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One-On-One: Collier County Commissioner Penny Taylor

"Doesn’t it bother anyone else that we are thinking about development project by project?"

Brian Tietz


Even though she’s running for re-election this fall, Penny Taylor wants to look well past November. At a Board of County Commissioners meeting late last year, she admonished her colleagues to think five, 10, even 20 years ahead as they make decisions on issues like development. The coastal part of the county is fairly heavily developed, but huge numbers of people (by some estimates as many as 500,000) are expected to settle east of Collier Boulevard in the next 40 years. And managing that growth is going to fall mostly on the shoulders of the five members of the commission. “Thinking about things project by project isn’t going to cut it,” she says. “We need to come up with a plan and then ask, ‘Does this project fit into that?’”

On the lessons learned from Hurricane Irma

“We rose up as a county. We found ourselves in a situation where we had more people in shelters than we had ever anticipated. But we saw dedication on a granular level from county staff. It wasn’t just the leadership. It was everyone working together as one. I saw it. I lived it. But there were a lot of problems. We had problems with generators. Problems with fuel. … (When I was a Naples City Council member after) Hurricane Wilma, I went to River Park to see how they were doing. There were a few people who had really bad leaks. After Irma, I went back. There were three buildings that were completely uninhabitable. This storm is going to stay with us longer.”

On being proactive to be ready for the next storm

“I would definitely support our new sports complex to be hardened for a Category 5 storm. We need places for people to go. And we have an opportunity to just design this building from the start. We also need to maintain our staging areas. I was with the president of FPL at the Collier County Fairgrounds, and he was talking about how important it is to have areas like this available.”

On being more systematic about development

“(Last year) I asked in a meeting, ‘Doesn’t it bother anyone else that we are thinking about development project by project?’ Because that is definitely what we are doing. No one even responded. I was astounded. We have a comprehensive plan, but we amend it all the time.  (Doing things differently) means changing business as usual. Development has to continue, of course. I don’t want to be barring the gate. But I do want to plan it. We have an enormous amount of people coming to live here.”

On the county’s difficulty figuring out workforce housing issues

“The history and the business of Collier County is the buying and selling of Collier County. Everyone wants to keep up business as usual. Development is bringing more and more people with it. And it has fallen to the commission to make sure the county can support it. That’s why it was so important to have John Schmieding come to talk about why Arthrex moved (some of its operations) to South Carolina. That did a lot to get people to pay attention. We have to think about what kinds of things we can do to make Collier an affordable place for people to live and work. That could be getting more 21st century manufacturing jobs here. It could be thinking about creative ways to provide housing. But we have to embrace a lot of different ideas. If we do it right, we might have more young people growing up and staying here.”   

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