LARGO — Two candidates are running for seat 2 and two for seat 5 on the Largo City Commission.
The race for seat 5 includes incumbent Donna Holck against political newcomer Kai Rush.
Tampa Bay Newspapers recently asked the candidates to share their views on a variety of topics. First, we asked them to provide some basic information.
- Years in Largo: 28-plus years
- Age: 59
- Education: 1981 graduate of Seminole High School and two years of St. Petersburg College
- Occupation: Tax consultant, commissioner for the city of Largo
- Website: www.donnaholck.com
- Campaign funds raised: $5,585
- Years in Largo: 11 years
- Age: 45
- Education: Ph.D and M.S.- Instructional Technology, Education, B.S.-Social Social
- Occupation: Educational consultant/business owner
- Website: www.kairush4largo.com
- Campaign funds raised: $5,348
Why are you running for office?
Holck: I have lived, worked and played in Largo for many years. I have been an active member of this city since I was 16 years old. I have been part of the past, present and future and would like to continue my service to the citizens for one more term. There are things that are on the horizon for the city that I have been a part of that I would like to see come to fruition. From developing the downtown area to addressing the homeless, workhouse and affordable housing … these are things that I still have a passion for.
Rush: I love my former Largo High School students and want them to be successful when we leave Largo to them. If we overbuild, leave no greenspace and uncorrectable environmental and infrastructure issues, how can we say we love our children and grandchildren? How can we say we love the American eagle and then cut down the trees that house eagles’ nests? We must protect our environment, because our environment protects us and provides us natural enjoyment and recreation, health benefits and future generational success. I will preserve the past, brighten the present and build for the future of Largo!
What makes you the best candidate for commission seat 5?
Holck: Since my tenure on the present City Commission, I have participated in many votes that pertain to the safety and quality for Largo. I am a person that believes in weighing out the possibilities with the outcome for the betterment of the citizens. I am proud of the fact that we as a commission have been able to compromise and meet in the middle on most the issues at hand. I have no agenda except what the citizens want for our city.
Rush: I have new energy for the future. I have knocked on over 5,000 doors and visited 400 streets in Largo. I put in the hard work and listened to your concerns. What I hear is that our citizens love our greenspaces, highly support recreation and want the city to be progressive in keeping the city clean. I taught many students in Largo and I am trying to leave them a financially healthy, environmentally sustainable Largo for them to be successful. I am the last candidate on your ballot, but I hope to be first in your heart!
What do you think is Largo’s biggest immediate challenge and how would you address it?
Holck: I believe the rise is homelessness is a definite must. As our economy falters, I feel we are going to experience more and more people in this situation. We have to figure out a way to bypass the bureaucratic red tape and be more self-sufficient in our city to meet the needs of the homeless. The city has a program that works with the Police Department and Directions for Living to work with the mental illness part of the situation and has had a very positive and productive outcome … but we need more.
Rush: Plain and Simple: Saving our green spaces. I grew up in Kendall, Florida, and watched, as the city I knew grew too fast and there are now serious traffic, infrastructure and environmental issues. They have 0% park space left. You need to build smartly and for the future generations. I propose putting a “No Development” tag on all of our parks, including the area next to Largo Central Park, so that land is preserved, protected and enjoyed by many Largo generations! We will build upon and support our awesome recreation system that we have in place!
What do you think will be Largo’s three most pressing issues over the next three years?
Holck: Workforce housing, affordable housing and homelessness.
Rush: A recession will be arriving shortly, and we will see some foreclosures, job loss and people’s need for assistance. According to economists, the only way to bring down inflation is through a recession. This is where we need to be proactive instead of reactive. We need to prioritize big projects, make sure our city services stay stable and our city employees have the pay, equipment and health benefits to be successful. When we come out of the recession, we can lift Largo up, as the smartest, environmentally friendly and financially stable city in Florida!
Do you think the city should continue exploring the sale of the property next to the Central Park Nature Preserve to Porter Development? Why or why not?
Holck: When first presented to us it was my decision to let it go to referendum and let the citizens decide. I have been asking where people stand on this issue. I have found it to be almost 50/50. I understand both sides and how they feel. My biggest problem that I foresee is the traffic...both on East Bay and Donegan Road. I voted against the last project on Donegan because of the traffic and I think this will still be a major problem for that area. There are many issues and obstacles that pertain to this project that need to be addressed before I could be convinced to support it.
Rush: Please vote NO!!! I was talking with a veteran the other day, who is so upset about the possible sale that he is moving his family to Tennessee. He couldn’t understand why the city would sell off a piece of land that has eagles in the trees. Neither can I. That area is vital to our ecosystem and will provide financial and traffic woes to citizens of Largo. The original intent for that land was to be an extension of Largo Central Park. That land belongs to the people of Largo and we should keep it that way. We need to save our green spaces in Largo for future generations!
What is your position on development in Largo?
Holck: I have been on an advocacy committee for the last several months, TEILS, Target Employment & Industrial Land Study Advisory Committee. We have been focusing on the land that is available in Pinellas County for workforce housing, affordable housing and mixed-use building. We have a couple of more meetings before we have the end result but I am excited about the possibilities that will be part of the findings that will pertain to Largo.
Rush: I want to save our green spaces, so that means any city, school board, state or county-owned property that is greenspace right now, we must leave for the future. No matter, what age, race, sex or political affiliation, people LOVE their green spaces. I am fine with development that is built energy efficient, earth-friendly on existing commercial, residential or industrial zones, but we must protect our environment, as our environment protects us. God gave us one earth, let's take care of it for the future!
What are three ideas you have to address affordable housing and homelessness?
Holck: 1. Using the information provided by the TEILS advocacy committee.
2. Continue building the Largo Homeless Task Team and implementing the needs of the homeless.
3. Pursue with the county and the state for grants and funds to help with the need for affordable housing and homelessness.
Rush: Both can be addressed with lobbying effects of our local and state leaders. We have many resources for homeless individuals, but if we are not addressing their mental health needs, we are wasting money. Affordable housing can be eased with the state giving us back more of the $2 billion SHIP funds they borrowed. Largo will be receiving $800,000 in SHIP funds this year, which will go to down payment/ rental assistance. It is our job to advocate and lobby for Largo residents and make sure Tallahassee and Washington D.C. dollars are coming home to support our community.
The cost of the city’s new mixed-use municipal complex, Horizon West Bay, rose to more than $80 million. Do you think the city was correct in forging ahead and do you think the investment will be worth it?
Holck: Absolutely! We have been discussing this since I first was first on the Commission and finally seeing come to fruition! I have believed that “If you build it, they will come!” We could have never foreseen the increase in price, but I believe it will be a huge asset to the development of downtown Largo and provide economic growth.
Rush: The Horizon building will be a great addition to our community, but I do not know all the factors in why it is being built at this current price tag. I am not on the commission, just a candidate. I have full faith in our city management, as they have been fiscally conservative and very transparent with our tax money. This building is paying for itself through a 30-year bond and will only add value to our city in so many ways. Unlike the Porter Development, the Horizon Building is being built for the citizens of Largo!