Newly appointed Collier County Manager Amy Patterson and Naples City Manager Jay Boodheshwar shared their vision and goals with the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.
Patterson was appointed Collier County’s first woman manager by the county commissioners in June. She was born and raised in Naples and has been working with the county since 2000, being involved with the impact fee program for 14 years. She is the former director of capital project planning, impact fees and program management and then was deputy county manager for a year. Patterson now oversees a net budget of $1.8 billion across 2,164 employees as county manager.
Boodheshwar was sworn in as city manager in May and resides in Palm Beach where he previously served as deputy town manager since 2015. He plans to move to the Naples area within the next few weeks.
Boodheshwar explained to the chamber his vision, as a public servant, is defined by the vision of the entire community. “I really take it seriously that my job is to make sure that I learn firsthand from my team and from the community to effectively deliver the vision of the city of Naples,” he said.
Looking ahead as Collier County celebrates 100 years of establishment next year, Boodheshwar wants to make sure that management is at its highest performance by learning the area’s brand and immersing himself in all aspects of the governmental entity. “If you don’t have an environment that fosters and encourages communication, risk taking, innovation, it doesn’t work,” he said. “So, I wanted to make sure that was clear early on, that my value is not in our department heads, of course I need them to be successful, but the greatest assets are the people in the front lines.”
Cultivating and empowering the government workforce is also one of Patterson’s primary focuses as job openings are plaguing the county. “[Employees] are looking at shorter terms, it’s not looking at ‘I’m going to be in the same career for 20 or 30 years,’” Patterson said. “People are looking at five-year increments or smaller. They want to be able to work differently, work flexibly, and government is not known for being super flexible.”
Another goal of Patterson’s is to maintain what people love about Collier County as more people move here from around the country. “This is a wonderful, wonderful place, people are here, they choose to be here, people are moving here because they want to be here,” she said. “We need to preserve that character and that beauty that is Collier County.”
When asked about the government’s role in helping grow the economy and promote jobs, Patterson noted a vital element is creating policies and programs to incentivize businesses to come to the county.
“Economic development has been difficult here. We are at the bottom of a peninsula, we have essentially one road in viably for business, I-75 in and out, and we are challenged by our neighbor to the north that has an international airport,” Patterson said. “And they have a lot of industrial type of land and zoning and they’re a little bit more flexible than we are. So, we need to start to think about the types of businesses that grow here and how do we continue to encourage them to come here and grow here.”
Approaching the well-known housing issue is what Patterson believes could be a key to further economic growth and success. “If we continue with the model that everyone can just live someplace else and commute in here, it will eventually be so unsustainable that the cost of everything will go up,” she said. “And you will start to really see the pressure of that as well as the impacts on the character of this community. Part of what makes this community great is the people that work here and live here and love this community, and we want to continue to find ways to embrace that.”
As the city of Naples undoubtedly continues to grow each year, Boodheshwar sees the biggest opportunity and challenge of the area to be one in the same.
“The challenge and the opportunity are really the same thing; it’s the fact that Naples and Collier County is more on the map than ever before,” Boodheshwar said. “It’s just that this community has always been known as a very high profile, I wouldn’t say cosmopolitan, but a known brand in the state of Florida and in the country. But Collier County is at risk of becoming Palm Beach County.”
Boodheshwar feels that, for this area not become more like the east coast, all the local municipalities need to start collaborating more proactively to aim toward that same goal.
“As far as the challenge, it is the opportunity here in Collier, where the city of Naples, city of Marco Island and Collier County can work together to maintain the specialness of this community without going super vertical, without eliminating the view of the Gulf with towers and clogged roads,” he said. “If we don’t work together, I fear that that’s the outcome.”