Paula DeBoles-Johnson, a candidate for Leon County Commission District 5, finished second, behind David O’Keefe, in the August primary election to secure a place in the general election.
O’Keefe finished first with 27.4% of the vote, just ahead of DeBoles-Johnson who garnered 26.0%.
Candidates Dustin Rivest (23.9%) and Jay Revell (22.7%) finished 3rd and 4th, respectively.
DeBoles-Johnson recently appeared on The Steve Stewart Show to discuss economic development, crime, and homelessness in Leon County.
DeBoles-Johnson relocated to Tallahassee 36 years ago from Orlando, Florida, and currently serves as the Employee Engagement and Performance Manager for Leon County for the past four years. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and her master’s degree in Public Administration from Florida A&M University.
The candidate expressed that the top issues facing Tallahassee and Leon County are economic development and crime. However, she explained, “If it’s done right,” tackling economic development will address crime, jobs, living wages, and education.
Additionally, DeBoles-Johnson expressed that people in District 5 are saying they want an easier way to do business here. “It’s almost like concierge service. If a company wants to come in and do great things in our city, help us grow, and bring jobs here. We have to make it as easy as possible for them,” said DeBoles-Johnson.
She suggested having one person that all entities work with throughout the process instead of working with many and “jumping through hoops.”
DeBoles-Johnson also expressed that residents want an answer to the crime issues in Leon County. “It wasn’t one thing that got us here, right,” Deboles-Johnson said. “So, it is going to take a lot of different approaches.”
She stated that Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil did the research and has the provided a guide to a soluton. “Now that we have that, this is an opportunity to provide wrap-around services and other support services for young people that are caught up in the system,” or to prevent them from entering the system.
When Stewart asked DeBoles-Johnson about the Amazon project and how she would have voted, she said she was for it. “I’m actually excited about the Amazon project. That’s what we need to think about when we talk about economic development. So, I’m excited about the opportunities that can come from this,” she said.
DeBoles-Johnson stated that she believes that the jobs produced by Amazon may push local businesses to improve their pay and benefits to stay competitive.
Concerning the county’s recent vote to expand the urban services area in southeast Tallahassee, DeBoles-Johnson said she believes in controlled growth and wouldn’t oppose the expansion. Nevertheless, she does feel that the policy may be outdated and requires updating.
When Stewart asked DeBoles-Johnson her opinion on the Blueprint economic dollars going to FAMU and FSU stadium repairs, she said she would have voted down the funding for FSU. She explained that FSU has excellent alumni and community support and can raise the money.
However, she was not opposed to the FAMU funding. She said that the stadium was dangerous, and they needed the funds to make it safe. She also noted that FAMU sometimes has difficulties raising money.
“We need to put more money into the services that already exist, and we need to look at rapid rehousing,” DeBoles-Johnson said regarding the homelessness issue in Leon County. “It’s not popular, and it costs money, but we have so many buildings that are just sitting.” She also suggested that local governments must apply for federal grants to help with the matter.
Lastly, she described why she is the best candidate for the job stating that she brings to the table years of experience in community service, negotiations, budgeting, and program management. “I just want to continue my service to the community.”