By: M.C. Reyes, Editor-in-Chief.
Davenport - For much of his childhood, Brandon's mother was a single working mom. Despite wonderful support from his grandparents, she still worked her fingers to the bone to provide for her family and, somehow, managed to achieve work-life balance. As he grew up, Brandon realized that their story wasn't uncommon and that many people were not nearly as blessed as they were. He then realized that we all can be advocates for families like that and make a real difference in their lives that can have a compounding effect on their futures. And it was due to that experience that he made it his goal to utilize his privilege to support the most vulnerable members of his community and to create an environment where they can thrive and pursue their dreams. We had the pleasure of interviewing Brandon, and this is what he shared with us:
NEPG: What's your position, and how long have you been in that position?
Brandon: I am a City Commissioner for the City of Davenport, Seat 2, and have held the office since I was elected to it in April 2018.
NEPG: What are your main responsibilities?
Brandon: As a whole, the City Commission is responsible for the long-range planning and vision of the city, being the voice of the city's residents. We pass all of the ordinances of the city, annually approve the city's budget, and are responsible for the city's three charter employees, the City Manager, City Clerk, and City Attorney, whom the remaining 50+ employees of the city report up to. Individually, I represent the city on other local boards like the Polk Transportation Planning Organization and the Central Florida MPO Alliance, as well as at other functions. It is also my responsibility to remain in touch with residents and their concerns and needs.
NEPG: How do you manage the different personalities among your staff to make an impact not only in their professional lives but also in their personal lives?
Brandon: We are very fortunate to have a dedicated city staff that works very well together, as well as a Commission that is cordial and complementary in the way it works. Even when we disagree on policy or direction, we don't take it personally and always put our residents first. When we are working together for that common goal, it's easy to be gracious while still advocating for what is right. For our city employees, I recognize that they are our city's most valuable resource and believe that, if we take care of them, then they will take care of our residents. We have recently started an employee pension program that will make sure they are provided for and have done a compensation study to begin bringing pay scales in line with the market. I also worked with staff to make sure non-discrimination for all people was included in the city's employment practices. I have been fortunate to work for a company that puts its employees first in giving us the ability to focus on our personal lives and I have been an advocate for our employees asking staff to look into opportunities to provide similar benefits for things like paid sick, bereavement, and child bonding leave, family health-care coverage, and educational opportunities.
NEPG: Tell us a little bit about your family and how you manage your professional and personal life without allowing one to affect the other.
Brandon: Because my role on the City Commission is not a full-time job, I have to balance it with both my home life and my regular job as a system engineer at Disney. I could not do this without the support of my husband, especially, since the birth of our son in January. We were lucky that our adoption journey happened much faster than for most, but with that came the added responsibilities of a new parent. For me, family always comes first, and part of that is making sure I am able to support them with my day job as well as creating a better community for them through my work on the Commission. I use the little bit of compensation I receive for my work on the Commission to go toward hired help to assist with work around the house I might otherwise do myself so that I can focus on the city and my family, and it doesn't all fall back on my husband. In turn, my husband has readily stood beside me picking up the slack and making sure I had the time and space I need to prepare for, focus on, and attend important meetings, and he and my son both have always been there to prop me up when outcomes didn't go quite as I hoped. I am also blessed to have a job that has offered me great flexibility in doing my work and values the importance of serving the community.
NEPG: What message would you like to pass to your community, especially in moments when some of them may be losing trust and faith in their leaders and may see some of their leaders as their "enemies" instead of allies?
Brandon: I would like our residents to know that the two meetings a month they see us at for the Commission is just a small fraction of the work we individually put in behind the scenes working with staff and going through potential scenarios. Some individuals have this idea that we were put in place to do the will of the people, but we were elected to do what is best for the community and we take that responsibility very seriously. We do a lot of research and ask a lot of questions to understand how all of the back-end pieces work to deliver the services that residents expect. Many times we have to make tough choices that may not seem like they make much sense now, but are done to make things better in the future. Most importantly, I'm always happy to talk with residents about these decisions and their concerns because their feedback is important to me and a factor in that decision-making process. This is why I do monthly Chats with a Commissioner, as well as make myself available via email, phone, Facebook, and Twitter.