By Jim Hunt
I recently was contacted to do some leadership training in the city of Port St. Lucie, Florida. As I investigated it further, I discovered that Port St. Lucie is one of the fastest growing cities in the country and is nearing a quarter of a million residents. The amazing thing about the city is that in 1960, the population was only 300 people. It is difficult to handle that much growth for any city, but starting from basically nothing, it is remarkable.
The Mayor and City Council are doing a great job of putting the pieces together to build a truly Amazing city. They recently competed for the National Civic League’s All American City designation and made it to the top twenty finalists. While they didn’t finish in the top ten, the effort was one that put everyone on notice that Port St. Lucie is a city on the move.
I scheduled Zoom interviews with the Mayor and City Council prior to my visit to the city for a half day leadership session. The city is operated under the Council-Manager form of government and has a mayor, vice-mayor and three councilmembers. As might be expected, the mayor and council are extremely busy dealing with infrastructure needs, strategic planning and a thousand other issues that crop up in one of the top 100 cities in America. I was pleased that each member of council took the time for the interview and spent over an hour discussing the city and their backgrounds.
As the trip to Port St. Lucie neared, I read dozens of documents, news stories, and other information about the city. I also watched several videos of city council meetings and got the feel for how the city operated and the citizen participation at the meetings. I booked my flight and flew into the West Palm Beach International Airport on a Monday morning and got my rental car and headed north on I-95. It is only 48 miles from the airport, and I soon saw the exit and headed to the hotel.
Like most of Florida, the area around Port St. Lucie is flat and it is hard to get a grasp on the size of the city. I explained to almost everyone I met, that in West Virginia, you generally see the city from atop a mountain, and you can get an idea of where things are and how big the city is. My first impression of Port St. Lucie was that it was very clean and well kept. The mediums in the roadways are like going to a fine country club or resort. Palm trees and colorful foliage lined as far as the eye could see.
Our training session took place at a city-owned golf course, called the Saints. It is undergoing some renovation and I had the opportunity to talk with the course manager and he excitedly told me about the improvements that they had planned, including a high-tech driving range that should attract thousands of golfers, looking to improve their swings. The training was held in the conference room at the clubhouse and the city staff had done an incredible job of setting the meeting room up and making it feel comfortable.
As the participants made their way into the room, I got to finally meet the mayor and council in person. The Zoom calls are nice but meeting in person is the best way to conduct training and it gives everyone a chance to express themselves. We spent a little over three hours talking about how to lead in a growing city and it turned into an interesting session with a lot of dialogue and discussion. We closed with a nice lunch, and I got to talk to some of the staff that were in Attendance.
I called my wife after the training, and she asked me if I had seen the ocean yet. I told her that I had been so wrapped up in leading the training that I hadn’t even thought about being close to the beaches of Florida. As we talked, I headed east to find the ocean. I arrived at Jensen Beach, quite by accident, but it was a beautiful area and I Facetimed with my wife, standing next to the crashing waves.
They say the secret to a happy life is to do what you love to do, and I have to say that my trip to Port St. Lucie fulfilled my goal of helping local officials build Amazing Cities!