110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
City Councils and Commissions
Volusia County Council
As West Volusia's community newspaper, The Beacon writes many stories about local government.
That causes some rolled eyeballs and deep sighs among a few readers who consider the machinations of city and county councils to be boring and unrelated to their lives.
We beg to differ. Not only do the actions of your city and county leaders affect the lives of West Volusia residents every day, it is the duty of each of us to be aware of goings-on in local government, and informed enough to participate in electing representatives to act on our behalf.
After all, that's what makes this a government "by the people."
Below is a primer on government in West Volusia. In The Beacon's calendar, you'll find meeting times and locations for all the councils, boards and commissions. If you decide to attend a meeting, you can usually ask the clerk on duty for a copy of the agenda, to help you follow the action.
In many years of watching local government at work, we've often seen how ordinary people can make an extraordinary difference. A group of neighbors, or even one lone citizen who rises to speak at a city commission meeting, can sway a vote or inspire action.
So, go ahead and exercise your power. Inform yourself. Attend a meeting. Contact a city official or write a letter to the editor about a local issue. The Beacon is here to help. Together, we can make a difference.
City Councils and Commissions
Every incorporated city in Volusia County has a five- or seven-member panel called either a city commission or city council (or town council, in the case of Pierson).
There's little difference between the two; whether a city has a council or commission seems to depend only on the wording of the city's charter, the legal document that sets out how the city operates and is organized.
Typically, these councils and commissions meet once or twice a month, usually in the evening. Members are elected, generally in the fall of each uneven year.
One member of each commission or council is the mayor. In West Volusia cities, mayors' powers are the same as the powers of the regular commissioners or council members, except the mayors run the council or commission meetings, and function as ceremonial heads of local government, cutting ribbons, signing proclamations and speaking on behalf of city government.
Most West Volusia's cities have the council-manager form of government, under which no elected officials are directly responsible for administering the day-to-day operations of city government. Generally, the city commission or city council sets policy for the city, approves the budget and sets the local property-tax rate, and hires the city manager, city attorney and city clerk; otherwise, hiring, firing and day-to-day city affairs are in the hands of the manager and his or her staff.
The City Commission normally meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of each month at DeLand City Hall, 120 S. Florida Ave. Occasionally, the date may be changed because of a holiday, or the time may be changed because of a special workshop or activity.
Meet the DeLand City Commission at www.deland.org.
The Deltona City Commission has seven members, including the mayor. Six commissioners are elected by geographic districts; the mayor is elected citywide. Each registered voter living within Deltona city limits may vote for the commissioner representing the district where he or she lives, and also may vote in the mayoral election.
The City Commission normally meets at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of each month at Deltona City Hall, 2345 Providence Blvd. Occasionally, the date may be changed because of a holiday, or the time may changed because of a special workshop or activity.
Meet the Deltona City Commission at www.ci.deltona.fl.us.
The City Council ordinarily meets at 7 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at Florence K. Little Town Hall, 12 Colomba Road. Occasionally, a second meeting is added on the third Wednesday, and the dates may be changed because of a holiday, or the time may be changed because of a special workshop or activity.
Meet the DeBary City Council at www.debary.org.
The Orange City Council has seven members, including the mayor. The council members are elected citywide; all registered voters who live within Orange City limits may vote in all city elections.
The City Council normally meets at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at the Town Hall Annex, 201 N. Holly Ave. Occasionally, the date may be changed because of a holiday, or the time may be changed because of a special workshop or activity.
Meet the Orange City Council at www.ci.orange-city.fl.us.
The Lake Helen City Commission has five members, including the mayor. All five are elected citywide, so all registered voters who live within Lake Helen city limits may vote in all city elections, but each of the four commissioners must live in one of the four zones into which the city is divided.
The City Commission meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of each month in the Lake Helen City Commission Chambers, 493 S. Lakeview Drive. Occasionally, the date may be changed because of a holiday, or the time may be changed because of a special workshop or activity.
Lake Helen does not have a Web site. Call (386) 228-2121 for more information.
The Town Council meets at 7:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month at Pierson Town Hall, 106 N. Center St. (also known as U.S. Highway 17). Occasionally, the date may be changed because of a holiday, or the time may be changed because of a special workshop or activity.
Pierson does not have a Web site. Call (386) 749-2661 for more information.
Volusia County School Board
The Volusia County School Board has five members, who are elected by voters in five geographic districts in the county. Roughly, West Volusia is divided into District 1 on the north and District 5 on the south, with Districts 2, 3 and 4 representing the beachside cities and the unincorporated areas on the east side of the county.
It is a common misconception that the School Board is part of county government. The School Board and County Council are separate and distinct entities (although County Council districts and School Board districts are identical). The powers and duties of the School Board are set out in the Florida Constitution, while the County Council is governed by the Volusia County Charter.
The School Board hires the superintendent of Volusia County Schools and the School Board attorney, approves the annual budget and sets policy for the school district; otherwise, the day-to-day operation of schools is in the hands of the superintendent and his or her staff.
The School Board meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, either at 9 a.m. or 4 p.m. Usually, the 9 a.m. meetings are in the Volusia County Schools Administrative Complex at 200 N. Clara Ave. in DeLand, and the 4 p.m. meetings are at schools around the county. The variety in times and locations is designed to encourage parents and school-based employees to attend and take part in School Board activities.
School Board meetings are listed in The Beacon calendars in print and online; the times and locations can also be found at www.volusia.k12.fl.us/
Volusia County Council
For those West Volusia residents who don't live within the boundaries of an incorporated city, the Volusia County Council is the closest local government. In some areas, such as management of the beach and libraries, the County Council also exercises jurisdiction over city residents. Also, city residents pay county property taxes.
The Volusia County Council has seven members, including a chair and an at-large member who are elected countywide, and five members who are elected by voters in five geographic districts in the county. Roughly, West Volusia is divided into District 1 on the north and District 5 on the south, with Districts 2, 3 and 4 representing the beachside cities and the unincorporated areas on the east side of the county.
All County Council members serve four-year terms; they are elected in even-numbered years, with the chair and Districts 2 and 4 elected in presidential-election years, and the at-large member and Districts 1, 3 and 5 elected in gubernatorial-election years.
The county chair has limited, mostly ceremonial, powers that differ from those of a regular County Council member. He or she helps form the agenda for County Council meetings and presides over those meetings, and also represents the county at various events. The county chair is also required to deliver an annual State of the County address, usually at a special meeting in the spring. Under extreme emergency, the chair could assume executive powers.
Volusia County is one of about 20 counties in Florida governed by its own home-rule charter. The Volusia County Charter was written by a team of citizens and ratified by a majority of the county's voters in a referendum in 1970.
The Volusia County Charter spells out county officials' powers and duties and sets out the organization of local government. The charter has been amended several times since it took effect Jan. 1, 1971; it can be amended only by a majority of voters countywide. Counties that don't have their own charters are governed primarily by Florida statutes.
Some officials considered part of county government, such as the sheriff, the property appraiser, the clerk of courts and the elections supervisor, are actually constitutional officers whose powers and duties are set out, primarily, in the Florida Constitution. Constitutional officers, considered elected department heads by the county charter, enjoy a measure of independence from the County Council's oversight. The Volusia County Council, however, must approve the budgets and major expenditures of most of the constitutional officers.
The Volusia County Council hires the county manager and county attorney and sets policy for the operation of county government; however, council members are forbidden by the charter from participating or interfering in the day-to-day operations of the county administration.
The Volusia County Council meets, typically, on the first and third Thursdays of the month, and sometimes also on the second Thursday, in the Thomas C. Kelly County Administration Center at 123 W. Indiana Ave. in Downtown DeLand. The meetings begin at 8:30 a.m. with a special time for public comments; the actual meeting begins at 9 a.m.
The West Volusia Hospital Authority, originally established to build, maintain and operate hospitals, is today responsible for making sure West Volusia residents who can't afford to pay still have access to hospital care.
Established by the Florida Legislature, the Hospital Authority is a special taxing district that encompasses the western portion of the county, including all the West Volusia cities of Pierson, DeLand, Orange City, Lake Helen, Deltona and DeBary, as well as the unincorporated areas on the west side.
The Hospital Authority has five members, who are elected districtwide and serve four-year terms. The board members serve without pay.
The West Volusia Hospital Authority has the power to levy property taxes to pay for medical care for needy residents within the district. The board also uses some of the tax revenues to fund school nurses and to promote wellness.
The Hospital Authority formerly owned two hospitals in DeLand, West Volusia Memorial Hospital and Fish Memorial Hospital. Fish Memorial Hospital was closed in 1994, and its license for hospital beds, known as a certificate of need, was transferred to the Volusia Medical Center in Orange City, which had been built as a joint venture of the Hospital Authority and Adventist Health System.
Volusia Medical Center is now known as Florida Hospital-Fish Memorial. The old Fish Memorial Hospital property was later deeded to Volusia County, which used the Downtown DeLand site to build the new Volusia County Courthouse.
In 2000, the Hospital Authority sold West Volusia Memorial Hospital to Adventist Health System Sunbelt. The Adventist Health System renamed the facility Florida Hospital-DeLand.
The West Volusia Hospital Authority meets at 6 p.m. on the third Thursday in the community room of the DeLand Police Department, 219 W. Howry Ave.
Like most states, Florida's government has an administrative branch headed by the governor and a two-part legislative branch divided into a House of Representatives and a Senate.
State senators and the governor serve four-year terms; representatives serve two-year terms. Elections are in even-numbered years.
Once every 10 years, after the U.S. Census, boundaries for the House and Senate districts are redrawn. After the 2000 Census, parts of West Volusia were put into Senate Districts 1, 7 and 20. Most of the area is in either House District 26 or House District 27, but tiny portions of West Volusia also are in House districts 21, 25, 28 and 33.
Check your voter-registration card to find out what district you're in.
The Legislature meets each year, beginning in March. Although scheduled to end by early May, legislative sessions frequently are extended for weeks on end.
Learn about the Governor's Office and other state administrators at the Web site www.myflorida.com.
To participate in electing the local and state representatives whose jobs are described above, you'll need to be registered with the Volusia County Elections Office. If you are a new Florida voter, your registration must be complete 29 days before any election in which you want to vote.
Registering to vote is free and easy; voter-registration forms are available at libraries, city halls, Chambers of Commerce, drivers-license offices and other governmental and public-assistance offices.
They can also be obtained at the Volusia County Elections Office in the Volusia County Historic Courthouse at 125 W. New York Ave. in Downtown DeLand, and can be printed from the Elections Office Web site, www.volusia.org/elections.
Although city clerks administer municipal (city) elections and qualify the candidates for those elections, all voter registration and all voting activity is administered by the county Elections Office.
The Elections Office Web site also offers a wealth of information about running for office, and about candidates for county and state offices.