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Good day, West Volusia!

From the farthest reaches of the globe to right here at home, our world has undeniably changed. Now more than ever, what affects one affects all. If the coronavirus health emergency has taught us anything, it’s the importance of transparency and good communications. They are the keys to sharing knowledge and working together to address issues and concerns that impact our lives.

And so, with today’s column, I’m starting a conversation with you, the readers of The West Volusia Beacon, about issues that affect our homes, our livelihoods, our families, our merchants — our community.

As a DeLand resident for more than 35 years, I feel incredibly blessed to be able to call West Volusia my home. Like many of you, I’ve seen quite a bit of change here over the past several decades. Sometimes unwanted, change nonetheless is an unavoidable fact of life. As a community, our quality of life is largely dependent on how successfully we plan, manage, guide and direct that change.

Personally, I look to our future here in West Volusia with a great deal of excitement and optimism. We have great cities, world-class parks, trails and recreation facilities, access to top-notch higher education, a stunning river, lakes and springs system, and acres and acres of wildlife refuges to explore. And our beautiful weather and proximity to the beaches and Central Florida attractions make West Volusia a virtual paradise for our residents and visitors.

However, we also have our share of challenges. How do we stimulate economic development, while at the same time preserve our natural resources, historic assets and aesthetic charm? How do we effectively and sensibly manage growth so that it doesn’t overrun us?

How do we meet our growing transportation and other critical infrastructure needs without overburdening our taxpayers? How do we address homeless and affordable housing issues? How can we become more resilient as a community so that we’re better able to prepare and adapt to the unknown impacts and stresses of the future?

These are complex questions with no easy answers. By working together, though, I’m confident that we can meet the challenges that confront us. But it won’t be easy. It will take leadership, it will take resolve, it will take an engaged citizenry, it will take consensus-building and it will take vision — a shared vision of what we want our future to look like here in West Volusia.

That shared vision and that consensus of what kind of community we want to be in 10, 15, 25 and 50 years from now starts with a conversation just like this one. And so, each month I will use this space to talk about issues that affect us all and affect our future here in West Volusia.

I look forward to addressing your questions and concerns. I look forward to sharing information about actions and issues and discussions on the County Council. I look forward to talking about how we can all become more involved and engaged in the decisions that will shape our shared future.

Welcome to the conversation!

— Girtman is the District 1 representative on the Volusia County Council. Her district includes the incorporated areas of DeLand, Orange City, DeBary, Lake Helen and Pierson; and the surrounding unincorporated areas.