WFSU Local News

PACE Director Kelly Otte Enters Leon Commission At-Large Race

Robbie Gaffney

The most crowded local race in Leon County is shaping up to be in one of the county commission’s two at-large seats. Commissioner Mary Ann Lindley isn’t running for re-election, and with the entry of Kelly Otte — there are now seven people vying for the seat.

Otte heads the PACE Center for Girls, a program designed to keep them out of the juvenile justice system by offering academic and social support.

In a press release announcing her candidacy, Otte says addressing Tallahassee’s gun violence is a top priority. She says it’s a “symptom of people feeling disconnected and disenfranchised from each other and from the community.”

There were more than 70 shootings in the city during 2019. Nearly 20 people were killed.

“Public safety is extremely important and will be a cornerstone of my work as a Commissioner but locking people up for issues that could have been addressed by prevention programs is a failure for our community. I’ve been involved with starting the Children’s Services Council and I’m looking forward to providing support to get it passed in 2020 and to support it as a commissioner," she says.

Children’s Services Councils operate in counties across the state. They’re aimed a remedying what critics of the Legislature say is a shortfall in existing funding for such services. A local CSC has been under consideration since late 2018 when it was first proposed in the Leon County Commission. It formed a workgroup to come up with recommendation for what a local CSC would address.

In December the group issued its final report, which included three priority areas:

• investing in programs that increase school performance and reduce juvenile crime

• promote physical, mental and oral health education and programs to optimize individual and community health and resiliency; and

• encourage stable families including food stability, youth development and economic opportunities

The CSC proposal will be on the 2020 ballot. If Leon County residents approve the new tax it could generate about $8 million per year.

Candidates also vying for the seat include: Tallahassee-Leon County Credit Union President Lisa Brown, Florida Institute of Government head Jeff Hendry, business consultant Scott Flowers, former Florida Department of Environmental Protection Division Director Danielle Irwin and Regulate Florida Volunteer Coordinator Melissa Villar.

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