By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
VOLUSIA - A political newcomer, Shannon McLeish hopes to fill the District 4 Volusia County Council seat. She said she's not a polished professional politician.
"I'm concerned for my family and my community," she said. "I'm not a politician and have a deep seated fear of speaking in public."
Ms. McLeish, a Florida native, moved to the area from Winter Park in 2001. She's a small business owner, a freelance writer and editor working at her Ormond Beach home. She graduated from the University of North Florida.
"In our neighborhood, we have houses a block away from city hall with signs that say 'Foreclosed,'" she said. "Just about everyone I know, their home is worth less than they paid for it."
She said in the midst of the persisting housing crash and slow economic upturn, local government has the best opportunity to help communities with self-help economic recovery. Ms. McLeish hopes to expand the county council's outreach and accessibility to the public.
"We have to include the public more," she said.
While she's never held an elected or appointed office, Ms. McLeish has served as the chair of Social Justice Committee at her church, the Unitarian Universalist Society of the Daytona Beach Area, Ormond Beach. Additionally, she's represented her church at F.A.I.T.H., Fighting Against Injustice Toward Harmony, a coalition of numerous area religious organizations that work together to solve social ills. Additionally, the 44-year-old is involved with Occupy Daytona.
Ms. McLeish said the county's economic-development resources and efforts should be aimed at making more locals successful entrepreneurs, rather than trying to attract larger companies to relocated operations or offices to the area. She said if elected, she'd push for the county council to have workshops with small businesses aimed at making more of them.
"I've had a number of small business owners tell me how restrictive the regulations are," Ms. McLeish said. "I want to sit down and have workshops, and say, 'Small businesses, what can we do?'"
She said that if Volusia County helps small businesses to start and thrive, more aspiring entrepreneurs will make their way to the area with ingenious concepts that'll become turn into dollars in the local economy.
"We want to make (Volusia) a place people want to be, and that's small businesses," she said. "How do we empower the community and small businesses to make it a place people want to live?"
Ms. McLeish and her husband, Scott, have two daughters, 6 and 8.