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Charles D. Hines
Sarasota Thursday, Jul. 19, 2012 5 years ago

Election Q&A: Sarasota County Commission District 5 Race

by: Rod Thomson

Editor’s note: As the Aug. 16 primary election draws near, the Sarasota Observer will publish profiles and Q&As from each of the candidates who will represent the area.

In this week’s issue, we profile candidates for Sarasota County Commission District 5 seat.

Sarasota County Commission’s District 5 covers the South County area, including Venice, North Port and Englewood, and has two men running in the Republican primary and no Democrat running. So, the winner of the Aug. 14 Republican primary will win the commission seat.

The main theme in the race is restoring trust in county government after the ongoing purchasing scandal that resulted in firings and criminal charges that cost County Administrator Jim Ley his job. The other main theme is the economy and making Sarasota County a more attractive place for businesses.

Charles D. Hines
Age: 46
Family: Married to Susan Hines. Three children ages 15,13 and 10
Hometown: Venice
Education: University of Florida: B.S. in political science and juris doctorate/law degree
Relevant experience: Twenty-two years practicing law in the Sarasota County and co-owner of United Healthcare Services — a medical equipment supply company. Member of the Sarasota County Tax Oversight Committee; Sarasota County Sheriff’s Advisory Committee; Sertoma Club of Venice; Venice Little League; Venice Chamber; Big Brothers Big Sisters.

What would be your top priorities if elected?
1. Continue to maintain a solid balanced county budget, without raising property taxes, and, within that, ensure our tax dollars are being properly spent.
2. Within our budget, continue to explore creative ways to maintain and enhance the quality-of-life opportunities for our citizens.
Within these two, find ways for economic development, with the goal being assisting our business community in creating a more balanced economy in our county.
3. Re-establish trust and morale in the role of county government — both from the citizens’ prospective and the staff’s.

Do you have a solution to the county’s ongoing procurement problems?
I believe we should follow the advice we received from the experts in this field. Let County Administrator (Randall) Reid implement these policies and then let them work. At the same time, as a commissioner, while these are being implemented over the next few months, continue to listen to our customers (our citizens) and require that complaints or issues be reviewed and resolved in a timely and equitable manner.

Are you satisfied with the current urban service boundary and the county’s ability to allow infill development? If not, what would you change?
Yes, at this time. However, many in the building industry say there is not a lot land for residential building in North County. Lakewood Ranch should be coming online, so let’s see how that goes and its effect on that issue. South County seems to have enough for a while within the county, plus, considering the amount that is available in the lands that were annexed into the cities. One item that I believe needs further review is our county impact fees on redevelopment. We need to be sure that the way they are being calculated and the timing of the charge is not preventing the useful infill and redevelopment we are trying to encourage.

Would you attempt to change EDC policies of seeking companies in Manatee County?
I would need to research this further to see just what the EDC’s position is on this. However, our two counties, along with Charlotte County, are really becoming a regional power with crossover economic benefits. Thus, we should encourage working with each other and not attempt to cherry-pick companies from each other.

What would you change to make the county more business-friendly and jobs-friendly?
Implement what has been discussed above and demand of ourselves, and county staff, to treat our citizens as our county’s customers. Adopt the attitude that we are here to serve them. Do this through the fair interpretation of our existing policies/rules and assist our customers in accomplishing their projects in accordance with the policies and rules. Personal agendas need to stay out of implementation of policy.

What makes you a better candidate than your opponent?
Experience: Business, legal, leadership and community involvement. Sarasota County is a very diverse and unique county and to fully understand that uniqueness and the role of our county government, one must have been involved in the various groups and organizations that make up our county. I have done this over my lifetime in Sarasota County through my personal involvement and leadership roles in a variety of county, city, civic, business and non-profit organizations. This experience and community commitment has prepared me for this position. Without this type of extensive experience, one is not prepared to address the wide-range of issues that come before our commission.

Randall (Randy) McLendon
Age: 58
Family: Wife, Joni, married for 35 years; daughter Joy; son Joshua; one grandson
Hometown: Cuthbert, Ga.
Education: Bachelor’s of business administration in marketing from University of Georgia. Master’s of divinity in theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Relevant experience: Pastor of Stilesboro Baptist Church, in Kennesaw, Ga., from 1979 to 1996. Realtor in Florida from 2000 to present; owner of a small medical transcription company since 1998. Founding member of Englewood’s tea party group, Taking Our Country Back.

What would be your top priorities if elected?
To ensure that citizens know their voices are being heard and their concerns are being addressed by their elected leaders; that government does not act as a venture capitalist, investing taxpayer dollars in ventures outside the realm of essential services; that the people of Sarasota County are seen as citizens and not customers of the county; that taxpayer money is being well-spent and that essential services are provided in the most cost-effective manner possible; and to look for ways to reduce the size, scope and intrusiveness of government.

Do you have a solution to the county’s ongoing procurement problems?
Not yet. However, from my perspective, it seems to be more of a people problem than a procedure problem. I would like to have an exit interview with the recently resigned procurement manager. There seems to be a communication problem as, at least, an aspect of the issue and maybe even personality problems. I do believe this is a problem that must be addressed by the commissioners. I also believe that Sarasota County companies should be given preference in purchasing products and services, unless there are clear reasons not to do so.

Are you satisfied with the current urban service boundary and the county’s ability to allow infill development? If not, what would you change?
I am satisfied with the urban service boundary where I-75 is the boundary. It seems in the South County area, the urban service boundary could be expanded quite a bit and still not reach I-75. However, a good bit of that area is within North Port city limits. I don’t have an answer/opinion on the infill development component yet; I need more info/education on that. It seems variances have been used to allow infill development in terms of highway access. My initial response is that the larger the proposed development, the more strictly it should adhere to concurrency requirements.

Would you attempt to change EDC policies of seeking companies in Manatee County?
This is another question where I need more information. However, for Sarasota County to have a policy of trying to entice businesses away from Manatee County this is not very neighborly, to say the least, and I don’t believe that should be pursued. Assisting nearby companies that initiate conversation about moving is another matter altogether.

What would you change to make the county more business-friendly and jobs-friendly?
From my discussions with citizens, inter-departmental issues arise in which one department makes a decision that gets altered by a different department and it has to go back and forth. I believe inter-departmental teams could be formed for each new business, so that the assigned inter-departmental members of a team for XYZ Inc. could meet together face-to-face to iron out issues for the business instead of the business owner having to “walk” his permitting through inter-departmental mazes. Job creation follows business development and growth, so making things easier for business will take care of the job problem.

What makes you a better candidate than your opponent?
I believe that each level of government has overstepped the limits that our founding fathers intended when designing a government for a free people. So, my desire to serve as Sarasota County commissioner goes beyond seeking to make wise decisions about potholes, sewers, development and the environment and beyond just leaving Sarasota County a better place for our children. I want all that, but I also want to see individual liberty and free-market capitalism celebrated. I want both the citizens and the governmental employees of those citizens to have a greater understanding and appreciation for the appropriate role of government.


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