Intrvw: Ft Laud’s Commissoner Rogers

Biographical information
Birthplace: Fort Lauderdale.
Years in Florida: entire lifetime.
Married to Candice for 31 years.
Two sons.
Former chairman of the deacons, and current trustee, of First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale.
Fort Lauderdale’s 4th District City Commissioner.

Family/human interest

Q: Where did you grow-up and what was it like?

A: Well, I grew up in Fort Lauderdale, and back in the 50s and 60s, it was an unbelievable place to grow up, where you could ride your bicycle or get in a boat or go anywhere you want – and come home at dinnertime and hang out with your friends and leave the doors open and not lock your cars – and all that good stuff.

Q: Growing up or now, do you have a favorite sport or hobby?

A: It was probably football. Now that I am a little old to play, it is golf.

Q: Who has most shaped you as a leader: your mother or your father? Why?

A: Both. My dad certainly stood for honesty and integrity and doing the right thing. My mom was the same. Plus, she had a real compassionate heart, and I think that as a leader you need all of those qualities.

Q: Your first job?

A: Construction in the summer.

Q: Favorite movie?

A: Braveheart.

Q: Last book read?

A: Tony Dungy’s Uncommon.

Q: Musical preference?

A: Combination of 60s and “praise and worship.”

Q: Favorite team?

A: Football, Dolphins.

Q: Lakes or oceans, mountains or beaches?

A: Like all of the above, but being from Florida, I am partial to the ocean, although I don’t spend much time at it.

Q: Army, navy, air force, marines or coast guard?

A: Didn’t serve in any of them, but my dad was a Naval officer, so I have always sort of held them up in my highest esteem.

Public leadership

Q: One year ago, you were elected, in your first run for public office, to the Fort Lauderdale City Commission, District 4. What was your motivation to run for public office?

A: I have done public service for 30 years, and I have a heart for the community, having been raised here, and family having been here since 1925 when my grandfather came. I, obviously, sort of looked around and said, you know, I guess it is my time to step it up and do more.

Q: Can you name a key issue that you are currently working on as a Fort Lauderdale Commissioner that you hope to complete?

A: Well, one of my goals is to make government operate more like a business, and there are a lot of issues in all that, but some of the smaller pieces of that are things like signage for small business. Fort Lauderdale, in one way, has a great sign ordinance, because there is not a lot of visual pollution. But the problem with some of that is that there is not a lot of ways of finding signs, either. So a small business caught in the back of a shopping center may not even have a way to even let the public know where they are. So there is some of that, and it is in a committee and we are examining that.

There are issues that are certainly focused on economic development that I am working on currently, with all the stimulus money. There is an ability to really incentivize people to bring and build their businesses and put people to work. So that is sort of the immediate part of that. And I am out there trying to let the word be known that Fort Lauderdale is interested in helping with economic development, and there is the ability of financing sources to incentivize that.

Q: Can you name a time where your faith was challenged as a public official or in other leadership positions?

A: I don’t know that it has been tested after the election, but I think when I was out campaigning there were certainly issues that I considered moral issues that came up that I took a stand on – and probably took some heat for. But I think that essentially, since I have been elected, the commission has been going in the right direction. And we have been so focused on the economy that most of the issues really deal with the budget.

Public perspective
Q: Everyone develops an opinion about presidential and gubernatorial elections, but few people focus on local elections. What are your thoughts about this?

A: I think that all Current Events are local, but it is hard to always get people to understand how local government really touches them every day, because it is not as visible in the press or in the media. In terms of what that role should be, I have been trying to focus in on things that do make a difference to people: their safety, security, public safety – in that arena, and certainly parks and recreation that are (of) interest for them and their families, and to make sure that their water is clean and their garbage gets picked up.

Q: Is there a person in American history that you truly admire, or are fascinated by? And why?

A: I would pick Abraham Lincoln. I read a lot about Lincoln and his journeys, and more importantly, I think that how he recovered from defeats and how he was a true statesman. He did the right thing no matter what the public sentiment was. I respected that. And in more-current history, I had the privilege of being in a family where there was public service, and my uncle was a congressman for 24 years, following my grandfather who was in congress for nine years, so I always admired how he did the right thing no matter what the circumstances – and he had a true servant’s heart.

Q: What are your thoughts on careers in elected office and government, versus being a public servant?

A: I have mixed emotions about all that. Although I voted for and believe in term limits, I grew up in an era where they weren’t around, and I saw how someone who is a true public servant and learns from experience and relationships – it is no different in that role than it is in any other position in life. I do think that in our day and age … public service ought to be something that is not taken on without background and time, time spent in the trenches so to speak.

Q: Complete the following sentences. The one thing that I would change about Fort Lauderdale – .

A: Currently, we have to address this homeless issue. The change would be a change for the positive, in that I don’t know exactly what that is going to look like, but I am encouraged that the community is standing together in this and (that) the faith-based community has really stepped up and has agreed to assume a role in addressing it as well. And that was one my goals in taking this job. I really believe in partnerships. Bringing government to the table to try to facilitate the solution to a problem is important, but government isn’t supposed to be doing everything, and government’s role should be as limited as possible.

The community should be stepping up to address such problems, and I believe it is going to happen. It already is happening, just not to the point where it is making an impact or a difference. So that would be my goal (in changing) that.

Q: You serve in the same geographic area that your grandfather once served as the first congressman from Fort Lauderdale. You have lived your entire life in Fort Lauderdale. Can you give us a historical perspective? Where has Fort Lauderdale come from and what is the city going to be like in the future?

A: Since I can remember, certainly Fort Lauderdale grew because of the population, the sun, beach and other tourist attractions – (they) were huge and still are a huge part of our economic development. Until recent times, we have always had that population growth to keep the wheels turning in the right direction. With that came the pressures on infrastructure, and we were always kind of playing catch-up in a lot of areas: roads, schools and some of the other bridges and that type of infrastructure. However, I do think that Fort Lauderdale is in a great position to take advantage of the growth that it has experienced in what I believe to be a positive way – where density has really developed in the downtown core, which can support it, and the infrastructure has improved with that growth. And being (a) beachside community, we have taken advantage of the tourism to our benefit, so I think that Fort Lauderdale is in a prime spot to really move forward when this economy turns (around). You know, you take the marine industry, for instance. It is a great generator of revenues – certainly the largest in the county – and because of our beaches and our waterways, we can make the most of all that.

Q: What is one thing that you would change about  Florida?

A: Some of these go hand in glove, but a couple of things have popped into my mind. One would be the public pension issues, where we really have to address the affordability of that. We need pension reform in a lot of areas, and it has to come from the state because of the way that the legislature has written the laws. For instance, a percentage of every insurance premium that is paid in our community goes to fund pensions. But it is only for the way the law is written; it is only for new benefits.

Well, how many new benefits can we provide when we are having a hard time paying for the old one? So there has got to be some reform there, and I would hope that there is enough. This economy has brought to the surface enough issues to make it obvious that reform has to take place. And sort of hand in glove (with) that, I do believe these are family issues as well.

Whenever you are talking about pensions, you are talking about what is going to overflow as taxes in one form or another, and that affects all of us, especially families. I am hopeful that we will continue to see some family-friendly legislation that has come out of Tallahassee. I am concerned about some of this: all of the parimutuel and the gambling, the Seminole (and) Miccosukee gambling issues that are floating around.

I mean, it is just something that we have to deal with as a society. I would like to see it done in a way that certainly … addresses some of the fallout from all that, too, and the social impact that it has.

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