Q&A with the county commission candidates

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Posted July 21, 2022 |

Question: What boards or committees have you served on and what lessons did you take away from those experiences- either good or bad?

District 4

Brian Donnelly

I was elected 3 times to the Manchester Massachusetts Planning Board. I served for 9 years – 6 as Chairman – and I did it for free. Before I was elected the town was in debt, had no impact fees, residents were unhappy with developers coming in and getting whatever they wanted by a board that was in the pocket of developers, construction companies and real estate firms. Sound familiar?

I convinced my Board members that we needed to do a Master Plan – a plan that was an expression of the will of all residents. Over a 3-year period we meet with all town agencies and all residents. We listened and we heard what people wanted, what they didn’t want and how they wished to see their community built and managed in the future.

We revamped all zoning and subdivision rules and regulations. We developed and passed well over 80 resolutions during a town meeting that lasted 2 nights. All motions were passed unanimously except on the last vote when 1 person said no. I asked them why and they said – Brian – we never could have done this without you but I just had to say no on the last one because it was just all too perfect.


Keith Poole

I have sat on several boards for private entities and for Marion County. The two boards for Marion County were the “License Review Board” known as the LRB and the “Affordable Housing Committee known as “AHAC”. Each of these opportunities allowed me to see how county government works from behind the scenes.

As a LRB member you get to hear cases that are brought against contractors by citizens and by county staff. It allows for a checks and balance system for all parties involved to present their case and receive a fair and impartial review to determine an outcome. Many times, the cases are intricate and require knowledgeable members to derive the best solutions.

As a AHAC member the committee is charged with determining the need for affordable housing and deriving a plan to implement the recommendations to help obtain affordable housing. This committee spends many hours gathering data and formulating a plan to achieve this goal. As member of this committee, we saw the short comings in the community and the need to work together with public/private partnerships to meet this need. Unfortunately, this committee was met with resistance from previous county commissioners and the recommendations were not implemented. We are hopeful that will change in the future. The county has a renewed interest in this issue, whether it be because of an election year or they see the true need for affordable housing, we are happy to have this discussion and look forward to providing this opportunity to the citizens of Marion County.

Rachel Sams

From adolescence on I’ve held some sort of leadership role within the committee and/or boards I’ve been involved in. Early on, at ages 11-16, I held roles of Secretary, Treasurer, V.P. and President in Future Farmers of America (FFA). I acquired the skills of Roberts Rules of Order for Parliamentary Procedure, both important present-day. Into adulthood, I’m active on boards with Our Hearts Align, Inc. (board), BNI/Business Networking International (Vice-President and Visitor Host), Ocala Youth Opportunity (Advisory), OMCHC (Fundraising), Marion County Board of Adjustments and Variances (chair alternate), and Ocala’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s (committee).

Each of these organizations have very different missions and visions, but the lessons and experiences reveal critical fact: everyone on a team has a specific duty and must be carried out to make the process work effectively, one person can’t carry the burden of an entire organization, as a leader you can’t be afraid to delegate. As a realist and a human, I’ve never participated in a committee that ran flawlessly on the first shot, however I try to see the positive in each situation, so some of the experiences may have been “bad”, but I’ve used those as learning lessons to make the next opportunity to be better. When looking at all of my experiences, I’ve found that they have made me a better team player, insight to others’ opinions (whether I agreed or disagreed), learned to be fair and objective, and ultimately, see that our community have people who want to be involved.


Carl Zalak

My first board experience begins in the Church. Through a desire to create a space where my USF teammates would be comfortable learning about God, I ended up on Crossover Church’s board of elders in my early twenties. I stayed on that board for nearly a decade. My dream became a reality, and Crossover still uses the leadership classes, DJ booth, and baptismal that I contributed. My takeaway from serving at Crossover was that what we do for a community lasts longer and matters more than what we do for ourselves. The experience changed my life.

I have learned that being on a board is not the same as running your own company. As a small business owner, I know that an executive can call the shots in a hurry, but big board room projects take time. It took years to go from the potholes of the past and into the $100,000,000 roads infrastructure that is now on its way.

Today, our families and freedoms are being attacked, so I have joined more boards to help protect them. I am fighting for you as the Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, representing Marion County’s way of life on the Florida Association of County’s Board of Directors, and protecting Americans on NACO’s Cyber Security committee. I also serve on the Children’s Alliance and Marion County’s Senior Services. If you vote to keep Carl Zalak on the board August 23rd, Marion County will keep the things we must not lose.

Seth Posner who is also running for District 4 did not answer the question.


District 2

Gina Capone

I have not served on any boards or committees in service to other organizations. As a private business owner in publishing and informational services, I create a space for others to work, directly with me or as an independent contractor with my company.

As a government writer, I have reported on boards and committees.

As I observe these boards and committees in my work, I can see the benefits when the people involved are transparent, have a gift of service, create a balanced space for debate and decision making, and the work is embraced by the community or members of the organization.

I believe people are innately good. Organizations have a tendency; however, of becoming morphed into obsolete entities that begin well but cave in, when individual power, overrides the good of the group. When someone becomes too big for their britches, begins taking advantage of their post, tries to bully or move against the desire of the group, complications arise.

For the good of any organization, whether it is the government, BOCC, private entity or a non-profit, the success of an organization is going to rely solely on the individuals that encompass it. When serving on a board or committee, an individual must be complete with the knowledge of who they are. An individual must know what they are taking on and what steadiness they can bring. A democracy of any kind, envelopes all sides, all voices, all inspirations and embraces the heart of the organization. It is important that each person does their inner spiritual work, so that each day, the optimum goals are achievable, and the organization can thrive for the members of the group – the community.

Kathy Bryant who is also running for District 2 declined to participate in interview questions until after the primary election.