THIS WAS SUBMITTED TO THE PENSACOLA NEWS JOURNAL AS A VIEWPOINT:
By Randy Cudd
Seven years ago Gene Valentino gave a real voice at the table to the people of the west side for the first time in 30 years. We have had commissioners before but none that cared as much as Gene, we were “the redheaded stepchild” of Escambia County. We have been a cash cow for the bed/sales tax revenues and we were left off of Escambia County maps, Pensacola Area Chamber maps and generally ignored by the county in general. The “no growers” fought Gene at every turn from the first election attempt to the last because he would not do it their way.
Gene was never afraid to be controversial; he stepped into the fray on occasions; He saw an opportunity, when in the middle of the worst economic down turn since the great depression, a developer came to Perdido Key to build a hotel and casino (BINGO). He saw jobs and revitalization of a depressed economy others saw it as a cheapening of the island, but he tried.
When the County was in a pinch to cover the firing of an opportunistic Administrator he recommended for the job his recent opponent that knew how to make the county work. He championed bringing George Touart back when he knew it would hurt him politically.
Gene championed a fuel tax that costs the tax payers approximately $22 per year but in doing so helped to save property owners an increase in their property tax and saved the citizens over $52 Million dollars. He knew it would be seen as a tax increase and would hurt him politically, but he did it anyway and we are better off for it as most of the money brought into the general fund from this tax is brought in by non-resident “pass through” fuel buyers.
He champions the widening of Hwy 292, for safety sake and to allow for the growth that is coming. With this he pushed for sidewalks, bike paths and underground utilities. Many people that have “their piece of paradise” don’t want change.
Gene pushed for parks and the Sports-Plex that sits in District #1.
The Perdido Key Visitors Center/Fire Station is an award winning, state of the art facility that was Gene’s vision.
He installed over 30 miles of sidewalks from neighborhoods all through Warrington to Gulf Beach Hwy.
Many millions of Tax dollars returned to District #2, over $300 Million.
The sheriff wanted $18M dollars from the tax payers to satisfy the DOJ and threatened to give the jail back to the county if he did not get it. Gene asked Budget and finance to check the numbers and they said it would take much less so Gene and three other Commissioners said “OK, we will take it.” The DOJ just signed off for much less. If the Sheriff had gotten his way we would have had to raise the property tax.
Gene focused on his people in District 2 and worked tirelessly, about 50-60 hours a week, for the entire county. His focus on job growth and his desire to bring jobs in the Aero-space Industry have begun something that will bear fruit for years to come.
There is so much more that Gene has contributed to the community that there is no way to list them all but, here is one secret that even his wife did not know; Gene returned most of his government salary to the needy in the community, he never did it for the money. It was his honor to serve his community,
It was our honor to have him serve us…..THANK YOU GENE!