The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral

Jeff Brower, Volusia County Chairman, often votes against the grain of endless growth in a state that thrives on it

May 31, 2022 Oscar Corral
Jeff Brower, Volusia County Chairman, often votes against the grain of endless growth in a state that thrives on it
The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral
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The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral
Jeff Brower, Volusia County Chairman, often votes against the grain of endless growth in a state that thrives on it
May 31, 2022
Oscar Corral

Volusia County Chairman Jeff Brower is not your average politician. The owner of a farm with nine children, he ran for office because he wanted to stand up to developers constantly clear- cutting the forests of north Florida to make way for new developments, putting precious springs and rivers at risk. He talks about the courage of being a lone dissenter, running --and winning -- with grassroots support against big money candidates, and what he loves about Florida that made him want to run for public office.

Show Notes Transcript

Volusia County Chairman Jeff Brower is not your average politician. The owner of a farm with nine children, he ran for office because he wanted to stand up to developers constantly clear- cutting the forests of north Florida to make way for new developments, putting precious springs and rivers at risk. He talks about the courage of being a lone dissenter, running --and winning -- with grassroots support against big money candidates, and what he loves about Florida that made him want to run for public office.

00:00:02:10 - 00:00:16:20
Unknown
Welcome to the nature of Florida, the Sunshine State's only podcast dedicated to its wild and natural places and the fight to preserve them. I'm your host, Oscar Corral, a two time Emmy Award winning filmmaker and journalist. I've dedicated much of my career to making films about environmental issues.

00:00:16:21 - 00:00:32:15
Unknown
Tune in each week to hear from a broad range of voices from scientists to surfers, activists to mermaids who are working on the front lines to save what's left of Florida's natural beauty and its wildlife. Hello, everybody, and welcome to another episode of The Nature of Florida podcast.

00:00:33:00 - 00:00:55:03
Unknown
With me here today is Jeff Brower, the Volusia County chairman. Jeff is a champion for environmental rights and environmental issues in Volusia County, and he also has some favorite causes that he likes to talk about Florida Wildlife Corridor, Wildlife Protection and evolution forever to acquire land to preserve wonderful natural places in Volusia County.

00:00:55:10 - 00:01:16:14
Unknown
Welcome, Jeff. Well, thank you for doing this. Just tell me a little bit about about yourself. I know you're not what people would consider a traditional politician. Tell me about your your path into into government. Well, I'm actually a farmer and we have a small ten acre farm.

00:01:16:15 - 00:01:34:06
Unknown
We grow organic vegetables. Our best crop is, as you probably have heard, is is children with that crunch of those. And we have we have some dairy cows and some beef cows. So on ten acres, you can't do all that.

00:01:34:06 - 00:02:00:01
Unknown
So we actually spread that around to a few other small farms, ten acre plot. And we we're not even we're not traditional farmers either. We, we use management intensive grazing and just very. We try to be good stewards of the environment, and it's something that our family enjoys.

00:02:00:15 - 00:02:19:09
Unknown
I've been in I was raised in the community. I've been here my whole life. And I realized at some point besides our farm, we have an organic based landscape company. We design and we build landscapes, hardscape soundscapes and.

00:02:21:01 - 00:02:39:19
Unknown
I. I just realized I got involved in politics because it affects my life a great deal. And I realized that just screaming on Facebook doesn't really move the needle anywhere. So I decided to run for office, actually, at the request of some people.

00:02:39:20 - 00:02:57:18
Unknown
We had a we had a tax increase question come up. We asked the voters if they would increase their own taxes to to build more infrastructure. And I realized that if they did that the infrastructure was not going to help the people that were struggling with potholes in the roads, that was going to go out to the

00:02:57:18 - 00:03:13:02
Unknown
new development on the outskirts of town and build brand new roads for the developers there. So I led the charge against that and and defeated it when we had $1,000, the opposition had $200,000 and all the big names in the county.

00:03:13:02 - 00:03:30:04
Unknown
And we defeated that that tax increase proposal. And so then the group of people that I worked with on that said, would you consider running for the county chair? And I said, No, are you crazy? I'm not a politician.

00:03:30:05 - 00:03:40:17
Unknown
And then the more I thought about it, I thought, would I vote for a politician right now? And the answer was no. So we decided to had a really good group of people to help. We did it the old fashioned way.

00:03:40:17 - 00:04:02:23
Unknown
We went door to door and and just talked to people and we won. And so now I'm in a position where I can actually be the voice of the people in the community whose doors we knocked on. But today we had an all day workshop on growth management because the way we're growing isn't good for poor the

00:04:02:23 - 00:04:19:19
Unknown
springs, the rivers, the Indian River lagoon, or the quality of life for the people here. So it's given me an opportunity to actually be the voice of the people who feel like they're left out of of the decision making process.

00:04:20:07 - 00:04:36:23
Unknown
For our listeners, I want to clarify for them, if they don't know where Volusia County is, it's a coastal county in the northeast part of Florida. And it's an interesting county geographically because not only does it have beautiful beaches on its course, but it has when you go further inland, some beautiful springs as well, which are very

00:04:36:23 - 00:04:57:12
Unknown
, very important to the wildlife in the area. Volusia County is the home of Blue Spring, is that correct? Volusia Blue and DeLeon Springs and Gemini Springs. And we have we have a bunch of them. And so Blue Spring is the most important harbor for manatees on the east coast of Florida during the winter.

00:04:57:24 - 00:05:11:05
Unknown
And it's important for that spring to be healthy. But, Jeff, I want to go back to what you said earlier about, you know, running for office. And you're not you are not you know, you're not a politician. So you never thought you'd do this and that you wouldn't vote for a politician?

00:05:12:06 - 00:05:32:14
Unknown
Who do you see? What do you see as one of the problems with what people perceive as traditional politicians right now? And what are they not doing that needs to be done in terms of the environment? Well, the problem I see is that when when you run for office, you ask for money because it's expensive to run

00:05:33:05 - 00:05:46:08
Unknown
. I hated it. And one of my I had some really smart people help me get on the campaign. And every day I would get a call from from one of them and they'd say, How many fundraising phone calls have you made today?

00:05:46:08 - 00:06:05:02
Unknown
I said, none, but I sent some emails. And so to make a long story short, we raised $85,000 for a county council seat. It was county wide, and we're a large county. We're the size of Rhode Island, 550,000 people and which which really wasn't enough money.

00:06:05:11 - 00:06:35:06
Unknown
My opponent raised $350,000, and that's pretty typical. And the people that she raised that money from were the the big large developers who were building 5000, 6000, 10,000 home development in the watersheds of the Timoko River know really important bodies of water that all that affects eventually the Indian River lagoon.

00:06:36:08 - 00:06:59:20
Unknown
So the problem is is everybody takes money and they said, well, I won't be affected by who I take the money from, but it's impossible. As human beings you are affected by who you take the money from and you start to see, well, you elect really good people with a strong moral compass, good motives, and they intend

00:06:59:20 - 00:07:12:16
Unknown
to do the right thing. And you see year by year that that it starts to change. And the way they vote is more in favor of all the things that you don't like. Instead for the things that they said we need to do, be good stewards of the environment.

00:07:12:19 - 00:07:39:21
Unknown
And and it's a furious cycle of money. And so I, I decided that our founders had it right when they said they want citizen legislators to leave the farm, leave the shop, go serve for a term, and then go home and go back to their business and live under the laws that they felt passed.

00:07:40:07 - 00:07:57:04
Unknown
And so that's what what I decided to do to to serve my time and do the best I can. But we don't you don't see that very often. You see people that are a lot younger than me that enter a city or county race.

00:07:57:04 - 00:08:17:24
Unknown
And the goal is to continue to climb the ladder, to get to the state and eventually to D.C., where the real power is and and the real money is. And I think it's a broken system. I I've always said term limits are what we do on November 2nd or third when we vote.

00:08:18:18 - 00:08:33:04
Unknown
But it's so hard to defeat that money because a lot of people just they don't pay attention. And so they vote for the name they hear the most. And so the the man or the woman with the most money gets to get their name out.

00:08:33:20 - 00:08:58:12
Unknown
So that's the problem that I see, honestly, is, is money controls politics. And and therefore, the organizations and institutions that provide the most money to politicians control politics. The biggest voice. The biggest voice. And and so one of the interesting things is a national race is clearly partizan.

00:08:58:22 - 00:09:12:08
Unknown
It's you know, it's it's got Democrats and Republicans, but local races tend to be nonpartisan. And I think that's because so many issues are just, you know, considered nonpartisan in local races. How does Volusia County work? Is it nonpartisan?

00:09:13:08 - 00:09:37:04
Unknown
It's Nonpartizan, but when you're campaigning, it's the first question everybody asks, well, what part of you in. And it's it's not it's not legal to say, you know, I'm running as a Democrat or Republican or what. And then so when you tell them you can't answer that, then they say, okay, who you vote for, for president.

00:09:39:03 - 00:09:54:14
Unknown
The whole purpose is to get the politics out of it. And what I found on a local level is that if you didn't talk, I never made a post on Facebook about national politics that I had to run during a presidential election.

00:09:55:03 - 00:10:10:04
Unknown
So you've got Joe Biden and Donald Trump running and and it's like lightning rods everywhere. I just didn't talk about I had feelings about it, but I didn't talk about it because I wanted to focus on local issues.

00:10:10:04 - 00:10:26:08
Unknown
And what I felt we had is we had Democrats and Republicans and libertarians and NPAs and Green Party people all working on my campaign because we didn't talk about that stuff and start arguments when we talked about the local issues.

00:10:26:15 - 00:10:47:19
Unknown
We all agree that was unbelievable agreement we agreed on. Water is a big issue. The quality of water and our springs and the river and the Indian River lagoon overdevelopment which affects the quality of water in our springs, the river and the Indian River lagoon, and the yearly tax increases to pay for the new development which is

00:10:47:19 - 00:11:11:04
Unknown
adversely affecting the quality of water and the rivers and springs. And it's again, it's a furious cycle, but we agree on those things. And I've I've been able to stick to that. And and so I get I'll get criticized by the people on the right for being so focused on the on the environment.

00:11:11:04 - 00:11:25:19
Unknown
And I get criticized by people on the left by being focused on property, property rights, because we do have a constitution and people do have property rights. But you know what? It's not there's not huge criticism on both sides.

00:11:25:20 - 00:11:44:15
Unknown
People, I think, are are relieved to have somebody that's speaking to the issues that they really care about on the local level. And I believe. That the government that's most important to you is the one that touches your life the most, which is your city and county governments.

00:11:44:19 - 00:12:02:09
Unknown
That's right. It sure is. Well, on a recent trip up to Volusia County where we met, I had the opportunity to drive around with some local residents who pointed out a lot of the previously pristine forest areas that are being developed now in the county.

00:12:02:10 - 00:12:19:02
Unknown
Large swaths of the county are being paved over and developed. And it makes me wonder, as a local leader, how do you see that evolving? Is that something is it is it something that can be controlled? Is it is it good for the county?

00:12:20:03 - 00:12:34:17
Unknown
What are your views on on that kind of development and what can be done about it? Well, boy, it depends on who you ask. Is it good for the county? And the saying is that you can't stop growth.

00:12:36:13 - 00:12:54:05
Unknown
I'm honestly starting to doubt that statement now because people are so fed up with it. And I keep saying that there's not a political will there and you really aren't going to stop it all. Nor do we want to, but we need to manage it and have responsible growth of the county.

00:12:54:05 - 00:13:09:21
Unknown
We do what's called smart growth. We've talked about it all day today in the Growth Management Workshop. When I ran, I was very public in saying Smart growth is really stupid. It's not working for us in Valencia County.

00:13:10:07 - 00:13:30:17
Unknown
Just one quick example. It came up today that we have tree ordinance and in land preservation ordinance that says when you develop, you can't remove more than 20% of the landscape of the trees in a year. And so I ask the question, well, who who's enforcing that?

00:13:30:17 - 00:13:46:15
Unknown
Because we're not enforcing it here in both your county. You can when you drove around, what you probably saw was these wide open expanses that were completely clear cut. That's right. Not a tree you left. And the answer came back was, well, that's in a year.

00:13:46:15 - 00:14:01:08
Unknown
I said, look, they didn't cut all these trees down over five years. It happens in one week. They come in and they're all gone. So somebody is not paying attention to the ordinance. And then it was the answer and it was an honest answer.

00:14:01:17 - 00:14:21:08
Unknown
Well, that's happening at the city level and the cities don't have the same audit. So we've got the county in the city at least of pollution need to work together. If we really are serious about preserving some of our greenbelt and wildlife habitats and wetlands that control the filters for our springs and rivers.

00:14:21:08 - 00:14:38:14
Unknown
So once you're doing your filters and your kidneys, then once your kidney dies, you die. And so go ahead. Well, one of the one of the interesting issues in Volusia County, I think, is the septic tank issue around Blue Spring State Park.

00:14:38:14 - 00:14:49:23
Unknown
Well, lose your Blue Springs State Park is the biggest harbor for manatees on the east coast of Florida and the biggest source of pollution for that spring, not for most other springs, but for Fallujah blue. It's it's septic tanks.

00:14:49:23 - 00:15:06:21
Unknown
And they were still, until very recently, allowing large developments with septic tanks. Or is that something that they're starting to the county is starting to steer away from and encourage people to do more? Central sewer. And is sewer a central sewer system the solution?

00:15:06:22 - 00:15:30:17
Unknown
What do you think? I think that that's a it's a it's a hard problem to solve. What we're doing here in the county, though, to answer your question, is we are we've actually got grants from the state. Our own county wastewater treatment plants are all we've upgraded them all to advanced wastewater treatment.

00:15:31:04 - 00:15:48:18
Unknown
And they're very efficient. And like right now where I live in DeLeon Springs, which is a very rural area, there is no utility, there is no central water, central sewer. But we're running a line up the main highway and 17 to hook up all the businesses that are.

00:15:48:21 - 00:16:09:08
Unknown
And it's right next to DeLeon Springs, a very popular spring. So we're getting people on the on the. Central sewage system that way. But at the same time, where we are improving every day, we approve more septic systems.

00:16:09:17 - 00:16:25:14
Unknown
Now, I have a I have mixed feelings about it. And here's why. I want to make sure that we're spending the money on the thing that's going to move the needle the most, the thing that's going to solve our problem, because there's only a limited amount of tax dollars.

00:16:26:01 - 00:16:47:00
Unknown
And you just said that in in in the Springs, it was Blue Springs. It was septic tanks and agriculture. Most studies I see say it's stormwater runoff, septic and then and these are agriculture and fertilizer as part of stormwater runoff.

00:16:47:04 - 00:17:08:19
Unknown
Right. I think in Volusia Blue, it's definitely septic tanks that are the primary source of pollution. Yeah, but they determine that without a test it's determined by it's an assumption and it's assumption based on pretty good evidence. If you look at a septic tank, it's gross.

00:17:09:08 - 00:17:23:10
Unknown
And they look at the number of septic tanks in a given area. And if there's a lot of septic tanks, they say, okay, well, that's that's the problem. My problem with that is we really we don't know that that's the problem.

00:17:23:10 - 00:17:42:19
Unknown
And the reason I say that is because I have actually done the test. I've done it in another section of the county and over by the sea where they were going to force all of the homeowners there, about 4000 of them, onto an already overtaxed wastewater treatment plant.

00:17:42:19 - 00:18:00:02
Unknown
And the city of Orange Beach that leaks. And when when a wastewater treatment plant leaks and has 50 year old pipes underground that are are broken. You're talking about thousands, hundreds of thousands of gallons, the septic tank. You're talking about pipes and cords that come out.

00:18:00:08 - 00:18:16:16
Unknown
And what I found in my test is that when you test not in the septic tank because you know what's there, that's not the whole system. When you when you when you test the water beneath the laterals of the septic drain field, which is what I did.

00:18:16:19 - 00:18:28:13
Unknown
And it was very limited. It was only ten different properties I would test in the middle of the yard and I would come up with a test for nitrogen. It would say almost always 80 to £90 per acre.

00:18:28:19 - 00:18:49:12
Unknown
When I would test in the drain field, it would be £4. It just wasn't there. And so then I started, I thought, well, you know, there's got to be a reason I started researching. And what I found in the research was actually companies in South Africa who are purifying drinking water in filthy ponds through basically a closed

00:18:49:12 - 00:19:10:04
Unknown
septic tank system. And they say the reason that happens is because that is the nitrogen and phosphorus. The nutrient load is a food source for bacteria. And so when it when it is trickling out of a septic drain field, it allows the bacteria to grow in population and they eat it up.

00:19:10:10 - 00:19:26:00
Unknown
And that's that's precisely what happens if you don't have a saturated soil, if you have enough oxygen in the soil, and if you have the right temperature, the bacteria and a lot of other soil microbes will eat that up.

00:19:26:00 - 00:19:44:16
Unknown
So I, I, I don't deny that septic tanks may be the problem everywhere. There's certainly a problem in low lying areas where there's saturated soil or as the the groundwater increases from either from sea level rise or rains or whatever.

00:19:47:09 - 00:20:10:14
Unknown
They don't work efficiently. I just simply want to say, let's do the tests, let's do soil tests and make sure that that's the problem because we have limited funds. I actually, to be honest, I would prefer to fix the wastewater treatment plants first so that we can then safely add more homes to it, to where they can

00:20:10:14 - 00:20:34:08
Unknown
take that added volume. And and they they don't have a breakdown and a spill idea. I don't know if you get them from the DP, but I get pollution warnings every day. And when there's a spill at a wastewater treatment plant, you're not talking you're talking thousands and hundreds of thousands of gallons and a spill.

00:20:34:09 - 00:20:50:24
Unknown
Yeah, we need to fix that before we add all these homes to it. So it's just it's not as simple answer as get all the septic tanks out and put them on the on the wastewater treatment plant. A lot of times when you centralize something, you make the problem worse.

00:20:52:07 - 00:21:07:24
Unknown
I like I like to think of Volusia County as kind of a microcosm of the challenges that Florida's facing all over the state. It's a it was until recently a smallish county in terms of population, and then the last 20 or 30 years has just grown incredibly fast.

00:21:08:07 - 00:21:22:01
Unknown
And it has its population is growing. It's it's developing quickly. It's got some very popular coastal towns and beach towns such as Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach. And and Ormond Beach, I believe, is also in Volusia County.

00:21:22:18 - 00:21:38:09
Unknown
It's growing quickly. Do you do you believe it's possible that Volusia County and other parts of Florida. You can continue to experience the kind of growth we've had for the last 30 years and not be somehow deeply impacted environmentally.

00:21:39:01 - 00:22:01:13
Unknown
No, we can't. We're not doing that right now with the amount of growth that we have. Mean, it's 1000 friends of Florida spoke at our workshop today and they they've done a lot of polling. 87% of the public right now says we're they're not happy with how we're growing, that we're not controlling it.

00:22:01:13 - 00:22:18:19
Unknown
They're tired of traffic jams. They're tired of urban sprawl. They're tired of the polluted water at the springs. Your your movie had a tremendous effect on the 200 people that were able to join us and see it. But they're all they're all citizens.

00:22:18:19 - 00:22:40:04
Unknown
They're telling everybody else about this problem. And so now every day today, I was asked when when can I see the movie? Where can I see it? Because they're they're really interested. And I think I think this is where we are, Oscar, is that people aren't just interested, but now they're ready to get involved.

00:22:40:05 - 00:22:57:08
Unknown
What can I do? And so, like in Valencia County, for instance, because of redistricting, everybody on on our county council is up for reelection, except for me. And the reason I'm not is because I'm county wide. And so we didn't change the borders of the county.

00:22:57:19 - 00:23:13:23
Unknown
I said, look, if you really want to get involved, vet these candidates, the people that are running, find out who they are, what they're about, and make your best judgment. Who are going to make the best decisions to affect growth, to affect water use in our county?

00:23:14:09 - 00:23:28:05
Unknown
Because you get to I'm going to get a completely brand new county council, four of them. There's only seven of us. Four of us. Four of them aren't coming back. They're not running. So that's the majority. I'm going to have a brand new council.

00:23:28:18 - 00:23:42:18
Unknown
So the public needs to be do their due diligence. It's time to get involved, not just complain on Facebook. And that's that's what you're doing. You're going out, you're making movies, and you're you're bringing facts to the people.

00:23:42:22 - 00:23:57:05
Unknown
But I'm seeing that all over Oscar that people are wanting to get involved. And they are they're at the point where they're so sick of it now. Now they want to do something. I'm of the opinion and I think we talked about this when we met before that.

00:23:57:17 - 00:24:11:23
Unknown
I think that Partizanship has hurt so much of these issues so badly because some of these issues they've become partizan, but they shouldn't be. And I think, you know, clean air and clean water, for example, on environmental issues, cleaner and clean water.

00:24:12:17 - 00:24:29:05
Unknown
How can that be a partizan issue? Don't are we all human? Don't we all need clean air and clean water no matter what party we vote for? And so I think I think there's a lot of room for environmental issues to be to be wrestled back from the partizan clutches and to become something that unifies people rather

00:24:29:05 - 00:24:45:16
Unknown
than divides them. I think we all we all breathe the same air. We all drink the same water, or most of us some people drink Evian, but most of us drink the same water. And and I think that it's important for people to put put aside partizanship when it comes to these issues, and at least in local

00:24:45:16 - 00:25:02:10
Unknown
races, because it's a nonpartisan race, vote for the people who are going to support these causes and who are who are champions of these issues, and so do you. So you're saying that you might be seeing a little bit of that on the ground right now, some some people who are frustrated with the current situation and who

00:25:02:10 - 00:25:17:15
Unknown
want to kind of start voting for issues that make sense. Are you seeing that? I'm definitely seeing that. And I even see it or maybe I should say I especially see it in the people because there are so many in an election year, there's so many people running.

00:25:18:00 - 00:25:31:06
Unknown
We have two kinds of candidates. We have one that are they've come from other races from from city commissions or city councils, and they have the support of all the local political people and they have all the money.

00:25:31:06 - 00:25:55:05
Unknown
And then we have people like me that ran that don't have a name and don't have any money that are also running because they think this. I honestly I think this is going to be a change election. I think this is a year for people who are gifted politicians to run and just be the voice of the

00:25:55:06 - 00:26:13:08
Unknown
people. And then they're going to have to fight the the temptation to not just get sucked in to that system because it's it's hard. You know, everybody wants to be liked. And when you're surrounded with people that are in government, you want to be one of the crowd.

00:26:13:20 - 00:26:29:15
Unknown
And you don't need to be obnoxious. You don't even need to be unfriendly. You just need to take in a an old councilmember told me this when I ran. She said, Jeff, are you going to take all of your morals, all your principles, everything that you're telling the people into every agenda meeting you have when you're.

00:26:30:21 - 00:26:43:21
Unknown
Your Commission meetings. And when you sit on that dais, you need to remember who put you there because they're going to try and make you feel like an absolute fool if you don't vote the way that they tell you to vote.

00:26:44:07 - 00:27:05:08
Unknown
And there's a lot of truth to that. So. Yeah. So, so, so the way you've often bucked the status quo and consensus opinion in your in your meetings. Tell me about that experience being kind of oftentimes a lone dissenter who is maybe speaking reason, but yet not backed by the big money.

00:27:06:17 - 00:27:21:12
Unknown
How is that a challenge? Tell me about that challenge. It's. It's it's probably my biggest surprise, Oscar. And it's not that it came. I just thought if somebody warned me it was coming, but it's not coming. Who they told me it would come from.

00:27:21:20 - 00:27:39:06
Unknown
And they said it would come from the staff that I deal with. And the staff doesn't agree with me on everything, but they agree with me on on a lot of what I came here with. And I don't think it's just because, you know, I can't go in and fire anybody.

00:27:39:06 - 00:27:51:03
Unknown
The council can fire the county manager or the county attorney. So you would think, well, they're going to they're going to suck up or be nice. I think we really agree on a lot of things. And there in fact, I know that we do.

00:27:51:03 - 00:28:08:23
Unknown
And they are begging the council to please give. I think we can't do a thing until you give us direction and then we go to work and get it done by where I'm where I'm getting pushback is not from staff, it's from five other council people or four other council people.

00:28:09:05 - 00:28:29:14
Unknown
It's I'm frequently a five to vote and I'm one of the two or a61 vote, and I'm doing exactly what I campaigned on. It's no surprise to anybody. In fact, I've got people in the public. After every meeting I get emails and say, Why don't you just come out against what you're for?

00:28:29:14 - 00:28:43:20
Unknown
And then everybody else will vote because they just want to oppose you. They don't want you to have a victory. And that's that sounds crazy, but there's some truth to it, and it is starting to change a little bit now.

00:28:43:20 - 00:28:59:12
Unknown
But that's where my opposition is. It's political opposition, not from the start. It takes courage to go against the grain and to take a stand for issues you believe in. And it just it's it's not common in politics.

00:28:59:12 - 00:29:12:19
Unknown
It's exactly as you said. I think most people fall in line either with party or with popular opinions among people who got them elected with money. But when they take a stand, when people take a stand, I think constituents notice.

00:29:13:06 - 00:29:28:03
Unknown
So have you felt that you may not be popular within your commission, within your you know, you're within the dais area among your colleagues, but how about among the the general public? Have you have you noticed that people are receptive to what you're standing for?

00:29:29:03 - 00:29:43:16
Unknown
There's no doubt about it, absolutely. And that's what keeps me going. I mean, after every meeting, I get emails from people that say, please don't give up. We appreciate what you're doing. That's why I'm not going anywhere. I'm not giving up.

00:29:43:22 - 00:30:00:04
Unknown
Give me a new council. So to work with. But the public is absolutely noticing. You can see it on our local Facebook pages in groups and the house next door. People are talking about it today after a workshop.

00:30:00:08 - 00:30:14:11
Unknown
I had a woman, I don't even know who she is. She she knew me and she came up and she was thanking me for having the workshop. And I didn't do all the work for, you know, staff put in a tremendous amount of work.

00:30:15:14 - 00:30:36:18
Unknown
But she started crying and say, I so appreciate what you're doing and I'm so glad that you're keeping our voice and that you haven't betrayed us. And you could just see it in her eyes that she didn't expect that she expected the same old thing that we're used to getting when we vote for people.

00:30:36:18 - 00:30:55:00
Unknown
That's why I think it can be a year for change that people, if people will run, that was just like me, just and every and every man and any man or woman and and then actually keep their word.

00:30:55:12 - 00:31:22:24
Unknown
So, yeah, I I'm not getting pushback from from many in in the public. There's always you're never going to please everybody. But I'm overwhelmed with emails and encouragement from people. What would you say to other local leaders or on Florida in local governments, whether it's a municipality or a county who may want to vote against the green

00:31:22:24 - 00:31:32:23
Unknown
and stand for things like this but are afraid to, what would you say to them? I'd say vote. Do you have children? Do you have grandchildren? Do you want your children to be able to choose to stay here?

00:31:33:07 - 00:31:39:17
Unknown
And if they choose to stay here, are they going to be able to afford a place to live? Are they going to be able to drink the water or are they going to be able to eat the fish?

00:31:40:01 - 00:31:58:08
Unknown
Are they going to be able to store coal at any of our springs? There's already one, as you know, Gemini Springs, you can't swim in anymore because of bacteria levels so high. So I think you just have to keep it in perspective of of the effects that you have, because it's not just one day's vote.

00:31:58:18 - 00:32:16:13
Unknown
The votes that we took today and the decisions we made today will go on for generations affect. One of the things that a citizen brought up today is you're dealing with developed. That were approved 30 years ago and what was approved 30 years ago.

00:32:17:09 - 00:32:34:00
Unknown
The conditions are completely different now and the concerns that we have. What we're doing with the stormwater, if we follow the plan that was approved, then we're derelict in our duty. We're polluting the environment and it's it's almost impossible to change.

00:32:34:00 - 00:32:52:07
Unknown
But we have to try. We have to try and not just use the excuse of, well, everybody has our private property rights. There are private property rights. But in America, we've always said that my right stop at your doorstep where my rights interfere with your quality of life or your safety or your health.

00:32:52:19 - 00:33:08:10
Unknown
I may have the freedom to do within that. That's freedom. But then there's this thing called liberty and it says, Should I do the things it does liberty allow me to do that without hurting you. And in this case, what's happening in Florida?

00:33:09:00 - 00:33:24:23
Unknown
What? Because we all drink from the same aquifer. You know that better than anybody. We have a common aquifer. And what we do here, we're polluting our aquifer. I'm not just affecting Volusia County. I'm affecting Tampa. Tampa, it's affecting us.

00:33:25:08 - 00:33:49:11
Unknown
South Florida, it's all over. So it's we we have to keep that perspective that it's everybody's water. Florida is an unbelievably beautiful place to live, and we have a duty to be good stewards and to protect that and that I know I just keep trying to hammer that home to the other candidates that are running and some

00:33:49:11 - 00:34:01:16
Unknown
of them get it. And some of them look at me like I have a third eye in the middle of that. Jeff, you mentioned when we started the interview that your best crop is your kids think something like that.

00:34:02:14 - 00:34:16:18
Unknown
When I met you, I remember you saying that you're the father of ten children. You have a big family, nine, nine, nine children. You have a big family. And and so I think it's it's it's a good question to ask you, because you have nine children of a big family.

00:34:16:18 - 00:34:34:00
Unknown
What do you see in the future for your children for their children in Florida? Are they are they going to have a place to live in Florida? Is Florida going to be below sea level in certain parts? Are we going to turn a corner and awaken and realize that we can destroy everything?

00:34:34:17 - 00:34:50:18
Unknown
What do you see in the future? What's your what's your both your vision and your hope? Well, I'm a dreamer. I when a ran I I, I believe in the best of people. And but I've already said it to you.

00:34:52:01 - 00:35:07:00
Unknown
I see people becoming aware. You saw you saw the effect that your movie had. You saw the grown man, a big, burly man who stood up in the back of that theater and cried because that's where he was married.

00:35:07:17 - 00:35:28:19
Unknown
It's Gemini Springs, wasn't it? That's right. And he's he's a public he's the elected commissioner from that area. And people are are getting it. And it's affecting them more than just up here. It's affecting your heart. And when we get those two things together, we there's real power, too.

00:35:29:08 - 00:35:50:23
Unknown
But so so, yes, I believe we can have a future. But we don't have any more time to waste. It's not. We're done screwing around and dealing on the outskirts of issues. And today's the bottom line of every day of the eight hour meeting was the worst possible outcome.

00:35:50:23 - 00:36:08:15
Unknown
On one hand, we form a a grain, not a blue ribbon, but a green ribbon panel. And I thought, oh, my God. And I said that from the diocese, this is the worst possible outcome. So instead of taking the responsibility for the elected officials, we're going to form this panel and we're going to let them go and

00:36:08:15 - 00:36:24:07
Unknown
study this. We don't need any more studies. Go study it. And but the but the bright spot of it was the woman they put in charge of it. She's one of our staff. And I will talk to her every week and say what's what's happening?

00:36:24:08 - 00:36:37:18
Unknown
And then we got the agreement from them because I kept saying, we have a council meeting next week, bring some of these issues back so that we can actually vote on them and make them policy. So they're going to start that next week.

00:36:38:08 - 00:36:57:20
Unknown
We have it's so easy to for a politician elected an elected person to go through a meeting and you talk about things and then feel like, okay, because we talked about it, we did something we accomplished and you don't you've got to keep pushing.

00:36:57:21 - 00:37:20:22
Unknown
Got to keep pushing because the the natural resistance of of men and women is to take the easiest. It's just like water. You take the easiest trail out. And I, I do think that that we will be able to preserve Florida and make it keep it a beautiful place to live.

00:37:22:22 - 00:37:38:06
Unknown
But I don't want to sound overdramatic or honestly. The way I feel right now is we're one election away from it. It could go it could go either way. And, you know, we're one generation away from it, maybe.

00:37:40:06 - 00:37:59:16
Unknown
So what you're doing is so critical to me and other people that are trying to get real facts out to the to the public because, you know, where do you get your news from? These people get their news from Facebook more than they do from from terrorism.

00:38:00:05 - 00:38:14:21
Unknown
Oh, yes, it's. But, yes, there is hope. But the hope requires people get involved and don't just sit back and say, well, we elected these people to do it and then not hold us accountable. We we need to hear from you.

00:38:14:21 - 00:38:31:16
Unknown
We need the complaints and the encouragement or and we need people like you doing what what you're doing. Well, Jeff, on that note, I think it's been a great interview. I want to thank you, Jeff Brower, Volusia County chairman, for joining me today for this interview.

00:38:32:01 - 00:38:46:00
Unknown
And I wish you the best, Jeff. Good luck out there. Thank you, Oscar. I appreciate what you do. This episode of The Nature of Florida podcast was brought to you in part by the Feldman Foundation, the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida and Explica Media.

00:38:46:02 - 00:39:01:00
Unknown
If you're enjoying this podcast, remember to subscribe on our website. The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral, Dot Bus, Broadcom. That's the nature of Florida with Oscar Corral, dot bus, Broadcom. Or find us on your favorite platform and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.