'I feel like I'm helping the city': Ormond Beach City Commissioner Susan Persis reflects on her service since being elected

International Women's Day is Friday, March 8. Get to know City Commissioner Susan Persis...

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  • | 4:10 p.m. March 8, 2019
  • Ormond Beach Observer
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City Commissioner Susan Persis is the first woman in eight years to be elected in the city of Ormond Beach.

It's a position that, though having served on several boards both in the city and in the community, she never thought she would hold. Before this past election, campaign seasons usually entailed helping her husband, former city commissioner, mayor and current Volusia County School Board member Carl Persis, in his political endeavors. This past year, however, the roles reversed; He was the one helping her. 

Susan Persis taught at the elementary and middle school level for 17 years, and later worked as an assistant principal for another 9 before wrapping up her education career as principal of Pine Trail Elementary, Indian River Elementary and Ormond Beach Elementary over 13 years.

In honor of International Women's Day, here is a Q&A with the city's newest commissioner in Zone 3:

Q: You are the first woman elected to the commission in eight years. What has it been like?

“It’s not unlike being a school principal, really," Persis said. "It’s very similar."

There's been a learning curve, as far as knowing all the acronyms and her role in the city, Persis said. But at the end of the day, she said the goal is to make the best decision for everybody, using your best judgement. Coming from an education background, she also said listening is a skill that has helped her on the commission. 

“As an educator, I like people and I like helping people, and that’s just what I’ve done in my career," Persis said. "This just kind of falls right in line.”

Q: Did you ever think you would run for city commission?

“No,” said Persis, laughing. “No, I never did because Carl has such a long political career and I was always kind of helping him. Everything I said I would never do, I’ve done.”

She described herself as an "A-type" personality — a Virgo — and said she's always set goals for herself throughout her life. It's one thing she's good at, and running for City Commission was just another example. She said she never goes into anything lightly. If she's going to do something, it's because she really wants to. 

Former Zone 3 City Commissioner Rick Boehm, who appointed her to the city's Quality of Life board, approached her after he made the decision to not run for re-election. He told her she would be great to represent their zone. 

At first, Persis said she was unsure. 

“Then I went, wait a minute, if I don’t do this, I am going to hate myself," Persis said. "So I just said yes, I want to do it, and we just kind of hit the ground running.”

Q: What are your goals for this term?

Persis said her goals are in line with those the commission put in place after the strategic planning workshop. But, adding a public information officer to city staff would be "huge," she said. Two people have already called her about the position.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for this city," Persis said. "I really do, because Ormond Beach is a great place. It’s a jewel in Volusia County, to me. That’s the way I see it.”

She's excited about having a PIO because she's proud of the city, and wants to tell people more about it. The commission, the Ormond Beach Chamber of Commerce and Ormond MainStreet do a good job of showcasing the city's positives, but having a single person dedicated to that would be beneficial. It could help bring more people to the city's restaurants, businesses and events, she said.

"There’s so much going on here, really," Persis said. "I just want everybody to know how great we are.”

Q: You were the only commissioner to vote against the car wash at Granada Pointe. Why?

Planning Board and city staff said no, Persis said. 

“I guess I just felt like, if all these people said no, I just need to support that," she said. "I knew it was going to pass, because I heard what everyone was saying, but I still think something like that I would have liked to have seen the Planning Board be 100% behind.”

While she said she loves everything developer Paul Holub has brought to the city, and that he cares about the community, she said she felt like she had to listen to the people advising the commission. That's the hard part about voting, she said.

Q: What is one unexpected thing about your role as city commissioner?

It's time-consuming, she said. Looking back to the days her husband was a principal and mayor, she doesn't know how he did it. In fact, she said when she talks to him now, he also admits he doesn't know how he did it.

But, she loves serving.

“It’s not, to me, a job," Persis said. "It’s just fun. I feel like I’m helping the city, and that makes me feel so good. It just makes me happy. It’s just in my DNA, and I think in Carl’s too — we just get a lot of pleasure feeling that we can help the city or help people.”

Recently, she and Carl Persis were honored at their alma matter, Seabreeze High School, with a legacy brick in the school courtyard. Susan Persis graduated in 1973, and Carl Persis in 1966. She still remembers the way the sea breeze used to keep everyone cool in the campus' old breezeway. 

The brick was a result of the Persises being named Humanitarians of the Year in 2018 by the Florida Elks organization. They received a key to the city.

“That is what we do," Persis said. "That’s what we’ve dedicated our lives to do. It was really very meaningful to us.”


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