Kelly Otte filed to run for Leon County Commission at Large Group 1 in December 2019. Otte is joined in the race by Melissa Villar, Jeff Hendry, Scott Flowers, Danielle Irwin, Robin Colson, and Carolyn Cummings. Incumbent Mary Ann Lindley is retiring.
Otte who served as the executive director at the PACE Center for Girls for more than a decade, resigned the position on June 26. She has been a regular columnist at the Tallahassee Democrat covering non-profit organizations. Otte has also worked as an instructor at Florida State University, the founder and executive director of the Oasis Center for Women and Girls, the president of Action Consulting, and other leadership and instructing roles. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of North Florida. Key focuses of her campaign include economic growth, crime, and poverty.
What motivated you to run for local office?
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to assume greater responsibility and elevate my service to our beautiful community. I’ve called Leon County home for almost 25 years and I have devoted myself to serving the people of this county in a multitude of ways. I believe I have a very unique perspective of the county’s strengths and opportunities and it’s a perspective that is needed on the County Commission. After years of people encouraging me to run, I pursued it seriously after watching my father be tossed around from one health system to another because of the extraordinary lack of affordable assisted living facilities in Leon County. After he passed away, I promised myself (and him) I would do one big thing to honor his memory. Running for office to address the issues is what I decided to do for him and others like him.”
What unique perspective would you bring to the position?
“My background and experiences are diverse and may surprise people who only know about my work with the nonprofit sector. I worked for the Federal Bureau of Land Management, in a commercial development asset management company, a commercial real estate company, and in manufacturing and sales with Chris Craft Boats. I worked in domestic violence and rape crisis programs in Nevada, Virginia, Jacksonville, and Tallahassee when I moved here to become Executive Director of Refuge House. And I have an extensive history of volunteerism in a wide variety of ways.”
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Leon County?
“The most urgent issue facing Leon County right now is how to restart our economy after the pandemic begins to ebb. We have far too many people out of work and small businesses are in serious trouble and this needs to be our first priority. Other challenges facing us are to address the growing poverty rate, reducing crime using innovative community strategies, balancing necessary development with the natural beauty of the county and addressing the lack of affordable assisted living and nursing home facilities in our area.”
What is your plan to address these challenges?
“We need to do everything we can to save small businesses by creating buy local programs that incentivize people to shop local and eat in locally-owned restaurants, providing as much funding as possible to support them until their revenue increases, listening to the three Chambers of Commerce about what the sector needs and making sure the county’s purchasing is happening right here in the county.”
“Addressing poverty is not an easy task but I know with certainty that it is going to require a major community-wide strategic effort. Currently, the efforts are scattered around zip codes and neighborhoods and it’s going to take everyone working together to have an impact. Most importantly, government needs to really listen to the people who are living in poverty about what they need to get out. I believe thriving small businesses, economic development, and job creation are vitally important to helping people find a way out of poverty and to give people a chance to live safe, dignified, productive, and creative lives. “
“I see our issues with crime and gun violence as a symptom of people feeling disconnected and disenfranchised from each other and from the community. Public safety is extremely important and will be a cornerstone of my work as a Commissioner but locking people up for issues that could have been addressed by prevention programs is a failure for our community.”
“Smart development is the key to balancing our county’s natural beauty with the needs of our growing population—diverse housing options, being smart about how and when to grow, mixed land use, urban infill, protecting green space, walkable neighborhoods and more. I’m not anti-development and I believe in property rights but I also believe in local government’s obligation to protect our natural resources for generations to come.”
“Addressing the lack of affordable assisted living and nursing home facilities in our area is critical. I witnessed my father, a hardworking, caring, and strong man being passed back and forth from hospital to rehab hospitals because of the lack of affordable assisted living and nursing home facilities in our area. Even though he worked hard his entire life as a plumber and made sure we had food on our table, at the end of his life he was on a very fixed income and couldn’t afford assisted living, which is what he needed to have a quality end of life experience. I am shocked at the lack of affordable assisted living and nursing home care for our elders who do not have the financial means to pay for care.”
Responsibilities of the County Commissioner position include making policies and setting budgets. The position has a four-year term length and an annual salary of $80,289.00. The deadline to file for the position is May 11, 2020, and the election date is November 3.