Candidate Spotlight – Melissa “Mel” Martin City of Cocoa City Council District 3

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Every candidate is given the opportunity to answer our candidate questionnaire. Below are the answers to the question this candidate chose to answer as submitted.

Political Party: Nonpartisan

Education:

US Naval Academy, Barry University School of Law

Office Running For: Cocoa City Council, District 3

Email: melforcocoa@gmail.com

Current Employment: Adjunct Law Professor, Barry University School of Law

Are you a veteran? If so, which branch and rank?: Major, US Marine Corps (Retired)

Where are you from: Longwood, Florida (just outside Wekiwa Springs State Park)

Why are you running: I’ve come to realize that real people, real issues and real change are local. After begging elected officials these last few years to listen to the science and evidence of matters, to work in the public’s interest on critical aspects of our health, safety and well-being, and after witnessing a continued and growing disconnect at the State and Federal levels, I decided to focus on my own community.

When my family decided where in Florida we would put our roots down after retiring from the military, the City of Cocoa provided what we were looking for; from the Village to its affordability, from its proximity to the lagoon, beaches and nature parks, to its beautiful diversity of people and perspectives. Cocoa is a place rich in both history and potential. I love our new home, and hope to have the honor of helping with its next steps.

What are your top three priorities if you are elected:

1. TRUST. Do what it takes to establish rapport in the public/local government relationship. I call it integrity of process, but it’s all about good government: eliminating fraud, waste and abuse of authority; keeping things transparent and readily accessible to any concerned citizen; to ensure thorough accountability for any breach of trust. This is what my Marine Corps (Judge Advocate) career was about, so I plan to carry on.

2. TRANSFORM. With large-scale circumstances continuing to change, pandemics here, mass unemployment there, we need routine discussions on how to best prepare for and respond to what life throws at us, to mitigate and hopefully prevent harm and damages to our residents and visitors. “Sustainability” is, to me, synonymous with long-term responsibility. We cannot and should not depend on the State or Federal governments to come to our rescue, so we must prepare, adapt and overcome, together.

3. THRIVE. I want to see Cocoa flourish; not just pockets of Cocoa, all of Cocoa. This is where we must reflect on our best resources (people) and other assets (our academic, history and science institutions, including Florida’s solar energy center, and our industrial area…to name a few) and do three things. First, remind ourselves WHY Cocoa should thrive. Second, HOW we should thrive, and finally, WHAT that looks like. With the right vision and energy, rooted in and from the community, we can invite the right (smart) growth in the right places, provide the right incentives for green and redevelopment and connect Cocoa workers with training, education and emerging tech and industries right where we live. It’s not so much about reinventing ourselves; it’s more like remembering a shared dream we all have, and working towards that.

What do you think is the number 1 problem in your district related to the office you are running for:

In my research and understanding of District 3’s issues, I don’t really see a problem as much as I see a line of inquiries and decision points that need to be made sooner than later. The future land use maps show that this District will experience more and more growth, especially residential development, so I intend to ensure that such plans will not harm the interests of current residents (by way of congestion, resources, schools, infrastructure, etc.) while conserving sufficient green spaces for the sake of our surrounding wetland ecosystems and those of us who enjoy being in nature. So, all of these issues will be on my radar as we listen to the residents and experts on how to best shape District 3’s future.

How will you involve your constituents in your decision making: In addition to normal means of contact and public comments before/during a city council meeting, I will invite feedback and perspectives, create listening sessions on various topics and routine town halls. My door will not just be open, I’ll be routinely calling out and around to hear from our residents and business owners. It’s important to maintain a good read on the pulse of your community, and not just wait for problems to crop up.

The ironic beauty of being a representative is that, while you may come in with your own opinions and issue positions, a good public servant listens to all facts and considerations before making a decision, based on a simple standard: how to best protect, promote and represent the community’s voice and interests.

Do you plan to run for a higher office: No, thank you. My thoughts, intentions, concerns and ideas are with and for the City of Cocoa for the foreseeable future.

How will you address infrastructure in your district:

Simple. Have a thorough understanding of what is and a thorough understanding of what should be; move the needle accordingly. Based on these last few years of following various issues and watching Cocoa’s staff and employees at work — from water to public works, power to plans and zoning, I look forward to learning from and working with these professionals. 

I’ve also had the privilege of being a member of Cocoa’s Sustainability Advisory Committee for about a year now, and have witnessed the magnitude of work and careful planning it takes to ensure residents and businesses get the reliable structures and services they deserve. I’m excited to see how the proposed sustainability initiatives will be incorporated and implemented in the upcoming budget and plan revisions.

How will you address crime in your district?

I will have to start with a comprehensive understanding of what’s going on, how it’s going on, and why. I hope to learn from the law enforcement experts and their wealth of experience on such matters, along with the community’s elders and advocates who can help explain various trends or behaviors, and importantly, needs. Here again, I do have my own opinions on general topics within the field of “crime,” but I will reserve my specific answers until I gain a knowledge-grasp of as much truth of the issues in Cocoa as possible.

How will you address affordable housing?

I’d like to learn about the “delta” first in Cocoa; where and how much affordable housing we’re lacking. That will drive my follow-on steps to ensure sufficient funding streams and incentive programs are available to help mitigate if not fix the problem. District 3’s designated development areas may very well hold some of these answers.

Attached at the hip to this is the issue of public transportation. Are bus routes sufficiently (and safely) serving the needs of our working population? How much does the lack of stops / hours of operation affect the ability to work in / from Cocoa? Attached to the other hip is availability of good, stable jobs within a reasonable commute. So in all, I’m afraid I have more questions than answers at this point.

How will you address environmental concerns in your district?: Vehemently. I hope to be able to use my recent experience over the last five years of environmental advocacy; not just about water quality (storm water runoff, fertilizers, septic tanks, sewage treatment issues), but also overall groundwater flow, soil health and wetland conservation issues. I hope to not only fully understand but help impart the understanding of the ecosystems in and around Cocoa, especially District 3; the permitted pollution, the affected wildlife, the implicated hazards to human and pet health, etc. 

There is certainly a lot to talk about, and I feel local governments especially have a sacred trust to protect and promote our community, holistically, to include in large part our environment. Incidentally, this is why home rule authority, for me, is a critical issue to clear up and protect against Tallahassee’s crazy “goings-on.” I believe in the people’s right to local self-government.

Why are you a better choice than your opponents:

Not to speak ill of my opponent or toot my own horn, but I am confident that I will bring all of my knowledge, skills and experience to bear on behalf of and in service to the City of Cocoa and those I represent in District 3. I’d vote for me. My husband said he’d vote for me, too, so that’s two.

What is your past political experience:

Well, I’m proud of the grassroots campaigns I was involved with in 2016 (to pass the half-cent sales tax to fund critical projects for the Indian River Lagoon) and 2018 (to serve as the Florida Senator for District 14). One was a bit more successful than the other, but I have no regrets. I met so many incredible people along the way and learned a lot about how things work, and perhaps don’t work…intentionally(?) That’s a whole other discussion. Regardless, the experience helped to shape my understanding of where I should best use my time and energy, with my own community.

Opponents and the media research public records, police reports, credit information and do other background checks in an effort to discover tax liens, lawsuits, arrest records and other unfortunate things. Are there any issues your opponent could use against you that you wish to disclose:

(*shrugged shoulders emoji) No.

Are there any other comments you’d like to make?

To clarify my party affiliation up top, while I’m registered with the Democratic Party, I’m running for a nonpartisan seat, so this is a nonpartisan campaign.

No matter whom you vote for or what party you may be registered with, if any, please encourage your circles of friends and relatives to learn and discuss the important issues and VOTE; register to vote by mail (www.votebrevard.com) if you haven’t already. 

Thank you for taking the time to read through my answers, and goodness — even generously throwing a few bucks in support! Wow, did not expect that! 🙂 Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns you’d like to relay.

Please list any websites or social media links to your campaign if you have any:
www.MelforCocoa.org
www.facebook.com/melforcocoa