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Underhill Lays Out Ambitious Aims for Escambia

Escambia’s Incoming Chairman Offers Preview of the Next Year

by Jeremy Morrison

As Doug Underhill begins his tenure as chairman of the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners he has a list of items he wants to pursue. Some changes he’d like to make to county operations. Both philosophical and logistical.

Underhill envisions looking at Escambia’s budget with fresh eyes, approaching it from a “zero-sum” perspective. And he would like to see the county move from what he describes as “personality-based politics” to a more “process-based” style of governance.

The incoming chairman has ideas about issues both large and small: such as when in a meeting members of the public should speak, or what role the county should play in the region’s economic development efforts. He sees the county carrying some of the area’s early-education burden, and would like to reconsider some aspects of the local criminal justice system. And he’d like to scrap a current policy that discourages commissioners from utilizing forums such as Facebook.

Shortly before his Nov. 22 installation as chairman, Underhill sat down for a few minutes with SANDSpaper to discuss what he foresaw for Escamiba County over the course of the coming year …

SANDS: What do you see this next year looking like?

UNDERHILL: This year should be the real acceleration of moving from personality-based politics to processed based. You know, anytime you hear  commissioner saying ‘This is a really good friend of mine and I know these are good people’ — we should assume that all 330,000 citizens of Escambia County are good people. Let’s just assume that out of the gate. Because when that’s a part of the discourse about whether or not an idea is good, really what you’re saying is ‘I know this person and so I trust this person, and so I’m not even going to look into the merits of the idea, it’s just coming from somebody I trust.’
You see, that’s personality based politics, and I really do see us moving away from that a lot. Ideally, at the end of the day, it should be that we’ve got one set of rules that apply equally to everybody all the time. You know, the levers of power should work the same for my best friend and my worst enemy.
And we’ve never been there in Escambia County. So, if it’s twelve months from now and I can look back and see some very tangible ways in which we’ve changed that, then I really don’t care if I don’t win any arguments.

SANDS: What would you consider tangible ways, tangible examples of how you would do that?

UNDERHILL: Well, the metrics —  my three M’s: Mission is the only Metric that Matters. The mission of a democratic government is that we have an informed citizenry who is actively participating in the governance of their community.
So, how do we see that? How does that work? There’s the very obvious one, of people attending, participating — we were just talking about it a little bit — if you have a public meeting at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, what you’re telling working class people is, ‘I don’t really want to hear your opinion.’
Here on this board, often times we’ll deliberate an awful lot, we’ll actually get all the way to making the decision, during our agenda review. And what we’ve said there is, ‘We want to make our decision before we hear from the citizens.’
We spend a lot of time going back and forth and kind of trying to sell each other our Kool-Aid, you know. And that’s not really helping people get smarter on the idea. Because if I just repeat the same talking point seven times, you’re not seven times smarter.
So, you’re gonna see a little bit more structure, I think, in the meetings. I think you can expect that out of just my military background. I wanna hear — you know, we’ve always had the citizens speak first when we have citizens speaking at a meeting. In doing that the citizens don’t have the opportunity of hearing the subject matter experts and the staff members articulate the story. As the board members we’ve always gotten — we don’t have to speak until all the subject matter experts have.

SANDS: You get the last word.

UNDERHILL: Right. So, we’re gonna change that and we’re going to have the subject matter experts stand up and talk first. They’re going to be — you know, historically we’ve seen an awful lot of those sound like a sales pitch instead of an infomercial. I want to see those change more to informative information. I want to see those subject matter experts inform the discussion, then hear from the people, and then hear from the commissioners, and then make a decision.

SANDS: So, pure information, not really trying to sell you on anything.

UNDERHILL: Right, right. Now, that requires a lot more discipline on the part of the citizenry. You actually have to spend time studying a subject.
You know, it’s easy to say, ‘I don’t think we should go to a SunPass on the toll booth.’ It’s another matter entirely to figure out how we are going to meet the financial requirements that the tolls produce. You know, when you look at how much of the dollar you give goes to actually just running the process of the dollar-giving, you realize this is a very inefficient process.
So, I do hope to see — what I’m looking for and do hope to be able to accomplish is a more informed and engaged citizenry. That’ll be the metrics that I use for that to be able to determine if we’re moving the ball forward on that.

SANDS: How do you plan to engage the citizenry more? How do you plan to reach out to people?

UNDERHILL: Well, certainly the website is a huge step in the right direction. It is much more modern. We have a — you know, our public information officer, PIO, the change to making that a CMR, community-media-relations, is more than just in name. So, you’ve seen us making movements like moving beyond the minimum legal requirements for announcing a meeting, or for announcing changes in your neighborhood. Sending out postcards. Still a large population of ours does not use social media in the way that some of us do, so we’ve still got to continue to spend the money and the energy to get their input.
But then, of course, the social media aspect and the electronic media is a big part of that. By Christmas time I will be bringing our electronic media policy to the board and asking them to do away with it. It was written in 2009 by five men who had no idea how to use electronic media. And it’s a policy that nobody pays attention to. None of us are abiding by it.

SANDS: What does it state, basically?

UNDERHILL: Basically, it says commissioners shouldn’t be on Facebook. Yeah, whereas in my opinion, Facebook is no more  — it’s no more appropriate for the board to tell me not to communicate with my citizens that way than it would be for me to say, ‘Hey, Lumon, you can’t talk to your citizens in a black church. And, Steven, you can’t talk to citizens at a 4-H thing.’
You know, District 2 is a very media-savvy district, a lot of military. Many people in District 2 are world travelers and service members who are constantly in communication with family members around the world, so they’re kind of an electronic, media-savvy group. I think that as we — that bringing that up and enabling commissioners, and actually not just enabling, but promoting commissioners to engage in the public dialogue in any capacity is very important. We should never have any rules that makes it harder for a citizen to have access to his commissioner.

SANDS: Tell me a little bit about a zero-sum budget.

UNDERHILL: A zero-sum budget, zero-based budgeting. Zero-based budgeting or zero-based decision making imagines a scenario in which we’ve never done this before. Ok? So, instead of saying, ‘Our budget was $100 last year, there’s been a three percent increase in the CPI, so our budget is at $103,’ that’s more or less what we do. You know, we start from last year’s budget and then decide what we should spend next year.
The problem with that is is that over time we are so constrained to the point that about 95 percent of our budget is already dictated by ‘the-way-we’ve-always-done-it.’
When you do zero-based budgeting, you are starting from ‘What are my priorities?’ ‘What are the services that I need to provide?’ And quiet frankly, zero-based budgeting is how most people live their lives. You know, ‘My paycheck this week is four hundred bucks, and I’ve gotta pay — my rent is $800 a month, so $200 of that has to go to rent.’ And when you run out of money you’ve run out of things you can do. And therefore you put first the things that are most important to you.
So, what you find, we end up becoming the sum total of years and years of evolution without actually stepping back and saying, ‘Here’s what’s really important to us here in Escambia County.’
The number one thing that this office deals with every day, every week, every hour, is code enforcement issues. Code enforcement is a major priority to citizens in District 2, based on the fact that that’s what gets them riled up enough to call their commissioners. Alright, we’ve had no significant increase in the number of code enforcement officers or in our code enforcement processes. That tells you that you’re not focusing your attention, your resources and you capabilities on the things that are most important to your citizens.
We really start to see some of this start to come up in some of our economic development stuff. You know, we get into a roll with our economic development — ‘It’s gonna be a great thing,’ and ‘This is gonna make a thousand jobs.’ We repeat that as though it’s a fact. When nobody actually says ‘Where are the — what thousand jobs?’ And before long we start making decisions based on the fact that this is bringing a thousand jobs, but nobody in the decision making process can tell you anything about those jobs. ‘Oh, well everybody knows it’s going to bring a thousand jobs.’ Really?
So, when you get into a zero-based mentality, it means you verify every data artifact and you take a look at and measure the things that you’re expending your energies on. It sounds like a lot of work to do that, but it’s really not. Every single citizen does this — not every single, rich people don’t have to. Your average Escambian does this every day in the decision making they have to do.

SANDS: Is this going to be undertaken at the department level?

UNDERHILL: No, I intend to direct the county administrator to do it, to force this action at his level, because we are going to take a — you understand how our, we’re required every year to say what our rollback rate is for our taxes?
Ok, so, we’re required by law to state that. Nobody ever says, ‘Hey, if we take a rollback this year, what will we have to cut?’ Because you don’t want to be honest — people historically have not wanted to be honest about that. We’ve never taken an honest look at the rollback rate as a legitimate option.
My instructions to Jack this year are that we will take the rollback rate as a legitimate option. We will treat it as a legitimate option. It is my goal to do the tax rollback this year.
And here’s why: if you make $40,000 a year, and your house is worth 120 grand, we take X number of dollars from you. The next year, your house is worth 130 grand. You’re still making the same amount of money. We’re taking more money out of your pocket and we’re telling you it’s not a tax increase by saying ‘It’s the same percentage.’
Unless you sell your house this year, the increase in the property value means nothing to you. It doesn’t change your family dynamics. And so it’s disingenuous of us to say it’s not a tax increase when we tax you at the same percentage each year knowing full well that your property values are going up.
I’m somewhat frustrated watching — that I haven’t seen the real changes here in the building in the way our workforce is managed. A lot of stuff we’re doing, kind of legacy ways, we’re just not thinking through them.

SANDS: Can you point to anything specific?

UNDERHILL: So, we had a staff member, whose job it was to manage all of our real estate stuff. A guy named Larry. Larry had a hard time really answering any of the details about any of the real estate deals we were involved in.
You may recall, we were being pushed to purchase the old AES building on W Street, north W, it’s just south of the Pentecostal church. We were under pressure to purchase that, for some exorbitant amount of money. It’s just steel shell building with a stucco facia on it. And we were needing to buy that for our corrections department — ‘Because we got people working at desks out in the hallway.’ Ok? That was Tidwell that said that.
I said, ‘Ok, well, show me.’ You know how many desks were out in the hallway that people were working on? That’d be zero.
Ok, that’s called an ‘Escambia-fact.’ It’s an emotional thing, it sounds pretty meaningful, but when you actually peel back the layers it’s not there.
We’re being told we need to spend $3.6 million on that parcel, I think it was. When you actually peel back the layers, I found out that our real estate guy hadn’t actually read the appraisal on the property to find that it was only worth about $1.8. I find out that Mr. Tidwell didn’t in fact have — I mean, some people were in tight quarters obviously, since the CBD blew up, but didn’t really have any data artifacts to lay your hands on to say ‘We need X amount of space.’
I said show me something else that if we need 25,000 square feet of office space, tell me where else I could buy, where else I could meet this need. The one we found was $650,000. We were just about to spend three million bucks, plus, for something that you could have gotten for $650,000 — same utility, right? — but then we didn’t even actually have the need for that utility. Larry left us pretty soon after that deal.
But that was a prime example of a position, of a guy that was in a position, was providing no real value added. If my guy working for me hears that I need property that I can get for $650,000, he’s either gonna find me the 650, or if he’s really good he’s gonna go find me the $500K, or he’s gonna cut me the best deal on the 650K he can, make sure I don’t have to do the lawn mowing or whatever.
That’s what each one of our staff members should to be doing. They need to be value added to the process.
Now, you saw some of the things this morning — I know you didn’t sit in on the whole thing — we’re trying to talk with, one of the agenda items today was tiny houses. The tiny house issue crosses over multiple department heads. I’ve got one department head they’re briefing who hasn’t spoken to anybody else about it.
The details and the data artifacts that I need to make the decision are not part of the discussion. You know? That’s the kind of thing — so, what you’re going to see is a emphasis on training the staff that we have to be as efficient as they possibly can.
You heard Meredith, who runs our — you know, she’s the lead on the affordable housing tax grant thing. Six developers come to us to throw in $37,500 of tax payer money to demonstrate a local interest in a thing, and in the process if they ended up winning the grant, they’d end up with tax credits worth millions of dollars.
Our staff did not staff that at all. I don’t know if it’s common, but in the military ‘staffing’ something, that’s a verb, to staff it means to figure out all the reasonable questions for it, you know, what are my constraints and restraints, answer all of those questions and put all of that in front of me as a decision maker so that I can make my decision.
We had none of that. And I said, ‘Meredith, why wasn’t any of this done?’ And she said, ‘Commissioner, we don’t have the manpower for that.’ I said, ‘Meredith, you’ve got seven people, six people  in your office.’ ‘Yeah, but nobody else in my office can do that, I have to do that myself.’
So, that’s kind of a red flag for me, from a leadership point of view. You know, if you’re too busy with the tyranny of the immediate to be able to train your people, to enable them to do, and to push authority, responsibility and capability further down the chain of command, if you’re too busy for that, then you will always be too busy for that. It’s like, ‘We’re waiting for a good time to have a kid.’ You’ll never have a kid.
Training and the professional development of the staff has got to be a first priority. So out of a 40 hour work week, if you don’t have two to three hours for professional development of you staff, you are never going to get off of the treadmill, you’ll always be responding to the tyranny of the immediate. And as a result quality goes way down. And so my expectation is that we will spend more time on training.
This is a great example: the certification for a project manager. It’s called a PMP, it’s the Project Management Institute Professional, so the PMI is this national organization that handles this.
For my job up on Corry Station, I can throw an eraser and hit five PMPs within a couple of feet of me. They handle risk matrixes and scheduling and all of that kind of thing. It’s an expected — there’s a profession to project management.
Would you like to take a guess as to how many certified CMPs we have in this building?

SANDS: How many?

UNDERHILL: Not a single one. Not a single person working in this building is certified as a project manager. And don’t for a moment think that I’m saying that they are not competent. Developing the staff here professionally has never been an important part of the mission of Escambia County. So, we haven’t ever done that.

SANDS: When you say you need to look at things, see what’s adding value, see what’s not, do you have a number you’re looking at?

UNDERHILL: In terms of an overall budget? No I don’t, and that’s the thing about zero-based reviewing is you don’t actually start with the numbers. How many personnel or how many dollars. You start with what are your priorities, what do you want to accomplish as a county?’
So, it starts with the longterm vision. And what are we going to accomplish this year during our longterm vision.
I will tell you that I do believe that there is a lot of opportunity for savings in our budget.

SANDS: When you say that, do you mean primarily manpower/staffing savings, or on the operational front?

UNDERHILL: Well, certainly on the manpower side, if we squeeze out every bit of efficiency that we can, combining some jobs together, dropping task that we — you know, if I come and ask you, ‘Why do you do that task?’ ‘Well, that’s because we’ve always done it that way.’ Zero-based reviewing makes you cut those things out.
I think when we cuts those things out and combine jobs, I think what we’re going to find is that there’s a lot of room to save some money there on the staffing side.
And I’ll also tell you, on the economic development front, we spend money without having a real concept of what our return on investment is going to be. We risk an awful lot of capital on economic development endeavors that we don’t do the level of rigor that you’d do if you had to go and borrow it from a bank.
So, that’s a fairly decent standard to have. If you come in here, if you come in to the Board of County Commissioners asking for access to taxpayer dollars and you are less prepared than you would be going into a bank, the answer needs to be no, no matter how viable or how good a project you had. You’ve got to do the rigor. If we’re going to be handing out money and acting like a banker we need to act like a bank — you know, we need to apply the trade craft of that industry.

SANDS: How would you change the way the county handles economic development, or looks at economic development overall?

UNDERHILL: I think that we are spending far too much energy trying to pay a prospective employer, a prospective company to overlook our shortcomings. Escambia County is, without question, one of the best places to start and maintain a business. We have an incredible workforce here, the workforce is very collaborative.
A lot of these fancy words that they use in HR these days, like ‘collaborative’ and whatnot, we’ve been doing that, you know, an agile workforce, a resilient workforce, we’ve been that for generations here in Escambia County.
What we end up finding ourselves — we find ourselves spending money, asking companies to overlook the things that we haven’t done. To overlook our infrastructure problems.
The best thing that a government can do to motivate economic development is to play our instrument, to play our instrument in the orchestra that is the economy. And by that, what I mean is stop trying to do the private sector’s job for them and make sure we do the public sector’s job as well as it can possibly be done.
So, the number one detriment to our economic opportunities here is our education system. I don’t have direct control over that. The number two is our infrastructure. I have control over that.
So, I think that from an economic development point of view, the one thing you’ll see me really hammering on this year is making sure that we get some of these deferred maintenance infrastructure issues taken care of.
Think about this, Jeremy, we’ve got a street that runs as one of the major east-west thoroughfares of this entire community, Airport Boulevard. It is the road that you come to the west side from the airport — you fly into town, you take Airport Boulevard to get on this side. We do not have a bridge going over that track. So, at any given time some force outside of our control can shut down the east-west, a large part of the east-west navigation for this community for an hour in the middle of the day. That’s a huge economic impact. And those kinds of things are indicative of a community that does not look at its infrastructure issues properly.
Now, at the same time there’s been a push underway for a $100 million four-laning of Perdido Key Drive. Twenty-five million dollars of that cost is associated with building bridges over beach mouse habitat. And this was of course being pushed as an economic development thing.
And so let’s look at that from a priority point of view. We’re losing money everyday that that train stops traffic, losing productivity in this community. For the same $25 million that we could build that bridge for — and I don’t know, it’s probably even less than that — we’re careening forward with an effort to build bridges over mouse habitat.
That’s the sort of thing, that when you see that kind of decision making, believe me the people at the CEO level of these companies that we’re trying to get to come to town, they recognize that for what it is. That’s a lack of priorities. A lack of focus on the critical things.
Now, is anybody gonna give me a plaque on the wall and a great big ribbon-cutting ceremony because we built a bridge? No. And that is why things like that don’t get elevated as high as they should.
The real hard work of doing the government’s job is really boring. And it should be. The glamorous stuff, that’s for the private sector.

SANDS: A minute ago you mentioned education being one of the big obstacles to luring businesses to this area. This past year — and y’all might have done it for longer than this — I know the county has done after-school programs, free after-school care —

UNDERHILL: Yep.

SANDS: Have you ever considered dabbling in that arena and adding reading instruction or something like that that prepares students, you know, K-3 students —

UNDERHILL: We have talked about that a lot, there’s been a lot of discussions along that line. I’m hoping that the Achieve Escambia endeavor will bring together all the resources necessary to get a handle on that.
But, you know, the first thing that we’ve got to do is admit that we’ve got a problem, too. We all know people who moved to Gulf Breeze to put their kids in better schools. OK? Right there, just one — if you know one person that’s ever done that you know that there is a financial impact on Escambia County because our schools are not the bright shining star that they should be.
The reality is, when I try to recruit people to come and work in cyber over on Corry Station, I’m often recruiting them from places like Arlington, Va., you know, the Baltimore, Md., area, one of the hardest things about getting somebody to move down here is, if they’ve got a kid in public school. Communities elsewhere around the country invest a lot in making sure their schools are springboards into opportunity. And our’s is not.
Can you imagine an Escambia County where the metric for our schools is not the dropout rate, but the, you know, job acquisition rate, or the — not how many kids go to college, but how many kids actually graduate from college.
Jeremy, I hire people in the six-figure range on Corry Station every single week. I almost never hire somebody that graduated from an Escambia County school. It’s a sad metric, and that is — it is going to take a comprehensive attack on that.

SANDS: What is the county’s role in that?

UNDERHILL: That’s a good question. And not one that I necessarily have an answer for. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s coming out of Achieve Escambia. You know, our Escambia Administrator Brown is on the Achieve Escambia board. And a lot of industry, Gulf Power recognizes it, they’re on that board. You’ve got the new Navy Federal Credit Union, you know, looking at — one of the things Studer identified was our 0-3 education.
You know, we’ve got 30 percent of our kids showing up in kindergarten, not ready to learn in kindergarten. Guess how many don’t graduate from high school? About 30 percent. Guess what? It’s pretty much the same kids, to a great extent.
It’s interesting, and it’s typical of Studer’s way of doing things, he’s looking at ‘How do I solve the core problem?’ You won’t see the results of that for a generation. So, with him focusing on that 0-3, the after school part, which you just mentioned, the summer education part, that may well be where the county falls in.
One of the challenging things about leadership in the public sector is recognizing that it’s our job to facilitate the good ideas and facilitate the energy, not necessarily to be the creative program or project for something. As soon as something becomes a government project the cost doubles and likelihood of success decreases by half. So, I’m hoping that Achieve Escambia will come up with some ideas that we then at the county can help facilitate, whether that be financially or through the resources like community centers.

SANDS: Lastly, what is on your radar issuewise? What are the big issues facing the county this next year?

UNDERHILL: Itinerary Island Development Corporation, the private sewer system out on Itinerary Island, it’s a big issue for me because it’s in my district, it effects citizens. I’m going to be implementing a tax on them in the form of an MSBU. And that does not sit well with me, but it’s necessary.
It’s a big — it’s an immediate and small picture issue, but it is also the canary in the cave for a much a bigger issue. We have multiple instances where we allowed developers who did not want to meet ECUA standards to put in private sewage and water systems, built to whatever standards they choose, with no records of any kind of decent maintenance.

SANDS: Not septics, but sewer?

UNDERHILL: Active sewer systems that are below the acceptable standards of the state now because they haven’t been updated. We’ve got numerous neighborhoods throughout Escambia County where we allowed this. And this is kind of one of those sins of the past coming back to haunt us. We’re going to — the decisions we make with regard to Itinerary this year are going to set the paradigm for how we move forward on these other ones. And there are a number of other ones, primarily in District 1 and District 5, you know, that can become very expensive.
Other big picture issues, obviously the big looming one, right, is the jail. We’re going to knock down the old jail and put shovels in the ground for the new jail in the next, you know, during my tenure as chairman. And unfortunately in the two years since the jail blew up we really as a community have not talked about alternatives to incarceration and we haven’t taken advantage of this opportunity.
And I know it’s weird thinking about the jail blowing up as an opportunity, but it really is because think back to our discussion on zero-based review, alright, you would never be able to do a zero-based review on something as expensive as the incarceration process, unless of course you lost your jail, then you should start having a discussion about ‘How many people incarcerated actually pose a danger to the population?’ And the ones that do not pose a danger to the population, why aren’t we coming up with something else? I mean, we’re basically doing things the same way we were a hundred years ago. With all of the technology that we have, why are we not doing it differently?
The bail bonds system, cash bail bond system — think about this, OK: if I got picked up for a crime that I did not commit, call my wife, she’d get the cash and come bail me out. Once they found out that I wasn’t the guy, I went to court, proved I wasn’t the guy, I’d get my entire bail back, wouldn’t cost me a penny, maybe the interest on that money that I didn’t have in savings during that time. But if I’m a poor person, exact same thing happens to me, I’m sitting in jail until somebody can claw together 10 percent of that bond, 10 percent of that bail, and bond me out. I go to court, they say, ‘You got the wrong guy.’ I walk away, but I don’t get my bond back. The poor guy was just as innocent as I was, it was the exact same scenario, the only difference is I’ve got the money sitting in the bank for my bail and he doesn’t. That is not how America works.
Now, it had to work that way back when you had to get on a horse and go chase a guy down. Why as a society do we not take this opportunity to talk about that? I would like to think that we are a citizenry that has the ability to work through some of those things.
We didn’t do it. We did succeed in getting the jail built in Inglewood, which geographically constrains its size. There was a movement underway to end up with a mega-jail built out in the hinterlands somewhere — out of sight, out of mind — by keeping it in sight and in mind, I’m hoping that we will force the issue to, you know, really improve the way that we incarcerate, and keep incarcerated those that are a risk to people, but find alternatives to incarceration to those that are not a risk to people.
One thing about a jail, you’ll never see a jail that has a vacancy light on it. You build 10,000 beds, you’ll have 10,000 people in jail.

SANDS: You pretty optimistic about that conversation?

UNDERHILL: I am. I have to be optimistic that we can have that conversation. I don’t know that it actually results in any real serious change. But it starts with — you kind of have to have a long-ball mentality in this job. You know, most of the projects and the things that we are setting into motion now, will not come to fruition during my tenure here. And that is OK.
One of the problems with politics is that we tend to think, ‘OK, what can I get done in time to have on my re-election advertisement?’ And that always makes you focus on small-ball issues. If you’re not particularly worried about re-election, if you’re not worried about trying to go on to a higher office or bragging about what you’ve done, then you can focus on long-ball leadership. And I’m very optimistic that I can do that.

SANDS: A lot of these things you’re talking about — you know, anything from the budget to the bail bond system — are pretty institutional changes, do you expect a lot of pushback?

UNDERHILL: I think there will be some pushback. I will tell you that Steven Barry is one of the best fiscal conservatives that I have ever met in my life, I’ve got a lot of respect for the way that he chaired the board a year ago, I’ll be emulating a lot of that.
Commissioner May is a — you know it’s funny, because ‘Democrat’ and ‘Republican’ are interesting words. They mean different things at the national level than they do at the local level. He’s a fiscal conservative, he gets it that if we weren’t wasting so much of our resources we might have more of our resources for the people that need it the most. And I have seen him — from what I’ve seen in the last two years I think he’s a great addition to the conversation.
You have someone entering onto the board who has a fairly good track record of sticking his finger in people’s eye, and speaking up and saying the things that might not always be the most popular thing in the form of Jeff Bergosh. Jeff’s track record as a fiscal conservative, as somebody who can — and I’m not even really sure that I like the word ‘fiscal conservative.’ He’s somebody who takes fiscal responsibility seriously, let’s put it that way. That takes out the political aspect of it. Jeff takes — his track record is almost flawless in terms of taking his fiscal responsibility seriously. And so I think he’s going to make a great addition to the board in that capacity.
Will there be some pushback? There’s always going to be pushback in Escambia County about how great it’s always been. You know, ‘This is the way we do it.’ No, that’s the way it use to be done. Change has come to Escambia County in such a way that we are never going back to the old personality-based politics. W.D. Childers, that kind of way of doing business, would not work in Escambia County today. You know, and Sheriff Morgan winning in a landslide victory like he did, Lumon winning the way that he did — you know, you see these people who are really reform minded are being brought back into office with huge margins. That tells me that the people are clamoring for that, they expect it out of us. Some people will continue to push back, but they will — that group is getting smaller and smaller everyday.

jeremy morrison :

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  • Does he really think he can accomplish that only on his say so? I do believe there are other commissioners who have a vote too. The County is not his individual "kingdom" or "empire." He is acting along the same lines as his predecessor did, which proved foolhardy in the end.