Interview with Commissioner & Orange County mayoral candidate Bill Segal
Conducted by: West Orlando News
Date: July 9, 2010
WONO: Mayor Crotty said in his final State of Orange County address that despite the worse economic recession since the great depression, the state of Orange County remains strong. With the unemployment at 11.1 %, record foreclosures, declining revenues including tourism receipts and the negative impact of the oil spill, how would you rate the state of Orange County?
Bill Segal: You know, as good as could be expected under the circumstances and you laid out the perfect storm circumstances. I think it is as good as it could be expected.
WONO: What would you have done differently as opposed to Mayor Crotty?
Bill Segal: It is very difficult. One of the things that I give Mayor Crotty a pat on the back for is, leaving the fiscal house in order. We didn’t face terrible choices that some of the cities and counties around the state did when they ramped up, many with ambitious programs. When the downfall came we didn’t have ourselves in a “sling”, so to speak. So, I give him credit for not putting us behind the eight ball when the downturn came. Some of the communities around the state are really faced with difficult challenges because they didn’t prepare for the rainy days. Mayor Crotty has been in office for ten years and he is a cautious man by nature. That can be good and also bad. The difference is, I expect to be a more activist mayor. I expect to be out in the community a lot more and my main job will be looking for great employers and keeping great employers.
WONO: A just released report from the Department of Education, found about 35% of Florida students who graduated in 2009 have no college plans and that is well above the national average of 30%. Central Florida is targeting high paying jobs which assumes a higher-educated population. Do you see a problem here and if so, how is this resolved?
Bill Segal: You said a very important thing and that is, it assumes a higher educated population. I have always believed, and this happened in my household, that not every graduating senior must seek affirmation by following the traditional college route. I think we have imbued that into our kids a little too much–“they are not worthy if they don’t move on to college”. A lot of these students fall prey to these “for profit” colleges who basically load them up with huge student loans and don’t teach them a marketable skill. I believe you must follow your strong suits in life. If you are a person predisposed to going the academic route and that suits you then, go for it. I think that students should sit down with guidance counselors by the time they are in eighth grade and if that is not the route for them, they shouldn’t feel they are not going to be a success in life. We need to give them more vocational options, more apprenticeship programs because everybody has their own talents and frankly, certain people would be better off going that route. I think we have painted ourselves into a corner by telling all of these young people that, “you’ve got to go to college.” Community college, nursing school, learning various trades may be the better route for a lot of people. So, I think we really need to re-evaluate that as a nation.
WONO: Innovation Way East, which would have seen the construction of thousands of homes, shops, and offices and would have generated thousands of jobs and stimulated growth in the area, was just voted down by the Board of Orange County. Did the Board make the right call?
Bill Segal: No.
WONO: Why Not?
Bill Segal: You know one of the most disappointing things for me in public office is that, politicians and the uninformed public so often make calls of great importance based on emotion, instead of intellectual options, instead of thinking things through. They are pushed by public opinion, whether it be the newspaper or whatever. There was this pernicious view surrounding this development that it was going to be more homes. Also, a church was promoting the initiative and I think there was some undercurrent of people, who didn’t particularly care for that church and I didn’t like it.
The important thing about this initiative was, we had worked on Innovation Way for four years as a county and we put every potential planning and mechanism in place. We had a land stewardship program and multi-modal program. We had the jobs/housing linkage. It was going to be the high-tech corridor from the airport to the University of Central Florida (UCF). Life is a two-way street; we all voted, every member of the Board voted to put 6,000 homes as well as factories and retailers. The proposers of the development wanted to put 400 homes in an area that some of the other commissioners didn’t like. But, that is what the church wanted as their part of the bargain. In exchange, we would have gotten a $50 million interchange that would have put 800 people to work for a year; a $12 million economic incentive to get their research park up and running; a $4 million dollar incubator for UCF, and those homes would have been built over 20-25 years.
Commissioner Tiffany Moore Russell brokered a deal where they could build 400 executive homes. As I said, “Life is a two-way street.” I’ve been in business all my life; you don’t always get what you want in negotiations. Three Board members said, “No we can’t accept those 400 homes in that area.” And they turned it down. You know what we have now? We have nothing. We have a dead Innovation Way and no interchange and no potential for jobs. I want everybody to remember that every member of that Board voted for 6,000 houses and it came down to the location of 400 hundred houses. So now by turning that down, we have lost a great economic opportunity and the people from this church may not come back for many years. It is a complex thing.
WONO: Was the Board compromised because one commissioner is missing?
Bill Segal: Yes, that’s correct. You are very astute. The Mayor has just sent the Governor a letter requesting that someone be named. It’s been far too long–two months. Every Board, as you know, always has an odd number of people. So, we desperately need a representative from District 3. It is unfair to the people and it is unfair to the entire County.
WONO: There is a Pine Hills Redevelopment Task Force working on a plan to revitalize that area. Commissioner Moore-Russell has said that once complete, she will take the plan back to the Board of Orange County to seek funding. If elected mayor, could Pine Hills count on your active support for its redevelopment plan and would you be prepared to designate funding for its implementation?
Bill Segal: We are in the most difficult economic time since the Great Depression. Let me just say, Pine Hills is a top priority for me. I’m leaving here in one hour to be endorsed by Senator Siplin, Representative Thompson, Mayor Bruce Mount of Eatonville, Commissioner Lynum and Commissioner Ings. They are all endorsing me for mayor. I have said for two years now that Pine Hills is a top priority for me. I have driven around Pine Hills for days and days. I grew up in this community. Pine Hills has a wonderful single family housing stock. I have been to some of the Pine Hill redevelopment meetings. I will wait the plan. We don’t have a lot money, but it is not always money that will change the area, it is dedication to it. I think that Pine Hills is eminently changeable. I think that we can turn Pine Hills around. I think that the most important parts are what Sheriff Demings is doing. I think what we do on the west side of Evans High School is going to be vital. Some have suggested a vocational training center and I think it would be fabulous. We have got to clean that part up. There are some apartments west of Evans, we’re going to be fixing them up. So, I don’t know what the plan will contain and we don’t have a lot of money. But, I can promise you my complete dedication to work with Pine Hills because it is a vital part of Orange County.
WONO: Minorities–African Americans and Hispanics– comprise close to 50% of the population in Orange County. If elected Mayor of Orange County, how would your office reach out to this diverse group who have often complained of being left out and taken for granted?
Bill Segal: Yes, I agree with you 100%. One thing that I have said throughout my campaign is, Orange County does not have a tremendous presence of minorities in the Mayor’s Office. That will change under my administration. In fairness to Mayor Crotty, I think that we have a pretty good minority representation throughout the county, but in the Mayor’s office, there are not a lot of minorities and that will change, drastically. The M/WBE Office has been understaffed, terribly. We have a young lady who is so busy doing a lot of paperwork and minutiae. We need people who can do outreach in the communities, reach out to groups and this does not currently take place. So, the outreach is vitally important for making sure the M/WBE Ordinance is upheld. We get a lot of minority participation in services, but we are not getting minorities in commodities, in selling materials to the County right now. So, we really need to reach out to that business segment. I intend to work vigorously with the minority community.
WONO: Commissioner, what plans does your campaign have in place for reaching out to minorities who remain largely undecided as to who the next Orange County Mayor should be?
Bill Segal: I imagine all of the candidates have their own strategy. I have been here all my life and know a great many people in the minority community and have certainly visited the churches. Again, I will be getting the endorsement of Senator Siplin, Rep. Thompson, Mayor Bruce Mount and Commissioners Daisy Lynum and Sam Ings. I have known some of these people for a decade or more. I am not some unknown commodity to them; I didn’t just come up and meet them in the last year. They have decided, based on my historical record that I am a man that understands and has deep, long connections to the minority community, particularly the African American community. I am getting to know more of the Caribbean community that are a newer community here, and also the Hispanic community. But, I have long lasting connections with the African American community. I understand their problems. I will tell you quite frankly, I always tell white Americans who don’t understand minorities, “Listen, you don’t know what it is like. Even if you are a lower-middle class American you may have a rich uncle or you may have some family connection that will allow you to get a job interview or get a summer job. Well, in the African American community, those kids don’t have that leg-up, that’s the difference. They have never had that affluence or know somebody.”
I always have to explain that to my white friends, that is the difference. It’s coming, but minorities don’t have the contacts–a network of contacts that even under-privileged whites might have—someone that can help them out. African Americans don’t have that yet.
WONO: Commissioner, how is your mayoral campaign going?
Bill Segal: It is going exceedingly well. We have out-raised every other candidate financially, but I don’t measure my campaign strictly by finances. We have gotten endorsements from the deputies, the firefighters, from the biggest unions in town, the hotel owners; a broad-base of support. We have great support in my district in Apopka and in the minority communities. So we feel very good.
WONO: Finally, why should Orange County voters elect Bill Segal as the next Mayor of Orange County?
Bill Segal: I have spent a lifetime here. My wife has spent 30 years of her life in full time community service. I am a successful business man who has great judgment, integrity and deep roots in this community. I have served this community for six years as County Commissioner: I am not a lifetime politician, but I have enough political and business experience and roots in this community to make a tremendous County Mayor.
WONO: Thank you, Commissioner.
Bill Segal: Thank you, too.
More About Bill Segal:
Bill Segal grew up in Orange County and graduated from Edgewater High School in 1967. In 1971, he graduated from the University of Miami with his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. After college, Bill entered the real estate industry and remains a Certified General Contractor. Over the years, he built a highly successful diversified real estate company and also started a restaurant chain that he grew to 7 locations before selling it. Bill and his wife Sara, have two grown sons, Zach & Joe.
In 1993, Bill was appointed by Florida Governor Lawton Chiles to serve on the St. Johns River Water Management District Board, one of five water management boards across the state whose mission is to manage and preserve Florida’s crucial water resources. Bill was elected by his fellow members to be the Chairman of the Board. He is continuing this work today by championing a holistic approach to the concept of water by bringing together Orange County’s ordinances and rate structures to a common focus on conservation.
Bill and his wife, Sara, share an interest in the arts. He is a member of the Orange County Arts and Cultural Affairs Advisory Board and serves as a Trustee at the Orlando Museum of Art. He is also a former director for the Florida Symphony Orchestra. In business, Bill is a member of the Winter Park and Goldenrod Chambers of Commerce
In 2008, Bill Segal was re-elected to the Orange County Commission and serves as the District Five Commissioner. District 5 encompasses the northern and eastern parts of the county. He is currently a candidate for Orange County Mayor in 2010.
Bill was appointed Chairman of the Orange County Workforce Housing Taskforce and continues efforts to implement the recommendations of the Taskforce that were unanimously approved by the County Commission. This effort seeks to ensure that those who serve our community in law enforcement, fire fighting, teaching and in the medical field can live in the community they serve. He is also a founding member of the Coalition for the Homeless and a member of the Orange County Council of 100, an organization founded by the Dr Phillips Foundation to assist families of public safety officers who have been injured on the job. Currently, Bill serves as Chairman of Metroplan, the region’s transportation planning organization.
Contact Commissioner Bill Segal:
Commissioner Bill Segal
201 S. Rosalind Ave., 5th Floor
Orlando, FL 32801
Bill Segal Campaign Headquarters
1350 North Orange Ave.
Winter Park, FL 3278
Telephone: 407-644-3832 – Campaign Headquarters
Telephone: 407-629-4224 – Bill’s Business Office
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