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If you think you know Tim Nance, think again.
The Republican nominee for the District 5 Collier County Commission seat has been much talked about of late. That talk is partly about what he will do when he gets to his seat on the commission — assuming he defeats Democrat John Lundin in November.
The candidate laughs when he thinks about how people talk about him.
"It's amusing. People think they know me from my activism. That they know me from three-minute sound bites I've said at the podium in the board room," he said. "But they don't really know me in those situations."
Nance said he likes dispelling those assumptions.
"People always seem surprised. They tell me, 'You're not like I thought you would be,'" he said, laughing. "I like that."
Nance is a native Floridian. Born in Tallahassee, he grew up in Fort Lauderdale the son of one of the first public defenders in the southeastern United States.
He graduated with a degree in chemistry from the University of Florida. But it was the late 1970s and jobs for chemists were scarce. On the advice of his father, Nance, who also graduated with a degree in political science, decided to give law school a try.
"I went to law school for a year and a half and it confirmed that it was something I didn't want to do," he said. "So, I went back to school and got my master's in agribusiness and horticulture."
That lead to a job at Garjiulo Inc., which is one of the largest growers and marketers of tomatoes and one of Collier County's largest employers. Nance, who has since retired, said his work at Garjiulo helped him become a good manager.
"With the crops, there can be so many highs and lows. It can be devastating. A hurricane hits and you take a $10 million hit overnight," he said. "You have to evaluate everything and it taught me to keep fixed costs low all the time. It helped me with long and short term strategic planning."
Nance, who has never run for office before, said he has enjoyed speaking to constituents and getting feedback.
"I like this area. I have lived here for 30 years, so this is personal to me," he said. "I don't think the rural side of Collier County gets too much publicity. And when it does, it's negative."
Deanna Bess, a Nance supporter who works for his campaign, said he will make a fantastic commissioner for that reason.
"He's one of us," she said. "That's what a government representative should be — someone who is in it to make this a better place, not for power."
Nance said he sees the job of commissioner as something different than others might. He said he believes the commissioners should be advocates for their communities and not triumph projects.
"We're there to represent the people," he said. "I am not going to lobby for somebody's pet project."
His first order of business, if elected, is to get a clear picture of where the county is financially, he said.
"Collier County has a wonderful revenue stream. We have invested in incredible capital infrastructure. We've bought it and now we have to maintain it," he said. "That obligates you for additional purchases. I think a good capital assets management plan can help us assess where we are and where we need to be."
Nance said commissioners have spent beyond the revenue stream and have gotten the county into debt to the tune of $600 million.
"Now we have to pay that back," he said.
Nance said he would like to see some improvements in the county coming under greater scrutiny. He said while he wants to make improvements, not everything has to be "gold-plated."
"Roads don't have to be an artistic experience," he said. "I don't think we have done a good job understanding out costs and commitments."
Nance might also have to deal with the Immokalee Area Master Plan amendment. Commissioners voted last week to ask the state for a six-month extension to the plan, which means the next time it could come up will be after the new District 5 commissioner has been seated.
Nance defeated incumbent Commissioner Jim Coletta, a champion of the master plan, in the August Republican primary.
While he didn't want to talk much about the master plan, Nance said he did believe the county needs to take a step back and "give it a rest."
"It's a horrible situation we have gotten into," he said. "I think there is a resolution, but I am not going to talk about it now. I think it has been worn out. But I do think it will be okay in the end."
As for what "side" he will be on in the commission, Nance said there are no sides when the commissioners agree to do what's best for the community. He ran, he said, because he was frustrated at the direction the county was going. It's something, he said, he would like to change.
Bess said she believes Nance will make his own decisions and not join any side.
"He's his own person and he is on the side of the people," she said.
But whatever happens, Nance said the people will know what he is going to do.
"I will tell people the basis for all my decisions," he said.