deland city commission
CITY FOLKS — The DeLand City Commission came down from the dais to sit on the floor of the City Commission Chambers Jan. 30 during the city’s special workshop to kick off its strategic plan update. From left are City Clerk Julie Hennessey, City Manager Michael Pleus, City Commissioners Kevin Reid and Dan Reed, Mayor Chris Cloudman and City Commissioners Jessica Davis and Charles Paiva.

The City of DeLand has officially kicked off an update to its strategic plan with a steering committee of 21 local residents, and a guiding vision from the City Commission, in a workshop Jan. 30.

A city’s strategic plan is its “guiding rulebook,” as Mayor Chris Cloudman explained. Formulating an update to the plan will take most of one year, and it will be followed by an update of DeLand’s land-development regulations, which are more granular rules dictating who can build what and where.

DeLand began the yearlong process with a discussion between the City Commission and government consultant Dr. Herb Marlowe.

Marlowe asked each member of the commission what they hoped to accomplish with the strategic plan update.

One goal shared by several on the City Commission was demystifying catchall terms included in the plan.

“Our strategic plan has a lot of broad categories,” Cloudman said. “It might just say ‘economic development,’ or ‘education,’ and below those there are subgoals or guiding principles … I think that it would be good to dissect one by one and look at those.”

One example Cloudman gave was affordable housing. The city has long recognized it needs more affordable housing, but circumstances are different now than they were in 2015 when the city last updated its plan.

Another common desire among the city commissioners was to determine what exactly people like about DeLand, and how to keep the city great.

“I think the biggest thing we need to define is how to grow,” City Commissioner Charles Paiva said.

The goal, he added, is to ensure the city maintains its “small-town feel” while adhering to individuals’ property rights and state guidelines.

Other specific points of interest included using online platforms to better hear from members of the community and ensuring the city is bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly.

With the strategic plan update underway, the steering committee will meet monthly around DeLand to discuss specific areas of the plan. The first meeting will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22, in the Chisholm Community Center at 520 S. Clara Ave. 

Meetings will be open to the public and held in varying locations across the city to include as many residents as possible, Pleus said. 

Online, residents will be able to provide input throughout the process with surveys on a new website launched by the city, available here: Results of the surveys will help guide the steering committee. As of Jan. 31, the first set of surveys are available online.

Who’s on the committee?

While DeLand’s strategic plan update will need to be approved by the DeLand City Commission, the yearlong process of updating the plan will be done in monthly meetings between City Manager Michael Pleus and a 21-person steering committee of DeLandites organized by the manager.

Pleus picked the 21 people from a pool of around 30 applicants, he said, who were recommended by city commissioners or whom he already had in mind.

The 21 comprise 10 women and 11 men.

The committee members are:
Rina Arroyo — assistant vice president for parent and alumni engagement at Stetson University
Jeff Bransford — real estate agent with Adams, Cameron & Co. Realtors
Bill Budzinski — owner of The Elusive Grape
Primrose Cameron — educator, mentor and community advocate, founder of Sisters Build Inc.
West Costa — real estate agent with Bee Realty
Christa Danforth — Ms. Preppy Pants women’s consignment clothing store owner
Barb Girtman — Former Volusia County Council member, Realtor
Yvette Gonzalez Ferrell — community development director of the African American Entrepreneurs Association Inc.
Sarah Hancock — owner of The Blind Pig pub in Downtown DeLand
Will Hollis — president of the Neighborhood Center of West Volusia board and co-owner of Hill & Hollis Enterprises marketing agency
Kelly Lawrence — DeLand & Greater West Volusia Chamber of Commerce director of member services and MainStreet DeLand board president
Jeremy Owens — DeLand Planning Board member, engineer and vice president of engineering and maintenance for the Sanford Airport Authority.
Debra Pardee — acupuncture physician and member of the DeLand Garden Club
Aaron Preston — president of the Rotary Club of Downtown DeLand
Reggie Santilli — local Realtor and member of the DeLand Historic Preservation Board
RJ Simpson — DeLand Dawgs Youth Sports Inc. president and coach
Kendrick Thomas — special projects coordinator with the Volusia County Elections Office, public-image chair with the Rotary Club of Downtown DeLand and marketing chair for ME STRONG
Keri Wagner — vice president and general manager of DaVita Labs
Reggie Williams — former pastor and Volusia County administrator, as well as runner-up candidate for mayor of DeLand in 2022
Mike Woods — attorney with the law firm of Cobb Cole
Ken Zagers — vice President at BASE Consultants Inc., an engineering firm


  1. At first I thought WOW a committee of 21 local residents helping mold a plan for DeLand’s future. However, after reading the list of names I became very disappointed. The committee is stacked with realtors and people working in the development industry and it is a bit weak on including the average citizen. The article indicates, the City Manager picked the committee members and if that is the case I feel that was the wrong way to go. The Mayor and members of the Council should have defined what the committee should look like and should have picked the committee members. We will see what comes out of all of this.


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