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sun sentinel

The Sun Sentinel 2014 Palm Beach County Commission Candidate Questionnaire:

Your name: Andrew Schaller
Age: 49
Address: 14306 Wellington Trace, Wellington, FL 33414
Occupation: Business Owner / Palm Beach Financial Exchange, Inc.
Family status: Single
Military service: None
Education: B.A. Marketing, St. Leo University
Party affiliation: Republican
Contact information: Andy Schaller, 561-346-6719,

If you’re a challenger in this race, why are you running and what makes you qualified? If you’re an incumbent, why do you deserve re-election?

My decision to run for office stems from the last six years of my involvement with the County and I want to help others benefit from my efforts and experience. I have attended or viewed most every County meeting in the last six years and have appeared before the BCC to speak more than 50 times on a number of issues.

For the last 27 years, I have had the experience and responsibility of handling more than $1Billion of other people’s money through my career and electronic banking company. My personal achievements can benefit county residents.

Have you ever been arrested or involved in a criminal proceeding or civil suit?
Have you ever filed bankruptcy or have been foreclosed upon? If so, please explain.

Arrested: No
Criminal Proceeding: No
Bankruptcy: No
Foreclosed: No
Civil Suit: Yes Twice. 1) The building my business was a tenant in was sold and the new owner sued tenants to increase lease revenue. The owner dropped his suits and reimbursed the tenants for all suit related expenses. 2) I was named as the Defendant in a 1st Amendment lawsuit. The jury, the lower court judge and the three judge panel of the Fourth District Court of Appeals all ruled in my favor and I was victorious on all three legal challenges.

Name the three key issues facing Palm Beach County that need immediate and sustained attention.

1. Determining the levels of County services and the tax revenues needed to fulfill those wants and needs.

2. The managed development of remaining undeveloped land and the preservation of existing lifestyle.

3. The selection of the new County Administrator.

4. What are the particular challenges facing your district that need immediate attention?

The Seminole Pratt corridor poses major concerns for the developmental impacts of the projects that are in the planning stages. The property rights and lifestyles of existing residents need to be factored into any and all growth development.

The quality of life and the affordability of daily existence in the Glades requires all efforts to be made to bring jobs and peaceful streets to the communities.

Building Board consensus to achieve the necessary votes to protect and preserve our district is paramount.

5. Given the growth in property values, should Palm Beach lower its tax rate next year?

Consistently, I have said that we as a county have to determine our needs and desires for levels of services. Basic needs have to be met by the County but wants can be costly and should be determined by public willingness to pay for them. I believe that once financial reserves and basic service costs are met, the county has a responsibility to keep taxes as low as feasibly possible.

6. Are there any issues, like road maintenance, public transportation or water projects, where you would consider raising taxes to pay for improvements?

Needs have to be met first and if our infrastructure is failing because of previous choices, then those choices need to be addressed now as a consequence. Only after exercising cost cutting of non-essential County services would I consider raising rates as the option of last resort.

7. More than half of the county’s budget goes to public safety, do you share the sheriff’s concerns that his department needs more money to operate?

The Sheriff has declined a public workshop to open his “needs” to the public so I don’t know how anyone could have the same vantage point as the Sheriff. The Sheriff may be completely on the mark but without the same financials to evaluate, we have to take the Sheriff’s views at face value.

8. How might we grow the county’s economy and diversify its job base?

The county was once the home to a number of businesses that have since moved away. Something attracted each of those business here in the first place. That same welcoming environment needs to be afforded to businesses looking to relocate here and call the county home for the long term.

Palm Beach County has a number of unique economic engines that can be further enhanced. Wellington has the equestrian industry and is located next to the Glades farming lands. A satellite campus of the University of Florida would help equestrians who travel to Gainesville for equine services and would also bring the agricultural program closer to home where the learning can be applied right outside the campus door.

The tourism and convention industry will be further enhanced with the addition of the convention hotel. Major financial commitments have already been made and once the hotel is operational, more related services will prosper. The value of professional sports teams should be considered evaluated for economic reward.

9. What works well on the county commission, and what could work better?

The Staff and resources available to commissioners is definitely an asset to the commission when utilized efficiently. The public input is a must to understand the will of the residents. District representation should promote the ideals and lifestyle of that area.

Every vote should require the indication of in favor or opposed. Silence on the commission is a yes vote. Commissioners should remember the value and importance of each and every item being considered and the impact on the individuals involved. This appears to be lost from time to time with commissioners rushing through the process. The consent agenda is an example of how many items are handled without the regular agenda item discussion. Not every item requires a lengthy discussion but some require more attention than being commingled with other routine issues.

10. What qualities would you expect to find in the county’s new administrator?

The new administrator needs a diverse background to accurately reflect the various departments under his or her purview. Strong management skills with a disciplined regiment of adhering to the existing county policies and procedures are a must. He or she should also have the proven ability to adapt to changing conditions and possess the leadership skills to help guide the Board and Staff in effective change and implementation.

11. How would you balance the tensions between developers and neighborhood associations?

Many times you hear developers saying they have worked with the associations in good faith and many times those claims are refuted by neighborhood associations. The legal system requires mediation before trial. This concept could be utilized in large scale projects with specific responsibilities assigned to each side. A limited role mediation or arbitration process could ensure that the first time both sides meet to discuss projects is not in the county chambers.

12. Give your assessment of the way ethics has improved in the county and what more can be done to continue this trend?

The establishment of the Commission on Ethics and the penalty phase of wrong doing is a good start towards providing an official body to investigate and evaluate public concerns. The Inspector General has no such penalty phase and even when some determinations are made there is no recourse to enforce the findings. The Inspector General needs more ability to levy a penalty if warranted.

13. How do you see the role of lobbyists at county center?

Lobbyists are paid representatives of their clients and their clients interests. There are rules in place concerning their actions and activities. Strict adherence to those standards is a must. No lobbyist should be given any greater weight or value than an individual citizen representing themselves. Everyone has a right to petition the government.

14. Do you see any improvements that could be made in the contracts with public employee unions? Please explain.

One basic premise should be that a person is compensated proportionately in retirement as compared to their compensation in the active workforce. Pension and retirement funds should be guaranteed but should not guarantee a lifestyle greater than that of the active service.

15. What more can Palm Beach do to address the challenge of homelessness?

Palm Beach County is a destination spot for many people that are in search of mental health and substance abuse help. After treatment programs are completed successfully or unsuccessfully, many remain in the area. County funds are available to county residents only and if proof of residency is not provided, limited options are available. Securing funding from state and federal sources along with community based organizations is necessary to address the problem of Florida homelessness.

16. What would you do to boost tourism industry in the county?

There are a number of venues that are season specific that can be utilized more fully in the off season months. The equestrian grounds can be used for other non industry specific events as is the case with the International Polo Club and the various sporting events hosted during the non-equestrian months.

Evaluating alternative uses for county and privately owned venues opens many opportunities. Building on the concepts others have already put into place are car, motorcycling and racing activities, hot air balloons, fishing, the arts and film industry, team sports like lacrosse, field hockey, baseball, softball football, musical and festival. I look to how a venue or asset can be temporarily repurposed for even further benefit.

17. How would you promote the needs of the Glades/Lake Okeechobee area to a commission that is focused more on the county’s urban communities?

Knowledge of the Glades is the strength upon which leadership for the area needs to originate. A Glades office needs to be open and regularly staffed to facilitate residents needs. The commissioner should be an active part of the community and visibly present in the area.
The Glades/Lake Okeechobee areas that need the critical attention are the areas that are governed by municipalities. Palm Beach County has no jurisdiction over how they run their municipalities. To assist them where possible, I would:
1.) Promote having BCC meetings in the Glades Region.
2.) Promote/develop government cross-training opportunities for the cities.
3.) Work with agencies at local, state and federal level to bring awareness to the needs of the area.
4.) Work with BDB/PBC Department of Economic Opportunity/Economic Council/Glades businesses to develop a concrete marketing plan for the area.

18. What, in your view, should be done with the Mecca Farms property?

The County no longer owns Mecca Farms.

19. Do you support or oppose the proposed development on the old Callery-Judge Grove site in the Acreage? Please explain.

I am opposed to density and intensity increases beyond the current Agricultural Enclave limits. The current property owners are entitled to the limits associated with the property as it was purchased. Beyond those limits, the surround area property owners should not bear the burdens of any increases that negatively impact their lifestyles and their investments. Sufficient funds for road improvements are not available to properly accommodate what would be required because of increases.
The decisions of this property will have an impact of neighboring property development benchmarks. Neighboring large tracts of land will want the same increases and more in an area that will not be able to support the additional increases. My stance on this issue is a matter of public record during a BCC meeting.

20. Should the county import trash from neighboring counties to raise revenue?

No. I have appeared more than once at the Solid Waste Authority to raise this objection. Specifically, I spoke out against out of area garbage being charged a lower rate than county residents pay, Also, an out of state company wanted to make an 850 mile round trip from Georgia to bring prescription pills to be burned from states as far away as Oregon.

21. Do you support or oppose Mayor Priscilla Taylor’s idea of leaving the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council for its counterpart that includes Broward and Miami Dade counties? Please explain.

No. We would only want to do that if we desired to become more like Broward and Miami-Dade counties. I think we should learn from Broward and Miami-Dade’s growth planning mistakes. Palm Beach County needs to take action through our stance on over-development that will reassure TCRPC of our commitment to sound growth planning.

22. Does the county need a countywide elected mayor on the commission?

No. A strong mayor would have to operate within boundaries and policies, however, a key difference is that a majority of BCC members can fire a County Administrator, County Attorney or County Internal Auditor – it cannot fire a strong mayor. A strong mayor on the BCC would be ill-advised in a county where corruption has been proven as it has in PBC. Lobbyist would probably embrace a strong mayor system as they only have to lobby for one vote.

23. How could Palm Beach develop a stronger voice in Tallahassee?

Palm Beach County should work with Tallahassee throughout the year instead of just during session. All commissioners should attend the annual Palm Beach County Day’s events and schedule regular in county meetings with our regional state representatives.

24. What has prepared you to be a county commissioner?

I have attended or viewed most every County meeting in the last six years and have appeared before the BCC to speak more than 50 times on a number of issues.

For the last 27 years, I have had the experience and responsibility of handling more than $1Billion of other people’s money through my career and electronic banking company. My personal achievements can benefit county residents.

25. Why should voters choose you over your opponent?

My professional financial experience and my Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners experience is far more extensive and complete than the others. I have already proven that I can bring an issue before the BCC, from concept to completion over a six and a half year period, build unanimous Board consensus and achieve the desired outcome. My decisions are based upon facts and by looking at all vantage points of an issue and not on emotion.

I am a 24 year continuous resident of District 6 and have invested years of my own time and money for an opportunity to help others in a governmental system that I have come to understand very well and can help make a positive difference for the district.