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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2011 6 years ago

Beth Dillaha's final words

by: Beth Dillaha

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” It’s always been one of my favorite quotes. So, when I was elected in 2008, my objective was to be the best representative I could possibly be for those who elected me and for all Winter Park citizens.

As I’ve been cleaning out my office, I came across my old campaign literature that listed my “platforms” should I be elected commissioner. They were:

  1. To make financially responsible decisions on behalf of Winter Park citizens
  2. To preserve the special character of our city and neighborhoods
  3. To represent the residents of WP first and foremost, above special interests.

And, I have kept those commitments over the last three years:

In my first year as commissioner, the economy changed drastically with state and local revenues declining each year since 2007. And, as you know, the ways of doing city business had to change. At my initiative, your Commission began aggressively setting aside funds to build the city’s weak reserves and then set spending priorities within the annual budget. And, during these three difficult years, we kept taxes low, adhering to the same millage rate for the last two years.

The commuter rail agreement with Orange County was reworked and renegotiated to protect our citizens from open-ended expenses and liability. While I was criticized for exposing the flaws of the agreement and pushing to renegotiate the terms, it was essential for the financial well-being of our city and it was in line with what I promised to do when running for commissioner.

In the last three years, we completed and adopted the city’s Comprehensive Plan, our 20-year blueprint that contains policies to protect the special character of our city. Not long afterward, the Land Development Code was updated and adopted to support the Comprehensive Plan. The residential building code was also updated (over a period of a year and a half with workshops and input of residents, architects and builders) to help ensure we maintain the special character of our neighborhoods and provide residential property owners their right to airspace, green space and privacy between homes.

Understanding the importance of our prized environmental assets, trees, lakes and parks, I have been a strong advocate for creating programs and standards to maintain these assets.

With the support of my fellow commissioners, I initiated the reLeaf project in an effort to rebuild our declining and aging tree canopy. I have pushed for stronger efforts to protect our lakes in terms of water quality and shoreline health, as well as efforts to establish a conservation code to protect the remaining environmentally sensitive areas and wildlife habitats in Winter Park. It is my hope that the new Commission will carry these initiatives forward so that our environmental assets are maintained for future generations of Winter Park residents.

My advice to our new commissioners? As representatives of 28,000 residents, you are entrusted to keep Winter Park special for today’s residents and for the next generation. Significant decisions will continue to be made in light of our challenging economic times. And, no matter how hard you try, you will never please everyone!

However, if you cast your votes and make decisions based upon the high standards that we, as a city, have in place (in policies, guidelines and ordinances), as well as the values and priorities of the Winter Park citizens, I don’t believe you can go wrong.

I wish the very best for our newly elected commissioners of Winter Park.

And, finally, I’d like to thank Winter Park citizens and those who have supported me over the last three years. For, I have met many wonderful and caring citizens that have resulted in friendships I cherish today.

It has been an honor and a privilege to represent the Winter Park residents, and I will value the last three years as one of the best and most memorable experiences of my life.

Thank you all.

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