Q&A: Curt Smith Prepares To Assume Chairmanship of Brevard County Commission For 2017

By  //  August 9, 2016

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Q&A WITH DISTRICT 4 COUNTY COMMISSIONER

ELECTED TO THE BREVARD COUNTY COMMISSION in November of 2014 with 63 percent of the vote, Curt Smith ran as a fiscal conservative coming from the private sector with 40 years of small business, entrepreneurial experience. He will now server as the commission’s chairman during 2017.

ELECTED TO THE BREVARD COUNTY COMMISSION in November of 2014 with 63 percent of the vote, Curt Smith ran as a fiscal conservative coming from the private sector with 40 years of small business, entrepreneurial experience. He will now server as the commission’s chairman during 2017.

30-Year Brevard Resident Dedicated To Improving Lives of Local Citizens

Curt Smith was elected to the Brevard County Commission in November 2014 with 63 percent of the vote. He ran as a fiscal conservative coming from the private sector with 40 years of small business, entrepreneurial experience. This was his first venture into the world of politics.

Smith and his wife Linda owned and operated a Maaco Auto painting franchise in Melbourne for almost 27 years before retiring in 2013. He grew up in a little town in southern New Jersey on the Delaware River called Pennsville.

“This is where I developed my deep love of nature, and for being on and in the water of the river I loved,” said Smith.

He also credits the Delaware Valley, often called the cradle of Liberty and just south of Philadelphia, with his deep love of God and country.

Smith is a graduate of the University of Miami, where he was a member of the SAE fraternity. He has always been civic minded and his many associations in Brevard County include the Board of Directors of Friends of Sally’s House and Prevent; as well as supporting Brevard Little League teams, Habitat for Humanity, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, Candlelighters, Animal Services and supporting efforts to restore the Indian River Lagoon.

The Smiths have been residents of Melbourne since 1986 and have one daughter and three grandchildren.

BREVARD COUNTY COMMISSIONER CURT SMITH: The creation and continued support of the Indian River Lagoon Council will be crucial to the success of restoring the health of our estuary.

BREVARD COUNTY COMMISSIONER CURT SMITH: The creation and continued support of the Indian River Lagoon Council will be crucial to the success of restoring the health of our estuary.

Q. SPACE COAST DAILY:

After two years on the county commission, of what accomplishments are you most proud?

A. CURT SMITH:

There have been many successes involving economic development in the county including attracting hundreds of high paying jobs. The accomplishment that I am most proud of, is being a part of the creation of the Indian River Lagoon Council, a consortium of five counties to address the needs of our greatest natural resource. The restoration of the lagoon will be a long and expensive endeavor, but we have taken the first steps to accomplish this monumental task.

Q. SPACE COAST DAILY:

What distinct moments of your service on the county commission have been most gratifying and why?

A. CURT SMITH:

The times I find most satisfying are when I can take an issue that two sides are opposing and find some middle ground that both parties feel are the best solution, making everybody happy.

Q. SPACE COAST DAILY:

What are the biggest challenges of being a county commissioner?

A. CURT SMITH:

The most difficult challenge of any County Commission is educating the public on issues that are decided by the Commissioners. Most residents do not pay close attention to county business. If a controversial topic comes up, people often hear it from someone that has an opinion to advance instead of giving accurate information. Sadly an untruth said often enough becomes fact in the public’s eye; then it becomes enormously difficult to get people to listen to the facts because emotion dominates the discussion.

Q. SPACE COAST DAILY:

As one of the presumptive leaders on the county commission and with three new freshman commissioners elected this fall, how do you see the culture of the commission changing?

A. CURT SMITH:

The culture will change because we will have three different personalities involved in our decision making. Time will be the best indicator as to what that change will be. It is my hope that we can all work together to deal with the many issues we will face. We should be able to disagree without being disagreeable and show respect to each other, to find common ground.

BREVARD COUNTY COMMISSIONER Curt Smith, second from left, presents a resolution recognizing and commending Boy Scout Troop 224 for their outstanding efforts in obtaining six Eagle Scouts in one year.

BREVARD COUNTY COMMISSIONER Curt Smith, second from left, presents a resolution recognizing and commending Boy Scout Troop 224 for their outstanding efforts in obtaining six Eagle Scouts in one year.

Q. SPACE COAST DAILY:

Having spent two years on the board, what advice would you have for the new freshman commissioners to advance the county’s interests fully going forward?

A. CURT SMITH:

The best counsel I could offer would be to address each issue with an open mind, ask a lot of questions, and get to know each subject so you can argue both for and against the issue. Only then can someone honestly resolve the item at hand.

Q. SPACE COAST DAILY:

What specific plans do you have for tackling the county’s most difficult challenges?

A. CURT SMITH:

The most critical needs of this county are the health of the lagoon and the maintenance of our roads. The creation and continued support of the Indian River Lagoon Council will be crucial to the success of restoring the health of our estuary. I understand that roads are not sexy, and they don’t have their supporters to lobby the commission for help, but without decent roads our standard of living is subpar. We must continue to find funding opportunities to maintain our roads, or we will eventually have to replace them. Replacing a road is 5 to 7 times more costly than repaving. Currently, asphalt is cheaper than it has been since the early 90s. In short, paving now will be far less expensive than rebuilding roads in the future.

ROADS ARE COMMISSION PRIORITY: “We must continue to find funding opportunities to maintain our roads, or we will eventually have to replace them,” said Commissioner Curt Smith. “Replacing a road is 5 to 7 times more costly than repaving. Currently, asphalt is cheaper than it has been since the early 90’s. In short, paving now will be far less expensive than rebuilding roads in the future.”

ROADS ARE COMMISSION PRIORITY: “We must continue to find funding opportunities to maintain our roads, or we will eventually have to replace them,” said Commissioner Curt Smith. “Replacing a road is 5 to 7 times more costly than repaving. Currently, asphalt is cheaper than it has been since the early 90’s. In short, paving now will be far less expensive than rebuilding roads in the future.”

Q. SPACE COAST DAILY:

How should people view the most recent controversial three of the 25 proposed tax rates exceeding a voter-approved cap on property tax increases that is tied to revenue generated from those taxes?

A. CURT SMITH:

It is important to understand that the Commission sets a millage rate for 25 different tax entities, 13 of which are referendum based tax rates that the Commission has no control over. The total sum of all of the tax entities is called the Aggregate Millage Rate. No individual property owner pays all 25 millages because they are geographical in nature.  The millage rate that would produce the same revenue as last year is called the “rolled-back rate.” The aggregate millage rate this year is below the rolled-back rate and is considered a tax decrease.

According to the County Charter, the Commission with a supermajority vote can exceed the cap limit if they determine that there is a critical need to do so or in the case of an emergency. This year the CPI is slightly more than one-tenth of one percent, and that is the amount that we could increase revenue without declaring a critical need. Two of the three tax entities that would exceed the cap are the Road and Bridge District 1 MSTU and the Road and Bridge District 5 MSTU; both of which will only affect the residents of these districts. As I mentioned before: timely road maintenance prevents expensive replacement cost in the future. If we don’t take care of repairing and maintaining our roads now, then we better be prepared to pay significantly more in the future.

The countywide operating fund is the other tax unit increased over the cap; these funds will supplement the budget for more road maintenance, increase salaries to keep quality employees, and establish a South Brevard County veterans support center. These funds will also expand transit services for working individuals without transportation of their own, many of whom have to work multiple jobs to support a family and would be an additional burden to the county if they could not receive income. These are not emergencies but are a critical needs.

Q. SPACE COAST DAILY:

Coming from the private sector as a highly successful entrepreneur, have you been able to bring any “out of the box” thinking to county government?

A. CURT SMITH:

One example of “out of the box” thinking is providing for the dire countywide need for more bus shelters. We have 820 bus stops, and only 62 are sheltered. It is sad to see senior citizens, physically challenged, and parents with young children stand in the heat and weather elements waiting for public transportation. If we could provide a bus shelter to these locations, the quality of life for our citizens would be much improved.

The county doesn’t have enough funds to build the shelters we need. I proposed that if the Sheriff could provide inmate labor and build a quality shelter at a lower cost, we could offer the sponsorship of these shelters to local businesses and recoup the expense. It would be a win-win situation. The local businesses can advertise, the county would save money, but most importantly the transit customers would benefit from a better environment to wait for the bus. We would satisfy a 2 to 3 million dollar federal mandate with no taxpayer out of pocket cost.

ONE EXAMPLE OF “OUT OF THE BOX” THINKING promoted by Commissioner Curt Smith is addressing the dire countywide need for more bus shelters. We have 820 bus stops, and only 62 are sheltered.

ONE EXAMPLE OF “OUT OF THE BOX” THINKING promoted by Commissioner Curt Smith is addressing the dire countywide need for more bus shelters. We have 820 bus stops, and only 62 are sheltered.

Q. SPACE COAST DAILY:

What are the most encouraging indicators for the future of life in Brevard County?

A. CURT SMITH:

The most encouraging sign I see is the quantity and quality of first class corporations and businesses that we are attracting to our very special paradise, and the thousands of jobs they will provide.

Q. SPACE COAST DAILY:

What are some things that people might not realize about life as a county commissioner?

A. CURT SMITH:

Being a Commissioner is comparable to walking barefoot over hot coals while people throw rocks and darts at you, just kidding. Before I was a Commissioner I did not realize how demanding the job was. There is a tremendous variety of subjects that the County deals with and as a Commissioner you really have to try to learn enough about each one to at least comprehend the subject matter of those issues.

Curt Smith Brings 40 Years of Entrepreneurial Experience To Brevard County CommissionRelated Story:
Curt Smith Brings 40 Years of Entrepreneurial Experience To Brevard County Commission

Q. SPACE COAST DAILY:

The vast majority of our readers greatly appreciate what you have brought to the county commission. That said, what are the factors that might lead you to run for a second 4-year term?

A. CURT SMITH:

The primary factor is that I enjoy using my 40 years of experience in the private sector to get county problems solved. I know that the work on the Indian River Lagoon and roads will not be completed in my next four years, but I want to continue to bring my expertise and passion to these issues. Another factor in my decision making would be that I like meeting the people I serve in the community and working with the many dedicated county employees on behalf of our citizens. n

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Brevard County is divided into five Commission districts that manages a $1.1 billion budget for the area’s more than 560,000 residents.


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