After serving on the Leon County Board of County Commissioners since 2012, Mary Ann Lindley retired this year rather than running for a third term. Tallahassee Reports recently reached out to Lindley for her thoughts on her time as Commissioner and the future of the Commission.
Before being elected to the County Commission, Lindley had a career in journalism, which she said prepared her for her role as Commissioner.
“It was surprisingly perfect training, though I didn’t realize it at the time,” she said. “Almost everything that you do in journalism, it just segued right into an elected office.”
She said governing and reporting both required research, reading, communicating with a variety of people and “knowing you won’t please everyone every time.”
Lindley said her favorite part about being a Commissioner was that every week was different due to the wide range of issues that local government deals with, and she was involved in policymaking in a variety of areas, including canopy roads maintenance, outdoor recreation, urban planning, small business support and more.
She said that she thinks the Commission’s biggest accomplishment during her time was implementing policies that have enhanced climate-friendly outdoor activities, including ensuring that developable areas have safeguards to protect rural and conservation areas.
“We are more than a state capital and college town,” she said. “We are an evolving community where the quality of life for all residents and visitors is made better by living in an environmentally beautiful area where enjoying the great outdoors becomes accessible to everyone, affordable and fun.”
Looking towards the future, Lindley discussed her advice for new Commissioner Carolyn Cummings, who was elected to her seat. She advised Cummings, as an at-large Commissioner, to look out for everyone in every part of Leon County.
“For Commissioner Cummings, particularly being an at-large Commissioner, she’ll be interested in what’s going on in the districts, but her first order of business is really thinking, ‘How do my votes affect everybody in the County?’” she said.
Lindley said she thinks the biggest challenge facing the County Commission will be wisely managing growth—finding a balance of expanding without sacrificing the small-town feel valued by County residents as well as prioritizing equitable planning.
“Striking the balance between growing our community in ways that won’t undermine what makes us special is not as easy as it sounds,” she said.
She said the Commission will also continue to face new challenges caused by the pandemic.
“There’s inevitably that fault line between ‘the way we’ve always done it’ and ‘this is how we want to live now,’” she said.