After a week of interviewing Candidates, Here are my thoughts!

Hey everybody. I'm RJ, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Community Builders. My public title is Executive Director. I have been a resident of Tallahassee, FL for a longtime and I am excited about the things we are looking to do in the communities across Florida. To begin, I started in my hometown Tallahassee, FL where I had the pleasure to host a non-partisan Candidate Forum interviewing the candidates running for Judge Seat 1, the House Representative Candidates of District 8, the Candidates and Incumbents for County Commissioner Districts 1, 2, 3, and 5, Candidates for County Commissioners At-Large, Candidates of City Commissioners Seat 3,4 (aka Mayors), and 5, and the Candidates running for School Board Districts 1,3, and 4. Although we are not politically affiliated, we were brought on by the local activist group Dream Defenders Tallahassee Chapter to host to make it fair since they do endorse candidates. Although, our audience is mostly Millennials our services are catered to businesses of all generations. After a week of interviewing Candidates here are my thoughts.

Often whenever I am having a disagreement with someone, I think to myself ‘in this person’s mind they are confident they are right.’ Whatever life experiences they’ve had to lead them to believe the perspective they’re maintaining isn’t always obvious, but what I do know is that maybe they have a perspective I might be missing that makes them feel as strongly as they do and I try to understand their point before shutting them down. Anyone who goes through the process to run for office has a stance on how things should be ran in the community and it’s a stance they feel strongly about. So, in my interviews it was important for me to truly understand what each person was trying to say. In many of the races some of the Candidates were cordial to one another and respected the other person’s interest while in others the opponents were candid about their disapprovals. 3 things I noted in all the races I interviewed.

1. Trust is the still the #1 currency to earn a seat in office and still the very thing Candidates struggle to present authentically. The problem most people have with elections is the information overload and the massive challenge to determine who in office or running can they truly trust. Candidates and Incumbents spent hours with me trying to build rapport with the audience using terms and languages that so many people have heard in the past. Red flag #1. The issue is those terms trigger past disappointments people of the community have already heard and supported that led to politicians to get in office and not deliver. Also, there were various times Incumbents would say to their opponents “yes, but it doesn’t work that way” whenever Incumbents were challenged with ideas and what Candidates would pose as simple solutions. As Candidates would lose their tempers and Incumbents discredit the ideas of their opponents, determining who would be the best Candidate to trust just seemed more and more impossible to do. Especially if the issues are positioned in a way that no can overcome if in a divided house. Which lead to my next finding.

2. The old saying of “Every city divided against itself will not stand.” The things that were revealed as important when getting into office were consistent. Affordable housing, combatting violent crimes, poverty, access to education, access to capital, and economic development. However, listening to the Candidates speak about how these issues were going to be resolved was like listening to someone tell me the various ways to skin a cat. I personally have been in numerous debates when the person and I was saying the same things but because of my position and the arguments I was using (which might have been so far left field from what the person was thinking) it would cause them to continue to debate with me as if we did not share the same thoughts. As a person experienced in active listening, in times like that I would often find myself asking the person I’m debating, “well what am I saying that you’re not saying?” or “isn’t that what I basically just said?”. Its normal for people to be so caught up in their perspective they don’t realize that they are arguing the same points. I feel like during this past week’s debates that happened often. What would help whoever make it into their respective seats should practice active listening while remaining solution focused. What I like to tell young people when they are trying to understand something new, ask yourself “what is the point of the speaker/writer’s message.” Practicing this mindset will help people better understand other people’s positions and ultimately help create middle grounds for better partnerships, understandings, and clarity.

3. Lastly, my third take-away is that whoever the next group of elected Public Servants’ will be, their success rate is going to depend on the number of leaders that make it in with the same interest. No different than when the Senate or the House are majority democrat or majority republican. When Congress is majority democrat you often see the needs of social services and charitable efforts emphasized. If most of Congress is republican you often see the priorities are more around capitalistic ventures, investing, and profit driven projects. Same concept here. The problem isn’t that either side represent issues that are more or less important. The challenge is that both positions are important and determining the timing of when each position is most important is where the inefficient progress is caused. Which is why the debates are usually so tense because like going back to my first point both sides feel right about what it will take to solve the challenges of our community. Although both sides are right, wrong timing is where so much of the divide will continue to be.

My recommendation are as follows:

One thing you will learn to know about me is I am solution focused. It’s true that all the Candidates seem to be driven about positively impacting the community and that was comforting to see. So, to all the Candidates who truly want to increase the betterment of our community, if elected, should consider splitting the time focused on issues in half or split the responsibilities in half. Let me further explain. The first two years use it to focus either on social services and community improvement and the second two years focus on investment projects and increasing profits or vice versa. For the City Commission as a team decide. For County Commissioners choose according to District’s priority and split tasks (either social or economic) among staff. Another approach is to divide half of the Commission to work together (almost like a sub-committee) and work on social services while the other half works on ways to increase economic vitality for the community. Should anyone contact the Commission for social services or economic development, the Commissioner would refer that Constituent to the members of the respective sub-committee. It’s imperative that the next group of Commissioners operate as a true team, as it seems like the past commission boards have not been. People are cliquing up at the Chambers and that is never a good sign among a group that should be operating like a well-oiled machine. Until any political group can work in tandem with one another that community will always face strife and remain divided and that is dangerous for our future. When big issues like Doak Campbell or special interest projects arise, it should always be a big deal to include the community before a decision is made. When elections come around hundreds and thousands of dollars are spent in advertising. If that same energy was put into encouraging community involvement, texts and polls sent out to the community emphasizing the need for them to engage to make decisions as a community or a district I guarantee the question about trust would not be a thing. If it’s too much to coordinate such a task on your own, Community Builders is here to serve. Community Builders can coordinate community events, recruit field agents to collect data, send out newsletters, and host or facilitate community discussions.

In closing, I would like to say that to avoid feeling like cliquing up among leaders in the unproductive way like congress do. Let’s be the trendsetters like Tallahasseans usually are when it comes to professionalism and acknowledge our priorities in the beginning. Agree to divide the assignments by interests and agree to support each other as best as you can. As long as whoever gets elected make a personal commitment to take the office in good faith with integrity this political divide that is tearing our community apart can begin to mend.

And as for those who are still wondering who I will vote for and if you really must know then, - it’s still “Nunya” for me lol. Meaning it’s still none of your business lol. As always wishing you all well! PS- Don’t forget my photos and videos of yourself when you find out the results. I wish I could be in the room with all the Candidates! Wishing you well as always.

Your Community partner,


If you want to meet me in person be sure to join us on Thursday nights at the Signature Lounge. #thenewhangoutforprofessionals.