Milissa Holland, who was a Flagler County commissioner for six years before resigning for an unsuccessful campaign for Florida House District 24, is hoping to return to local politics, this time as Palm Coast mayor. She said in a phone interview today that she had just left city offices to sign the papers required to run to replace Jon Netts, who cannot run after fulfilling his second term in 2016.
Holland, who has worked for the past two years at a lobbying firm called Southern Strategy Group, said, “I feel strongly this is the right move for me to proceed with. This has been my community for 28 years, and so I can’t think of a better time or a better place for me to step back into the arena.”
Influence of James Holland
Her late father, James Holland, was one of the original City Council members when the city was incorporated in 1999, and Milissa Holland said her close relationship with him often centered around their love for politics.
Of all the possible careers, why go into politics? She joked, “I believe I’m genetically predisposed from my father. I don’t know if I got the lucky end of the stick on that.”
She said his influence helped to put her in a position to run for County Commission in the first place, and that she hopes she can help bring a county perspective to the City Council, just as she brought a city perspective to the County Commission.
‘This is a nonpartisan race’
Holland has long black hair and a broad, sparkling smile. As a new county commissioner, however, she showed some toughness, scrutinizing the county budget line by line — at times to the dismay of the sitting commissioners. Her fiscal conservativism and her social liberalism, she said, make her someone who can put politics aside and think about what’s best for the residents.
“This is a nonpartisan race,” she said. She added that she remembered hearing the original discussions about the city charter when it was drafted. “Nonpartisan elections were written into the charter. Our forefathers did that because they didn’t think that politics had place in local government. It should be based on the needs of the residents.”
Why declare so early for the race?
In the next 15 months or so before the primary, Holland said, she plans to speak with community groups to prepare to become mayor.
“It’s really important to take the time to listen,” she said. “Any great leader in history … is a great listener, and that requires this amount of time for me to be able to do that. It shouldn’t be rushed. This is an important thing for the community, to be the next mayor, and certainly I respect that, and I respect the process.”
Would you support a strong-mayor form of government?
I asked her about the current debate about the city charter. An email to City Councilman Steve Nobile recently brought up the idea of a strong mayor, and Holland said she would not support a change to a strong mayor form of government. Currently, the mayor is no more powerful than the other members of the City Council. The elected officials direct an executive, the city manager, to carry out their vision.
“Again, I was privy to the discussions when they first occurred, when my father served on the first City Council, so I knew the intent of some of the language of the charter,” she said. She continued: “I’m of the opinion that the form of government that we have in Palm Coast is the best one. … It’s a very dangerous precedent when you set up a strong-mayor form of government. It sets up the opportunity for corruption that could occur, when you’re bringing in politics to government.”