By Joe Crews
For Hometown News
Roland Via has been out of city government since 2010, when he lost the Hilly Hill mayor's in a runoff with Roy Johnson. But Mr. Via said he's trying to take back the seat because he wants "to bring government back to the people."
"Many citizens and businesses came to me because of their concern in seeing how tax money is being spent," he wrote in an e-mail interview. "They say the (City) Commission has seemingly become non-responsive and less business-friendly and asked me to represent them again."
Mr. Via said he made good use of the time since leaving office.
"I have listened and learned much during my two years out of office and have a refreshed view of the citizen's and business' concerns," he wrote. "There is not much institutional knowledge on the commission or the administration and I would be a valuable asset. Bottom line is, I'm running to make a difference, not to be indifferent."
Mr. Via completed eight years on the City Commission - three years as vice mayor - before serving as mayor for five more years. His background also includes serving on Holly Hill's Civil Service Board and Charter Review Committee.
Mr. Via was a president of the Volusia League of Cities, and named Volusia County's Elected Official of the Year in 2009. He served on the Central Florida Congress of Regional Leaders from 2008 to 2010 and also was appointed to other county advisory boards.
A resident of Holly Hill for 50 years, the 62-year-old mayoral candidate is married to a longtime kindergarten teacher, Julie, with whom he has four sons and a daughter. He has been a youth and adult sports coach for 35 years. Currently, Mr. Via is a broadcaster on WELE 1380 AM, hosting a show from 3 to 4 p.m. weekdays.
He sees the two biggest problems facing Holly Hill as being low property valuations and a lack of revenue. The first issue, he wrote, is that the city is not concentrating Community Redevelopment Area funds into the central business district.
"CRA funds have been directed only to city building projects, such as the nearly $2 million cost of the Second Street Market and buying the Middle School property for $1.5 million, that do not produce any appreciable revenue," he said. "CRA funds must be directed to keeping current businesses which reduce the tax burden on residences."
Putting the 25-acre middle school property to better use could generate more revenue and higher property values, Mr. Via said.
"After purchase a year and a half ago, the city still has no clear plan of what to do with the property at LPGA (Blvd.) and Center (Avenue)," he said. "It should be privately developed for new residential homes, which would create revenue and lower the tax base on the rest of the city."
Mr. Via noted that the current mayor and commission have proposed a 9.2 percent increase in property taxes because tax revenues are tight. He disagrees with that approach.
"(It) is clear to the citizens and businesses that the commission should use a zero-based budget policy for the administration to follow. Each line item should be examined and justified by the department heads," he wrote. "We need to streamline the government budget like we do our own budgets. I will do everything possible to reduce those costs."