Recently, I had the chance to interview Pete Clarke. Clarke is a candidate for Orange County Commissioner District 3 in what is turning out to be a very competitive race. Our interview is below.
FT: How is the campaign going? What would you say the top concern of district voters are?
Clarke: We have been walking our community neighborhoods for the past several months and a constant concern we hear is public safety – specifically, crime. In one portion of the District the primary concern is property crime (break-ins, car-hopping) while in other areas of the District we can add issues such as drug dealing, street racing, prostitution and the growing homeless population. In a virtual tie is the significant concern regarding the economy and the outlook for more employment and opportunity. Sun Rail and its potential for noise and disruption are also major topics along the planned route. People are looking for a representative who will not desert them when the going gets tough. I assure them I am committed to represent them and address their needs, regardless of the issue.
FT: The district 3 race is a crowded one. Why are you the best canddiate to lead an area that hasn’t true elected leadership in over two years?
Clarke: I have lived in what now constitutes District 3 the entire time I have been in Orange County. We initially lived in the Conway area but following college I bought my first home in Azalea Park (left for graduate school). I have since lived in Conway again, as well as in the South Goldenrod area (Quail Trail) and Belle Isle. I have been extensively involved in my community, both personally and professionally, in all areas of the District – ranging from Kiwanis and Church projects for kids and home rehabilitation, to establishing medical clinics providing accessible health care and after school programs for middle school students throughout the area. I have achieved significant results through building consensus and collaboration, and I will continue to utilize these skills as the District 3 Commissioner. I am the only candidate who has the advantage of having served in the United States Military. My extensive training and real-time experience in disaster management (Hurricanes of 2004 and other local activations) are not matched by any other candidate. My executive level Management roles have afforded me the opportunity to be responsible for budgets in excess of $120 million dollars, responsibility for up to 1,000 employees providing COUNTY WIDE services—not just limited to one District or smaller area. My promise is to serve as a full-time Commissioner for my constituents—this position is not a stepping stone for any other office. I believe in accessible leadership – I will meet in the District on a regular basis and will strive to attend all community meetings personally. I believe voters should strongly consider what each candidate has done for the community personally and professionally — while not in office or running for office. During the past year, I worked to open two new medical clinics, one now open in Bithlo, and one opening in Meadowwoods in early July. These openings complement the clinics I previously opened through the PCAN (Primary Care Access Network). These new jobs will augment the 100 plus already created through this collaborative. I also served as Chair and board member of Mavericks Charter School to establish a site in East Orange County. This is a school tailored to attract drop outs and teens at risk of dropping out to a school that will prepare them for the future with a high school diploma (not a GED). We know this actual diploma dramatically increases their lifetime earnings and allows many future options including trade schools, military careers and, hopefully, college. We have placed an option on a parcel on Chickasaw Trail and will work to construct this essential community resource in time for the 2012-2013 school year. This will provide more jobs, but more importantly, more OPPORTUNITY for our young residents. As Chair of Hope Now International, Inc., my involvement has helped develop and present the largest children’s event in the area with our annual Back to School Bash at the Amway Centre. This unique and remarkable event will provide over 10,000 backpacks, 1,500 haircuts, thousands of dental/vision/health screenings, and 1,000 childhood immunizations for local children and teens, and will host a Red Carpet Teachers’ lounge for 300 teachers. My extensive knowledge and understanding of County budgets and finance prepares me to serve as the District 3 Commissioner the minute I am elected. No other candidate can compare with my hands on community involvement experience or proven track record of reaching out and addressing concerns through truly collaborative efforts. Some candidates run for the next election. I am running for the next generation.
FT: A hot topic recently has been the maintenance and proposed upgrades to the various venues like the convention center and Citrus Bowl. What’s your opinion of the overall condition of Orange County as a destination for events that could draw business?
Clarke: I believe that we remain a favored destination for business, convention and visitor travel. We remain desirable due to a number of factors, including location, climate, ease of air travel, amenities (family fun) and, of course, our world class Convention Center and lodging industry. As District 3 Commissioner, I will be ever mindful of the changing economic factors affecting both our residents and our visitors and will work with Convention and Lodging partners to assure our mutual success. Of course, as Commissioner, my first priority is to assure our Convention Center is properly maintained. I hope critical maintenance and/or repairs have not been delayed leading to costlier repairs. From a purely financial perspective, the Citrus Bowl is great for business. It is also a PR bonanza for our area. I believe it is essential that we find a resolution to the necessary upgrades/repairs needed to remain relevant as the College bowl game landscape is rapidly changing. I have met with the owners of the Orlando City Soccer and their goal is to become a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise. Given the rich cultural and demographic diversity we find in our metro area, as Commissioner I would champion this exceptional opportunity. MLS would be a significant addition to our economy and would be yet another attraction for national and international play and the associated business opportunities that would be generated. For both the Citrus Bowl renovations and our future as host to MLS soccer public/private partnerships are essential. I will commit to assist in any and every way possible to bring these partnerships to fruition.
FT: Finish this sentence. “During his first year on the commission Commissioner Clarke would like to see ____?”
Clarke: A real, verifiable decrease in crime in our neighborhoods, complemented by an increase in economic growth.” My first two priorities are public safety (Sheriff, Fire, Disaster Management) and job growth with a focus on the Healthcare industry. Have government provide what it was created to do ..protect.. and have government not restrict economic growth through regulation and bureaucracy.
FT: As always I like to end interviews on a positive note. What is something the voters may not know about you or your campaign?
Clarke: Those close to me know about my love of classic music. To keep that fire burning, I am a member of the “Low Bid Band” and we play only the finest Classic Rock. Regardless of genre, music is an essential part of our many cultures — a part that can unite in a moment, and perhaps create generations of understanding. It is a universal language.