Collier Commissioner Halas announces he won't seek re-election in 2010

Frank Halas

Frank Halas

Frank Halas is calling it quits.

After seven years representing North Naples as a Collier County commissioner, Halas announced in an e-mail Sunday that he will not be seeking a third term in 2010, ending months of speculation. Instead, he is backing his friend and colleague, Gina Downs, 53, a civic leader who is slated to throw her hat into the ring for the District 2 seat Monday morning.

Halas said he intends to finish his term, which he calls a commitment he’s made to his constituents and to the county. But at 68 years old, Halas said there is more sand in the bottom of the hour glass of life than at the top.

“Time is running out,” Halas said. “I wanted to make sure we have an opportunity to enjoy life and not be in the fish bowl every day.”

Halas, who served in the U.S. Army and spent 31 years with the Ford Motor Company before entering local politics, said he wants to travel and spend time with family at the completion of his term.

He also questioned whether he had the right experience to lead the county going forward.

Halas, who has a background in engineering, said his skill set was better suited to tackling the infrastructure issues the county faced earlier in the decade. But with a recession that Halas believes won’t be short-lived, he said the county needs someone with a background in economics.

Getting out of politics has been in the back of Halas’ mind “for some time,” he said. He announced his decision on Sunday because Downs, whom he has mentored, is announcing her candidacy Monday. He joked that he did it Sunday because it is a slow news day.

“I thought you needed something for a filler tomorrow for your newspaper,” he said.

Collier County Commissioner Jim Coletta described Halas as a hard-working commissioner who will be remembered by his constituents for his accomplishments for years to come. Because Halas has remained so busy, Coletta assumed he was going to run for re-election.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see him recycle in a few years as a state representative,” Coletta said. “I’m going to miss him.”

However, Commissioner Tom Henning won’t necessarily be sad to see Halas go.

“He’s been very adversarial towards me. I think it’s not a bad thing for me,” Henning said.

With Halas out of the mix, Downs, a retired college economics instructor, will be in contention with attorneys Joe Foster, 42, and Georgia Hiller, 48, who announced their candidacies for the District 2 seat over the summer. All three are running as Republicans, and will face off in a primary before the Nov. 2, 2010, general election.

Foster and Hiller have a head start in fundraising, having both brought in just more than $17,000 so far.

Though this will be Downs’ first shot at elected office, she has been active in the county, leading the opposition to the proposed sale of Alligator Alley, and serving on the Collier County Productivity Committee and on the Library Advisory Board. She has worked closely with Halas for the last few years, and served on his advisory board.

“I would have supported him if he had run again,” Downs said of Halas. “I would not have run against him.”

Downs said she knows the issues, especially the budget.

“I think I can fill that leadership void,” she said.

An announcement of Downs’ intended candidacy briefly appeared on her Web site on Sunday, but was quickly taken down. Downs said the Web site is free from the hosting site GoDaddy.com. Candidates are not allowed to spend money on their campaigns until they’ve officially announced.

Both Foster and Hiller thanked Halas for his service Sunday.

“It’s never been about Commissioner Halas,” Foster said. “It’s always been about where the county is heading and how we can move it forward in a positive direction.”

In an e-mailed statement, Hiller was critical of what she called Halas’ “anti-business, big government, tax and spend mentality.”

“Halas’ retirement presents me with the opportunity to bring Collier County back to the principles of less government, less regulation, less taxes and more fiscal responsibility,” she wrote.

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Connect with Ryan Mills at www.naplesnews.com/staff/ryan_mills

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■ Jeff Lytle's views and news: Why on a Sunday morning? Halas lives up to first name

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Posted earlier:

Collier County Commissioner Frank Halas announced Sunday morning he will not seek re-election.

Halas made the announcement Sunday morning via e-mail that he will not seek a third term in 2010.

Halas has served commission District 2, which encompasses much of North Naples, since 2002.

In a written statement released Sunday morning, Halas indicated that he is ready to hand representation of the district over to new leadership next November -- making clear that his support for the position will go Gina Downs, a civic leader in the district.

In his statement, he assured his constituents “that they could count on his full attention until his term ends.”

Halas is an Army veteran who spent 31 years with Ford Motor Co., supervising the Vibration, Noise and Harshness Division. He moved to Collier County about a decade ago and lives in Vanderbilt Beach. He was first elected to the office in 2002.

District 2 takes in the upscale communities of Pelican Bay, Colliers Reserve and Mediterra but also includes the older Palm River and Naples Park neighborhoods.

In March, Joe Foster, a North Naples Republican and an attorney with Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur, announced his run for the seat. Foster, then 42, has lived in Collier County nearly nine years, currently at the Villages at Monterey near Orange Blossom Drive. He grew up in Detroit.

Foster ran for the 2006 commission slot and lost the primary to Halas by 6 percentage points.

In July, Georgia Hiller, 48, filed her papers to run for the slot currently held by Halas.

Hiller has lived in the community since the mid-1990s. She’s been quietly active in a number of community associations and causes: Naples Antique Show Silent Auction, Collier County Productivity Committee, Holocaust Museum, Common Cause Florida, Friends of the Museum, Collier County Republican Club, and was a founding member of both North Naples Community Alliance, and Orange Blossom-Pine Ridge Community Alliance.

On Sunday, Downs put out a release saying she would announce her candidacy on Monday. She has been active in transportation and library issues in Collier County.

* * * * *

Here is the text of Halas’ open letter to constituents that he included with his announcement:

Decision Time – An Open Letter to My Constituents

From Frank Halas, Collier County Commissioner for District 2

November is here. Soon, I will be sending you my annual “state of the district” report. It’s always good to write it and to review the year with you. This month however I have a decision and some reflections to share with you. Because this concerns politics, not governance, I am sending this to you privately rather through than any government-related channel.

I have decided not to seek a third term as your commissioner. I’d like to share my reasons with you.

In November of 2002, I came into office as a citizen legislator. For those unfamiliar with the term, “citizen legislator” is a classification sometimes used for public servants, elected to office directly from the private sector, without prior political experience, and without the intention to remain long-term. That certainly described me in 2002. I brought to my office over 30 years of solid private sector experience, which I believed I could bring to bear on the policy decisions needed to address the significant issues facing the county and our district at the time. I never intended my public service to be a second career. I saw it more as a second opportunity to serve in a time of need, much akin to my military service in Cold War Berlin. Although I am proud of what has been accomplished during my tenure, it hasn’t turned out to be quite that simple.

Our founding fathers envisioned our political system as one that would rely on citizen leadership. They postulated that people fresh from life outside walls of political enclaves might have a better sense of American life (what it is like to be on the receiving end of government) than dwellers within the corridors of power. Contemporary political pundits – as diverse as George Will and Paul Krugman – have echoed these sentiments periodically. The thought is those who come into with office with a clear agenda and no intention to stay are likely to have greater freedom to ignore demands of the lobbyists and the financers of campaigns. They are presumed to be less swayed by transient political winds, freer to act for the greater good. I believe this is often true - I came into office a firm believer in term limits. However, after watching the chaos in Tallahassee, I am no longer sure term limits should be a given. I have found out that solid on-the-job experience in public life (just as in the private sector) is a public benefit not replaced easily. Perhaps it is better if we trust elected officials to step down when they know it is time. (We always have the ballot box!)

Contemporary public service is demanding. It isn’t enough to simply work hard or work smart. The job requires a broad set of carefully honed skills and deep knowledge of the landscape. Effective leadership comes from understanding the issues and their inter-relationships in depth. Collier County does not exist in a vacuum. We are subject to regional, state, and Federal decisions, financial and environmental constraints, and external laws and regulations. Special interests – good and bad – abound. Precedence and history vigorously maintain their places in the order of things. Only solid background research and a network of relationships with other key players at all levels offers any opportunity to find real solutions to complex problems. This takes time to develop. And only from this and from experience on the job, does one develop the capacity to build coalitions, to gain and hold needed respect from colleagues and constituents, and to advance ideas into policy.

Contemporary policy-making is not for the faint of heart, the political dabbler, or the hobbyist. It is a full time endeavor and the learning curve is steep. Despite my “real world” experience, I found it necessary to embark on a whole new education – some of it formal – to gain the solid basis I need to make decisions. I am no longer a casual believer in brief service and in fixed term limits. Every political body needs access to experienced people who know the ropes. The next several years are going to be critical ones for Collier County and the nation. Fiscally we face the new “hard times”. Tough decisions will have to be made. Why then am I stepping down?

When I came into office, I had a specific agenda. Our crumbling and increasingly inadequate infrastructure was a community embarrassment. The political atmosphere was unsavory, the natural skepticism of citizens toward government fueled by open scandals. Unchecked growth was putting our natural amenities at risk. Citizen wishes blatantly were ignored in favor of the special interests. These problems were right up my alley. I couldn’t wait to get my teeth into them. I was fortunate to work with people who had the same priorities and, although I soon found getting action is far from easy and compromise nearly a prerequisite component of any plan, together we made significant progress on much.

The problems now are different. The largest issues facing the county are fiscal, systemic, and budgetary. We need a massive revitalization of our county’s economic engines. We need economic drivers that fit with the character of our community and the realities and constraints of our natural and man-made environments. It is new work. We need a fresh approach.

I am an engineer by training. I am not an economist nor have I had experience or training in re-engineering macro-economic systems. In addition, looking at the hourglass of my life, I have increasingly noticed that there is a whole lot more sand in the bottom than at the top. My wife, Diane, and I are truly ready for the retirement we promised ourselves 10 years ago. After careful consideration, I have decided that I am not the person to tackle these problems. It’s time for me to step down.

The decision was not easy and took soul-searching. I moved off the fence when Gina Downs agreed to throw her hat into the ring and run for this office. She is a real person. She has been there for the community when we’ve needed her ever since she became a full-time resident. The areas of expertise needed are hers and she has the energy, the intelligence, the drive, and the skill set to tackle the challenges we face. I hope you will support her.

I pledge to you that I will continue to work hard for you over the course of my remaining year in office. Working together, we will continue to make a difference – moving Collier County to a secure future.

Sincerely yours,

Frank Halas

October 31, 2009

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■ Jeff Lytle's views and news: Why on a Sunday morning? Halas lives up to first name

___

Posted earlier

Collier County Commissioner Frank Halas announced Sunday morning he will not seek re-election.

Halas made the announcement Sunday morning via e-mail that he will not seek a third term in 2010.

Halas has served commission District 2, which encompasses much of North Naples, since 2002.

In a written statement released Sunday morning, Halas indicated that he is ready to hand representation of the district over to new leadership next November making clear that his support for the position will go Gina Downs, a civic leader in the district.

In his statement, he assured his constituents “that they could count on his full attention until his term ends.”

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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