Tracy Caruso Interviews Mike Barnett, New DeSantis PBC County Commission Appointee
Governor DeSantis recently appointed Mike Barnett, a Boca Raton attorney and chair of the Palm Beach County Republican Executive Committee, to serve the rest of District 3 County Commissioner Dave Kerner’s term.
DeSantis nominated Kerner as Executive Director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV).
With this significant move, the governor has flipped a Democrat county commission to Republican, changing the direction of the county, possibly for decades.
We interviewed Commissioner Mike Barnett. One thing is abundantly clear, Barnett’s primary goal is to serve the people of Palm Beach County.
When asked if he was surprised by his gubernatorial appointment, Barnett said he had some idea it was coming. He’s excited, honored, and a bit overwhelmed. Barnett wants to ensure that he does the best job for Governor DeSantis. He’s replacing Kerner and has some big shoes to fill and many people to meet. He wants to start right and do the best job possible for the people of District 3, his constituents. That’s his job now.
As an appointee, Barnett does not have to move to the new district for the remainder of this term. He will continue to live in Boca Raton for the time being. If he runs in the next election, he will have to move to the district. The remainder of this term is until November 2024.
This is now a Republican county commission; when asked how he sees things going differently, he said;
“With a Republican majority, people will expect us to govern as Republicans, as conservatives concerning the values we hold dear, such as limited government. In every vote I take, I will keep those values in mind while considering what’s best for the people in my district.”
A big issue for Barnett is ensuring that small businesses and people can operate without bureaucratic restrictions. Palm Beach County is an excellent place for businesses to thrive, and he wants to see it continue attracting companies and people from other parts of Florida and other states.
If a COVID experience occurs again, he doesn’t want to see a repeat of what happened during the pandemic. People need to be able to live freely. He wants the commission to be a part of the solution, not the problem. He doesn’t see repeating lockdowns. He will follow state guidelines and take governor Desantis’s lead. He states that “we certainly need to follow the science.” He clarified that although this is a school board issue, he doesn’t see masking children and having virtual schooling. It didn’t work well. He thinks the parents should be represented. He believes in parental choice. He will be looking to his constituents to see what they want.
When asked if he is going to step down as REC chair, he stated;
“I was re-elected for two more years. The people of the REC selected and put their trust in me. It is my understanding that there’s no conflict of interest. I will stay. I committed to serving for two years. I will not be running for chair for the two years after that.”
When asked about facing possible criticism from REC members now that he’s a public figure, he said;
“I have experienced plenty of criticism within the last year from certain people on the REC. I’ve experienced a certain amount during the eight years I’ve been chairman. I am used to it. I can handle it. I will wear my Republican hat when it comes to getting people elected, but when I wear my county commission hat, I will do what is best for District 3 and the people of Palm Beach County. With any decision I make, I always keep three things in mind; what’s legal, ethical, and what’s right.”
Sometimes, decisions on the county commission are considered “Democrat” positions. If Commissioner Barnett agrees with whatever Democrat positions and votes accordingly, he may experience criticism from Republicans. When asked how he was going to handle that, he said;
“It won’t be a problem. I will deal with every issue or complaint as I have dealt with it. I’ve stopped trying to please everyone. You don’t win either way. I will deal with every issue as it comes before me, using the three tenants I mentioned to make a decision, and if it upsets REC members, so be it. However, I will not take off my hat as a constitutional republican. That’s who I am. Those are the principles that I have held my entire adult life. I will do my best for everyone who wants their voices to be heard.”
Some people feel that someone Hispanic should be in this seat. When asked if he thinks it matters, the answer is no. He isn’t Hispanic and doesn’t believe that one has to be to make the right decisions. He will meet with all his white, Black, or Hispanic constituents to understand their issues. He is with the people, and that’s what matters. He feels that his background matters only if he does his best job.
He says good governance is essential and will work with Republicans and Democrats to make that happen. The commission is a public service, and he wants to make everyone proud. He doesn’t want to let the governor down. He’s ready to get to work.
The most important thing he wants everyone to know is;
“I want my legacy to be that I was a good county commissioner and servant of the people.”
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