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Reggie Williams

Editor’s note: The “Imagine West Volusia” trio of writers has invited mayoral candidate Reggie Williams to add his thoughts to the topic of what we can do to enhance our West Volusia quality of life.

The other two candidates to replace DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar in the 2022 election, Buz Nesbit and Chris Cloudman, earlier had this space for commentaries.

Williams, a veteran of 40 years of civic and government work, has family roots in West Volusia spanning five generations. His work has included service to the elderly, people with developmental disabilities, neglected and abused children and adults, and people experiencing transportation challenges.

Our vision for DeLand’s future must include everyone

As a lifelong resident of West Volusia and DeLand since 1971, I have seen much change, good and bad, over the past several decades. Growth has brought needed improvements, but also many challenges.

Being a lifelong resident, a retired public servant and a pastor, I care deeply about the future of our community and understand citizens’ frustrations over projects that appear to add nothing except swaths of land devoid of trees.

My vision is to co-create a unified community that respects and promotes diversity, autonomy and fairness for all citizens. The goal is to practice governing in ways that align public actions with citizen needs, hopes and values. I believe this is done by finding common ground and balancing all stakeholder concerns.

This new vision is needed to end the type of economic development that promises paradise but delivers a weakened economy, stressed natural environment and diminished quality of life. Development growth must be controlled and shaped in ways that are fair and balanced. I believe our region is being burdened with fast development without accounting for its long-term cost impact or adding wealth to our community.

Our community must continue to take better care of the people and public goods that are here, emphasize quality development and redevelopment, and halt destruction of what is left of the natural environment of the greater DeLand area.

To do this, DeLand must develop and/or make regulatory strategies and processes less complex, combined with experienced, transformative leadership.

Now is the time to continue building upon the legacy of a good city government under the leadership of our retiring mayor, while continuing to improve the quality of life for our residents.

Specific strategies include stronger scrutiny of development proposals by citizens, city officials and other public agencies. That scrutiny may include an analysis of development projects to determine if a project adds community wealth or unfairly burdens residents and businesses by raising taxes.

Additionally, a review of and appropriate changes made to the city’s comprehensive plan and development review processes may be needed to ensure that the impact of new development on the economy, quality of life and natural environment is consistent with stronger sustainability goals, objectives and policies, and the values of our citizens.

Revisions to the greater DeLand area planning agreement that strengthen the city’s role in the review of new development proposals in adjoining or nearby unincorporated areas that impact the city should be considered.

Many of these new developments may ultimately become part of the city; therefore, uniformity in land use and development regulations will provide for more consistent development patterns in the city and surrounding areas.

The entire community should be beneficiaries of quality future development. This means a commitment to eradicate poverty and ensure social justice by investing in all people through quality economic development.

We should seek to form an alliance among the public, nonprofit and private sectors to resist erosion of local home rule by state government.

With a clear and unified voice, we must demand that the state Legislature and governor of Florida, which irresponsibly abandoned Florida’s Growth Management Act of 1985, reinstate mechanisms that enabled local governments to halt development.

Local residents, nonprofits and public agencies must unite and work together on common causes such as social, economic, natural challenges and all other challenges facing DeLand and surrounding areas of West Volusia.

With the extension of SunRail to DeLand, closer alliances with leaders throughout Central Florida centered around the Orlando metro area are critical. These collaborations will help to strengthen and improve this region’s economy through the elimination and fragmentation that occur among various public agencies and organizations dedicated to public service.

How do we achieve this? We do it together. My vision is to control growth, protect the environment, and listen to and engage our citizens. By doing this, our entire community will benefit.

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