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Editor’s note: The “Imagine West Volusia” trio of writers has invited two guests to add their thoughts to the topic of what we can do to enhance our West Volusia quality of life: Buz Nesbit and Chris Cloudman. Cloudman, currently a member of the DeLand City Commission, has announced he will run for mayor in the 2022 election; Nesbit, a member of the DeLand Planning Board, has not announced but is considering a mayoral bid. Nesbit’s contribution was published in the June 24-30 edition.

Listen to the dreams; value our local people

The communities in West Volusia have unique qualities that make them each special to residents and visitors alike. 

The region benefits from physical attributes like natural springs, trails, cultural and performing arts, historical sites and buildings, local restaurants and shops, and so much more. 

However, buildings and places do not define our hometowns on their own; the people who live, work and play among them complete the vibe of each community. 

The city populations range from just more than 1,000 people to almost 90,000, but the sentiment remains the same for all: Protect our small-town charm.

To preserve and retain the characteristics that give us the look and feel of a small town, we need to define what those are and how we achieved them. The place I love and call home is DeLand, so my efforts to answer this challenge will focus primarily on that city.

Having a robust, thriving Downtown plays a significant role in creating a central heartbeat of the town, but we were not always “America’s Best Mainstreet.” This was accomplished through a proactive approach to recruit new businesses, by entrepreneurs taking leaps of faith, people willing to invest local dollars in the community, and a push to no longer accept the norm. 

Visit Artisan Alley on a Friday night, and you will see what local investment and a vision for something better can accomplish. That spirit can be seen well beyond Downtown, as well. Just check out a popular neighborhood store — which once was boarded up and vacant — and local pop-up food vendors on West Beresford Avenue on any given Saturday.

The people who live in the greater DeLand area never stop giving back to the community. While service organizations across the country have declining memberships, DeLand defies that national trend. Our three Rotary Clubs raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each year that help support local organizations, give out scholarships, volunteer in the schools and more. 

The altruistic activity continues with the Junior Service League, two Krewes, Kiwanis, Elks and so many other great organizations. We have local programs like Sisters Build Network and Man Up Mentoring that are helping shape the next generation. 

When it came time to rebuild the all-inclusive Freedom Playground, volunteers raised the funds and put in thousands of hours.

So, how do we incorporate what makes our community great into the future growth of the region? 

There are people who have the capital to invest but may not have a concept or know where to start. There are also talented people with great vision who may not have access to the necessary funds to get started. We have local real estate owners who love the area as much as the rest of us. 

Listen to the concerns and dreams of your friends, co-workers and family, and help them make connections with the right people. Future growth that complements our small-town vibe will almost always come from people who already know what makes this Delightful DeLand. 

Cloudman works for Cenergistic, an energy-conservation company, and is a current member of the DeLand City Commission. He is a local Rotarian, high-school mentor, volunteer with several local organizations, and a proud father of two amazing daughters.

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