LABELLE — Lake Okeechobee News and Caloosa Belle Independent reached out to candidates running for Hendry County Board of County Commissioners and Hendry County School District in the Aug. 23, 2022, primary elections.
Hendry County BOCC candidates were invited to respond to the same questions regarding their candidacy.
Below are the responses from Republican Matt Rentz, who is running for District 2 commissioner against Republican Emory Howard.
1. What issues do you find most pressing in Hendry County today and how will you address them?
Infrastructure and Involvement. The infrastructure system in Hendry County and our two cities are outdated, beyond capacity and failing. Instead of crying poor while waiting for the state to send assistance after referring to us as Flint, Fla. or a disaster site, we need to take action and address it now. Don’t tell me that all of us here in Hendry County can’t afford to take care of ourselves, I know we can if we commit to it. Offering discounts to investors in hopes of “building our tax base” already does not generate enough to provide for our infrastructure needs as a whole. We must look at other ways of generating the revenue we need.
Involvement is an issue I am passionate about. We have a very large and underserved community in Hendry County because those in power have either disregarded them or told them at one time their input wasn’t wanted. I’m here to tell you it only gets better if we all have an equal seat at the table. This is where “Our Hendry. Our Home!” comes from. If you live in Hendry County, you have a RIGHT to be heard and I want your input and involvement.
2. How do you propose Hendy County manage the rapid population growth?
By committing to the studies that we paid for, instead of shelving them. The only way to handle growth, rapid or gradual, is through planning. It is always better to be proactive instead of reactive. We KNOW the growth that is happening now. We KNOW the growth that is coming. In 20 years, we can be the community that continued band-aiding and duct taping ourselves together, or we can design what we want to look like in twenty years, and develop into it. I like to use an analogy of building and opening a new school as an example. Do you want a school that is overcapacity the moment it opens its doors and needs a whole wing of portables? Or do you want the school that was built for projected growth and can house all the local students for years to come. That is the eye that we need to have for all county business: what are we going to need in five years, not how do we survive right now.
3. Do you support developer impact fees?
Absolutely. Investors consider impact fees a cost of doing business. And there is no direct correlation between investment in a community and a lack of impact fees. We know that to be true. Developers were not building left and right here when the market was bad. Our lack of impact fees did not spark development or growth. Development started again when the market was good. Since then, Hendry County has lost millions in impact fees and will probably lose out on millions more before they reimplement them. Tied into that is the fact that our tax base currently does not generate enough revenue to satisfy our infrastructure maintenance needs, let alone build new infrastructure. Developers are going to have to chip in towards our growing demands by paying impact fees.
4. How important do you think it is to have a balance of residential and commercial growth in Hendry County?
Very important. However, to be more specific, I believe a balance between residential and job growth to be more important. The reason I believe it is more important is because I do not want Hendry County to become a bedroom community, i.e., a community where people live but commute elsewhere to work. We have bedroom communities around us here in southwest Florida and they are riddled with crime and other unwanted community problems. A strong focus on living here and working here is the only way we grow in a healthy way.
5. What city do you reside in?
LaBelle, my familial home.
6. What is your employment?
I am a transactional attorney, a real estate broker associate, and the play-by-play announcer with WAFC FM for the LaBelle Cowboys Varsity Football Team.
7. Have you run for political office before?
8. What organizations do you belong to, if any?
Felda Baptist Church, Member
LaBelle Longhorns Booster Club, Inc., President, Head Coach & Member for five years
LaBelle Downtown Revitalization Corporation, Vice President, Member for four years
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Suncoast, Big Brother for five years
Hendry Glades Leadership Alumni Association, 2019 Class President
Glades Media, WAFCFM Pure Country’s Voice of the LaBelle Cowboys, three years
9. Family information if desired: Married with four (4) children, ages 12, 9, 6, 1, and 2 dogs.
10. Campaign website link: N/A. Editor’s note: Mr. Rentz’ campaign information may be found on his Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/MattRentzHendryBOCC2
11. What are you going to bring to the table as a Hendry County commissioner?
Fairness and Openness. Government only works if we are fair and open with each other. I am running for county commissioner in District 2 because I want everybody to feel comfortable with engaging their local government. Everybody has a voice, and they are all equal. That is what our American system of government is based on. Just as importantly, I want to make sure decisions are made for the right reasons. I am not beholden to any person, business, or small collection thereof. That is something that our district needs, and I know I am the right person for the job. Lastly, this is not a retirement position for me. I am not looking to earn more time in the Florida Retirement System (FRS) or have a nice comfy “in-charge” role to finish out my career. Following from that, I only intend to pursue two (2) terms if elected. County government representative should not be a career. You are going to get my best for eight (8) years if you want it! In anticipation of the workload, I recently added two employees to my firm in preparation for all the time I plan on devoting to my role as county commissioner if elected. Without a doubt, I will treat it as my full-time job. Moreover, I have already been regularly attending Hendry BOCC meetings, City of LaBelle meetings and Hendry-LaBelle Recreation Board meetings for a couple years. I am aware of the workload because I have been present and paying attention, in addition to my career workload and volunteering activities. Nobody is going to outwork me.
If you want someone who is willing and able to devote all the time and energy required to guide our county’s development, vote Matt Rentz on August 23.