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Local News

Harris running for District 5 seat on county commission

Published:   |   Updated: October 31, 2013 at 11:38 AM

Greg Harris, 53, a Sebring Republican, is a native Floridian. He has a bachelors degree from the University of Michigan and spent three years working for Western Electric before returning to Florida. He has lived in Highlands County since 1985.

His qualifications include work in the private, public, and non-profit sectors. He has been a supervisory or upper-level manager since graduating from college. He has served Rotary, Salvation Army advisory board, Highlands Regional Medical Center advisory board, Junior Achievement board, the Chamber of Commerce, and he was a district commissioner of Boy Scouts of America. As president of Sebring Chamber of Commerce, he established a budget, reduced spending, increased income and grew the membership. He is running for the District 5 seat on the Highlands County Commission.

You'll hire the next county administrator. What will you look for?

Rick Helms well respected and capable, and has the knowledge, experience, dedication, and expertise to lead our county into the next phase. He confidently stepped in to take control. He knows the budget and the budget process better than anyone.

What should be a commissioner's priorities in cutting the budget?

Look at what we are presently spending and why, what we are paying our employees, if there is duplication, non-essential and essential services, what we are or not charging for services. Sell unused vehicles, equipment, real estate.

Is Highlands an urban county or a rural county?

Less than 100,000 people is considered rural. More than 100,000 is urban. We are nearing the threshold. Rural counties probably get better access to grants and funding, but we are becoming urban.

What is the most important issue affecting Highlands County?

Balancing the budget without increasing taxes. Reducing the budget by cutting spending, by reducing non-essential services, and eliminating waste. Finding a home for the sheriff's office, Amendment 4, and economic development (jobs) are also important.

Which decision of the commission would you have made differently?

The contract for the garbage firm renewal. I believe we should have given our long-term partner, Reliable Sanitation, an opportunity to negotiate, as we did with the new firm, or throw out the process and rebid it.

DCA defines Blue Head and Lake Placid North and South as sprawl. What's your opinion?

Sprawl is defined as scattered and unplanned expansion of a town or city. I have visited Blue Head, and I do not consider anything they are doing as sprawl. It is a well-planned and well-funded project.

The commissioners were criticized for the way they fired Mike Wright. What should they have done?

Before the end of his second year that Mike Wright should have been told what his weaknesses were. All evaluations should be written. I believe that the commission had no other choice but to release Mike Wright.

Highlands County owns an asphalt plant. What should be done with it?

I'm not an advocate of competing with the private sector. I have an issue with why staff, to this day, still says that the asphalt plant makes money, and Bob Germaine's audit says it doesn't.

The library loans DVDs, CDs, popular novels and shows movies. Which services should libraries provide?

A lot of people depend on the library for computer access, tax forms, medical and self-help books. However, this is a non-essential service. I'm not opposed at looking at small fees to help offset the services. The libraries may need to raise money.

Highlands Today reporter Gary Pinnell can be reached at 863-386-5828 or