Jack L. Richie, 75, a Lake Placid Republican, grew up in Flint, Mich. He has owned a home in Highlands County since 1985, and lived here permanently since 1995.
He has attended almost every county commission meeting since 1998, and has volunteered on water, sewer, lake, river, recreation, fire, public transit, Republican, rebuilding, visioning, Rotary, congressional, health, tourist tax, tourism development, homeowners, chamber of commerce, impact fee, wildfire, and construction committees. He ran his own company for 26 years. He is running for the District 3 seat on the Highlands County Commission.
You'll hire the next county administrator. What will you look for?
I will look for a talented, experienced professional, a people person, who has proven management skills and has lived and developed these skills in the Heartland Ridge of Florida. This person must have a strong verifiable financial background.
What should be a commissioner's priorities in cutting the budget?
Prioritize our needs, not our wants. Our main focus has to be areas that are mandated by the state, and we must maintain our infrastructure through prudent maintenance. We cannot continue to balance our budget with savings. No new taxes.
Is Highlands an urban county or a rural county?
Highlands County is a rural county and will be a rural county for many, many years. That is not to say we will not have growth. I see no controversy.
What is the most important issue affecting Highlands County?
The present recession is very ominous. We most likely will experience a double dip (decline), which will delay any recovery for possibly a long time. Our people and our businesses are hurting; they need tax relief, not more taxes.
Which decision of the commission would you have made differently?
The way Mike Wright was fired, the purchase of the asphalt plant, spending our reserves, not meeting obligations to law enforcement, the parkway expansion. This is my top five. There are others.
DCA defines Blue Head and Lake Placid North and South as sprawl. What's your opinion?
I disagree. Urban sprawl is the unplanned, uncontrolled spreading of urban development into areas adjoining the edge of a city. Once again, counties such as Highlands that have shown foresight in their planning for the future are being held back.
The commissioners were criticized for the way they fired Mike Wright. What should they have done?
The chairman of the commission should never have let a commissioner initiate the suspension, as it was not on the agenda. The proper way would have been to conduct a public meeting before suspending and humiliating him in public.
Highlands County owns an asphalt plant. What should be done with it?
County government should not be in competition with private industry. I think we are the only county in Florida with an asphalt plant. We should either lease or sell it. We must stop throwing away money maintaining the plant.
The library loans DVDs, CDs, popular novels and shows movies. Which services should libraries provide?
Libraries should not be in the entertainment business. If there is need for this, private industry will address it. Libraries should focus on being open evenings and weekends when working people and students are able to use the facilities.