Flagler County Commissioner Donald O’Brien is running for the Florida House of Representatives.
O’Brien, who has served as a county commissioner since 2016, officially filed the paperwork on Friday, Feb. 3, to run for the District 19 seat in the 2024 election. This seat will be an open seat, as House Speaker Rep. Paul Renner will be finishing his final term.
O’Brien said he has been preparing for this for a long time.
“I just feel it's time to step up and continue to serve but, you know, represent the whole district going forward,” O’Brien said. “And I think I'm the best qualified person for the job.”
O’Brien has served as chair of the commission twice and represents Flagler County on several boards and advisory groups, a press release from his campaign said.
I know the area, I understand the economy. And I also understand some of the challenges that we have in this area.”
— DONALD O'BRIEN
During his two terms in office, the press release said, O’Brien has never voted for a millage rate increase and has been instrumental in helping Flagler County increase its budget reserves through financial discipline.
O’Brien has lived in Flagler County for 32 years, raising his family and connecting with the community through various community organizations. He said his connection with the community’s needs is part of what makes him the person for the job.
“I know the area, I understand the economy,” he said. “And I also understand some of the challenges that we have in this area.”
Flagler County and southern St. John’s County face many of the same issues, O’Brien said: growth management, coastline management and restoration, combating fentanyl and other illegal drug use and the need for a diverse economy.
A large part of his focus, he said, will be supporting municipalities as they see continuing population growth, in part by looking to diversify the local economies outside of homebuilding.
O’Brien said he is also a full supporter of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ agenda and the support the governor has provided for protecting the coastline, and for law enforcement and public safety.
During O'Brien's tenure on the commission, the press release said, he has prioritized public safety by supporting the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office's budget — including backing new facilities and agency upgrades — and has also supported Fire Rescue and EMS budget expansions.
O’Brien will support job creation and economic development by reducing “ineffective regulations on business," the press release said, while focusing on fiscal discipline and building reserve funds at the state level.
“I believe strongly that government at all levels needs to believe in fiscal discipline,” he said. “I'm proud of the fact that, as a commissioner, we built a strong budget in Flagler County, and we've also at the same time built reserves.”
O’Brien will be running his campaign while serving in the County Commission District 5 seat. At the same time as he is a commissioner, candidate, businessman and family man, O’Brien will also be finishing his master’s degree in Public Administration and Policy from the American University in Washington, D.C. in August.
When asked how he would find the time, O’Brien said that as with all things, it’s a matter of time management. But regardless, O’Brien said, he will not allow his campaign to adversely impact his service on the commission.
“I’m not going to let the campaign diminish my services to the county,” he said. “I’m adamant about that.”
District 19 was newly drawn during the 2022 reapportionment process and now covers all of Flagler County and the southeastern portion of St. Johns County, east of U.S. 1 and north through downtown St. Augustine, the press release said.
O’Brien said he is eager is to continue serving the citizens of Northeast Florida. He will bring a conservative focus to protecting individual freedoms and liberties and enhance quality of life, all with a focus on ensuring fiscal discipline in state government, the press release said.
O’Brien said he cares deeply about the area and is ready to work hard to keep moving forward.
“I understand the best parts of our of this area of Northeast Florida,” O’Brien said. “I understand the challenges of growth and a growing economy. And I’m ready to step up and lead.”