Cornelia Downing Manfre has lived in Palm Coast since 1999, the year the city was incorporated.
Cornelia Downing Manfre, who raised three children in Palm Coast, all of whom are college graduates, praised the school district and the city’s quality of life.
“Palm Coast is a very special place,” she said. “I think ITT Corp. did an amazing job with the engineering of the city. I’m amazed some days when I go out for a walk or a bike ride on our bikeways; it is stunning. It is a stunning town.”
In her video interview with Palm Coast Publisher John Walsh, Manfre said as mayor she would like to be an ambassador and negotiator to help bring more businesses and jobs to the city. Watch her video or read an edited transcript of her interview below.
What makes you qualified to be mayor of Palm Coast, your top three?
I’m a business person of 41 years. I have a college education from Fordham University in urban studies and French. And I find that after 41 years of business experience in corporate America and being a real estate broker in Florida I have unusual qualifications to be the mayor of this city.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing Palm Coast today?
Right now we have a void in leadership at the City Hall. We immediately have to hire an experienced, empathetic city manager. I want someone who has run cities before. And I believe we need the person that is going to come in, believes in establishing customer service and work with the personnel to make our City Hall an approachable City Hall, as we hopefully have companies come here to bring jobs to the city.
Do you think there should be a professional service leading the campaign for a new city manager?
An outside firm would be helpful, because I think we have to look nationally. ... We need someone who can get in here and understand the master plan for this community, and a search company will speed up the process.
Do you have anybody in mind that would serve as city manager today?
Not at this moment, no.
If you’re elected mayor, one of the first issues that you’ll be dealing with is the annual budget. What is the largest budget that you’ve personally managed?
$500 million. I’ve worked with New York Life Insurance in the real estate mortgage loan department where I’ve handled multi-million dollar loans that were for shopping center developers, office building developers, American Express Citibank, UA Theaters. UA Theaters is where I had the largest budget. I covered half the country.
Are our taxes too high, too low or just right?
I think they’re a little high at the moment and I’m concerned about the line items of the budget. So I am researching what is composed in our budget for the city. ... The money is coming from pretty much close to 90 percent off of the residential units. We have got to grow our commercial tax base so that we take some of that burden out.
Are there any line-item budget items you think are in question?
The capital expenses are something that I really want to delve into. With the growth … we have to make sure that we have sufficient funds to take care of the infrastructure.
Do you support MedNex as it is or would you support to defund it?
I’m in support of MedNex. I want to know where it stands right now, that’s very important. I would like to be sure that we hold on to the concept. It will help Town Center and bring jobs that we’re looking for now, and help the commercial tax base.
Another big ticket item recently approved was the tennis center. Would you support the tennis center or would you recommend defunding that?
I would like to study that a little bit more closely. ... For instance, you’ve got a swimming pool that may be closed, but we have high school people that have to go someplace else to practice. We need more infrastructure that will support the needs of both the seniors and the students here.
Flagler County Sheriff’s Office reports that compared to other communities our size staffing levels is low by an estimated 40 deputies. Would you support hiring more deputies even if it would require a tax increase?
No, on the tax increase. I would study the numbers of the needed deputies. But I question why we need more deputies when the crime rate has decreased, so it’s studying all the variables, but I certainly don’t want to see any tax increases.
Are you in favor of relaxing the city codes that would allow commercial vehicles with signs to park in residential driveways overnight?
I am OK with a certain size of vehicle. Eighteen-wheelers, no. But the smaller vans, perhaps we can look at what a cover could be for these vans that have to sit in the driveway.