) that makes me look like a pretty big liar.
Life happens and we can’t predict where it will take us. Never say never.
Gotta B Kiddin says
Please do not get caught up in the “party affiliation ” crap. Who cares can’t we just be citizens and Americans. Melissa has the knowledge and vested interest to be the next mayor of PC. She is a gem and if you knew her father you know why. I will be offer my support to her cause for sure.
Last cycle the Charlie Crist was lambasted because he switched parties, now we are suppose to give this candidate a pass. I think not, she is the typical political fool who will do anything and anyone for a seat at the table. She should pack her bags and leave Flagler County as she has disgraced her family name with this lame brained move.
People can switch parties if they please, this is a nonpartisan race so it would not even matter whether or not she was a democrat or republican, you are focusing on the wrong message of the article. Milissa Holland is a great leader who cares very deeply about this city and the people in it, so before you go and run your mouth maybe you should look back on all that she did. It sounds to me that you aren’t very happy in Palm Coast so maybe you should be the one to pack your bags and leave, because there is no one and I mean no one who would make a better candidate, she’s been here since there was just one road and a McDonalds here and her and her father have shaped it into what it is today, her family is nothing but proud of her, the only disgrace here is you.
Nalla C says
THANK YOU! I was just about to say that.
If flip-flopping affiliation was enough to burn Crist, you can bet it’s going to burn Holland.
Believe there is not likely to be a more qualified candidate to emerge for Mayor of Palm Coast. Party affiliation should have no bearing on her suitability as the third Mayor of Palm Coast. Her commitment to the community,experience and willingness to serve, make her the obvious choice among other potential wanna be’s. All the best to the daughter of one of the city’s founding fathers whose legacy rests with the park named after him off Florida Park Drive. Good news for the future of this growing city.
Another “Assembley” candidate? No thanks. No more Flagler Republican whackos for me!
Tom Jacks says
Just another political hack attempting to take advantage of a conservative electorate. She was a lousy commissioner and would be nothing more than a lousy mayor.
BARRY HARTMANN says
I think she will be great!!!! She has my support and I will HELP in anyway I can.
Glad to hear this! Go Milissa!
Guess that not everyone in Palm Coast will vote for her…wonder who would be a better choice ?
Palm Coast government was designed to be non-partisan for a reason. Focus on the person, their character and qualifications. Not the party affiliation. Milissa Holland is by far the most qualified of any potential visible candidate in the County today. Unless someone far more qualified comes along, she’ll have my total support.
Great person, good for her
CHANGE IN PARTY AFFILIATION, ESPECIALLY AT THE LOCAL LEVEL, IS ESPECIALLY SUSPICIOUS. FOR MS HOLLAND TO DO SO, ESPECIALLY IN LIEU OF HER FATHER’S SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY AS A DEMOCRAT, IS MOST SUSPICIOUS. THE ARM OF DEVELOPERS HAS MADE AN INTERESTING COPITULATION. SHE WILL NOT GET MY VOTE.
We do indeed need a change and I think Ms Holland has the credentials, experience and (hopefully) the will
to provide this City with exactly that. The City and County MUST start working together again to promote the
wishes of the people who enjoy being citizens who are taxpayers here. As a long time resident, I have long wished for more forceful management guidance at both the City and County for the often high priced government
“servants” at both levels. I wish her well.
I’ll vote for anybody against Red Light Cameras! Those cameras really make PC such an awful place to live or even visit!
I would like to hear about some of her major accomplishments, would also like to hear just what plans and ideas she has if she were to be elected mayor. I don’t care what kind of person or what her relatives have done, I want to know what she has done especially in the creating jobs category!
Sherry E says
What a shame that our country and state and community has become so very politically divided that candidates for public offices that are supposedly NON_Partisan feel they need to make announcements that they have changed political parties, so that they can garner more votes.
What a terrible statement about our country. United we stand. . . Divided we fall!!!
Will (#1) says
Take a breath people. This election primary isn’t for 15 or so months, and the general 2+ months after that.
Happy Memorial Day. Remember those who served.
You Sir are Correct, the 24 -7 365 Politics is nauseating!
I have better things in life to do.
And Yes, Happy Memorial Day. Remember those who served and currently in Service.
The politicians love her, the taxpayers cannot afford her.
Has she had her picture taken with Josh Duggar yet? Until then she is not a true Republican. Family values must be respected.
What a joke!!!
What a joke indeed! The truth will now come out!! Every bit of it!!!
30 Year Cop says
So here comes another party switcher. Melissa a life-long Democrat becomes a Republican just like Sheriff candidate Rick Staly. Melissa seems to have changed her party affiliation once. Rick Staly who was a Democrat for a very long time, even ran for Sheriff in Orange County as a Democrat, then became a Republican for two years, then back to being a Democrat for a Long time, was in fact a Democrat when he moved to Palm Coast. Mr Staly then years later realized Flagler County has a larger Republican base, so he switched to being a Republican. Now Mr Staly and Ms Holland want the support of Republicans, I say go back to your roots and try to win that way, we true Republicans are not going to fall for your game just like we didn’t fall for it when Charlie Crist tried it.