Words Matter, Tone Matters

“Language is the greatest motivating force. You can phrase something positively and inspire people to do their best, or negatively and make them feel worried, uncertain and self -conscious. I try to use my own voice in a way that shows caring, respect, appreciation and patience.” – Frances Hesselbein, former Girls Scouts CEO, founder Hesselbein Leadership Forum.

I’m a student of leadership.

I’m fascinated by the subject and believe that good leadership can solve nearly any problem, seize any opportunity and overcome any challenge.

Consequently, bad leadership (there’s an oxymoron for you) or lack of leadership can sink just about any ship regardless of how strong the hull.

When you achieve a position of leadership you quickly learn that words matter.

Unless of course you are lack emotional intelligence and either don’t care about how you communicate or don’t realize that your words carry extra weight. (We’ve all seen our share of those beauties).

Based on my study of effective leaders, the ones who use positive language to frame challenges and opportunities are usually the ones who get the best results.

Positivity is a strong motivator.

I’ve seen fear used as well.

Bullies will get short term results, but their “leadership” doesn’t sustain.

Leaders who show that they care, respect and appreciate those who they serve are special. They get results. They transform. We need more of them. A lot more of them.

I’ve worked with and seen organizations decimated by egotistical narcissists who think that people are there to serve them. They got it backwards and that mindset is crushing.

You can see the arc of destruction if you watch closely.

The bully/egomaniac is given a title and a little power and it goes to their head. They tend to put themselves on a perch and “sit above” the organization they are tasked to lead. Problems are never their fault, instead they seek to blame, point fingers and inject fear into the culture.

At this point, people with options resist and or leave and those who feel powerless stop taking risks or hide in hopes of outlasting the tyrant with the title.

What’s lost when this happens is incalculable—initiative, innovation, creativity, productivity and your organization’s desirability as a place to work or invest. It isn’t pretty.

What’s worse is the damage inflicted by bad leaders can have an outsize impact on the future of the enterprise.

Of course, this dynamic applies to cities as well.

When it comes to cities, there’s a term called “municipal math.” I believe the term was coined by Lyle Sumek, a consultant who works with Boca Raton and used to work with Delray Beach.

As Lyle explained to us—municipal math meant that it takes 10-20 years to build something of significance but only a year or two to wash away progress. It can take 10 years to get it back and there’s no guarantee that you will.

It’s a daunting equation and Lyle offered up it up as a cautionary tale. Feel free to innovate and lead, he urged us. But tread prudently, because at the end of the day you are a steward so don’t screw up what was handed to you.

So disrupt what doesn’t work, fix, create and put your stamp on your city, non-profit, business or industry but have some humility too. Your task as a leader to leave your organization better off than when you found it and in position for the next leader to take the enterprise even further.

Don’t act as if you’re the last monarch—you aren’t. In fact, don’t act like a monarch at all.




And leave things better for the next generation.










Alone Again, Naturally?

There’s a loneliness epidemic in America.

That’s the conclusion made by Arthur C. Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, citing a recent study by health insurer Cigna which says most Americans suffer from strong feelings of loneliness and a lack of significance in their relationships.


Stop and think about that. Here’s another showstopper from the survey:

“Nearly half say they sometimes or always feel alone or “left out.” Thirteen percent of Americans say that zero people know them well. The survey, which charts social isolation using a common measure known as the U.C.L.A. Loneliness Scale, shows that loneliness is worse in each successive generation.”

At first, the survey feels counterintuitive. In the age of social media, where we are able to access “friends” 24/7 regardless of location via Facebook, Instagram and other platforms it would seem we would feel more connected than ever.

But 2018 was the year in which we finally stopped long enough to truly consider social media’s impact on our lives and society. Maybe instead of making us closer, it is driving wedges based on our political beliefs. Maybe instead of deepening friendships it has made them hollow—as we share only the best part of our lives in an endless search for “likes” and “retweets.”

I suspect I’m like most people in that I have mixed feelings about social media. I enjoy being able to stay in touch– even nominally– with old friends, classmates, teachers, co-workers and relatives who live far away. But I’ve seen cyber bullying, real “fake news” and manipulation as well. I’ve seen the worst aspects of social media take a toll on relationships and actually prevent people from speaking their minds or participating in civic life for fear of being trolled.

So when you look at the full spectrum, you can see where loneliness can take root.

And it’s not just social media—it’s media in general. Talk radio, cable TV and some print publications peddle an “us” versus “them” narrative which serves to put us in silos where we only interact with people who agree with us.

I find myself avoiding conversations unless I know where people are relative to politics. It seems we are locked into our own set of facts, which ought to alarm everyone because it’s hard to find compromise or consensus if you can’t even agree on objective facts.

All of this leads to a sense of isolation and I guess loneliness. I have my tribe, you have yours and there’s a sense that we share a house that’s divided and we all know (or do we?) what Lincoln said about a house divided.

Brooks and others who have written about this subject also lament the changing nature of work—where the “gig” economy replaces the camaraderie of the office where relationships evolve over years of working side by side. It’s hard to build friendships when you’re driving an Uber or hopping from gig to gig.

Too many Americans don’t feel “rooted” in community these days, according to the research.

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska recently wrote a book about this subject. In “Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal,” Senator Sasse writes about “thick” communities, places that where people have real histories and deep relationships with each other. He describes the feeling as a “hometown gym on a Friday night.”

I’ve heard variations of that sentiment over the years regarding Delray. People would say they go downtown and no longer see anyone they know.

I had a colleague on the city commission years ago who used to say that the difference between Delray and Boca was simple: if you asked someone from Delray where they lived they’d answer “Delray.” But if you asked someone from Boca, they’d give their neighborhood such as “Woodfield” or “The Polo Club.”
I don’t know that to be true or not, but it’s an interesting thought.

When your downtown once lacked vibrancy, you actually take pride when you visit and see a crowd of strangers. Hey, at least there’s a crowd. But now I can see what people mean when they long for the days of going downtown and bumping into friends and neighbors.

I am a firm believer in community building—it’s important. It’s vital and if it is missing you end up a lonely place.

In the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, Delray Beach became an All America City and a different place because the number one mission of civic leaders was to build community.

There was an active effort to help neighborhoods form associations. There was an active effort to involve youth in activities such as the Youth Council. There was a huge amount of resources devoted to “community policing”, visioning, recruiting people for advisory boards and creating a large volunteer pool for our police and fire departments, non-profits, schools etc. There were town hall meetings, charrettes and roundtable discussions.

I think it made a difference.

I think it built friendships and civic capacity. It may have eased a sense of loneliness and isolation too.

Special events—which became so controversial and maligned—also played a role. It seems like everyone went to First Night on New Year’s Eve and Art and Jazz on the Avenue was something you just had to attend because as you strolled the avenue you’d see a lot of people you knew and cared about.

Today, there are some really good groups trying to build community: Wise Tribe, Community Greening, Old School Square, the Historical Society, the Beach Property Owners Association to name just a few.

In his New York Times op-ed, Brooks reaches out to Senator Sasse because he’s moving to a new state and he fears being isolated and rootless. Here’s the advice he gets. It something I hope we all heed.

“(Sasse) told me I had it all wrong — that moving back home and going to the gym on Friday aren’t actually the point; rather, the trick is “learning how to intentionally invest in the places where we actually live.” In other words, being a member of a community isn’t about whether I have a Fremont (Sasse’s hometown). It isn’t about how I feel about any place I have lived, nor about my fear of isolation in a new city. It is about the neighbor I choose to be in the community I wind up calling my home.


And there lies the challenge to each of us in a country suffering from loneliness and ripped apart by political opportunists seeking to capitalize on that isolation. Each of us can be happier, and America will start to heal, when we become the kind neighbors and generous friends we wish we had.”



The Rise of the “Urban Burb”

Options for sprawl repair

It’s 2019 and as dedicated trend seekers what do we see?

Well, here’s one prediction based on what we are reading and seeing.

Look for the rise of the “hipsturburbia” or “urban burb”—suburbia with a touch of the city meaning walkability, mixed use development and multi-family housing.

As the Urban Land Institute says: “The first phase is millennials moving to the suburbs for larger, more affordable homes and access to schools, so adequate single-family and multifamily housing will be necessary. Retail follows rooftops, so retail development to meet the new residents’ requirements will follow. Finally, you may begin to see more emphasis on employment centers as residents decide they want to work closer to where they live.”

Sounds good. It also sounds logical.

Pick your nickname but the trend of urban suburbs is playing out all around us.

Consider The Delray Marketplace (which would be so much better with housing), a slew of urban (lite) “lifestyle centers” in Broward County and future plans for places like the old IBM campus in Boca, the old Office Depot headquarters in Delray and the prospective rezoning of the Boynton Beach Mall. All are moving toward a walkable, mixed use environment in which people can live, work and play as they say.

Live, work and play has become a bit of cliché, but there’s a lot of wisdom and traction in the concept.

As the world becomes more technology dependent, there is a blending going on. If you are like me and many others, our work life doesn’t end when the whistle blows at 5 p.m. anymore. We are accessible before and after traditional office hours and business is conducted at all sorts of hours.

My colleagues at Celsius, the Boca-based beverage company, work all sorts of hours as they interact with partners and distributors in China, Sweden and other parts of the globe. As a result our lives tend to meld—we live, work, learn and play wherever we are these days so doesn’t it make sense to make these activities convenient, walkable and accessible.

While I was born in borough of New York City, I spent the majority of my childhood living on the North Shore of Long Island. Levittown—America’s prototypical suburb—was a short car ride away. In fact, we lived mostly– in Levitt Homes—in traditional suburban neighborhoods in which everything we did required a car.

It was an idyllic life in those days and traditional suburbia certainly has its attraction. But it’s also the definition of urban sprawl, not great for the environment, not the most efficient use of finite land and designed for cars not people. As a result, urban planners often frown on the traditional suburbs blaming it for congestion, sedentary lifestyles and even segregation.

As a result, some cities are responding with policies to promote more diversity, density, affordability and sustainability. Minneapolis recently banned single family zoning districts—a remarkable policy that will promote duplexes, triplexes and other forms of housing in once traditional suburban neighborhoods. It will be interesting to see how the policy plays out in the real world.

I’m a fan of New Urbanism which is really a throwback to how cities were traditionally designed before suburbia became so popular. New Urbanism promotes walkability, a mix of uses and supports density as long as it’s well designed.

So I cheer the advent of urban burbs or “hipsterburbias”—even if the brand names are borderline obnoxious. I do question how many “mini downtowns” markets can absorb especially with the headwinds facing retail these days.

While big box generic retail seems to be a goner these days (so long Sears, Kmart etc.) experiential retail is all the rage. But again….how many retailers will be talented enough to give us enduring experiences and how many location can they serve?

As we begin 2019, it will be interesting to see where this all headed. Two things we can count on: first, the innovators will find a way to succeed and second it is becoming far riskier to offer the same old, same old. The times are changing and the bar has been raised. That’s a good thing.





My Hometown

The iconic Stony Brook Post Office.

Happy New Year!

There’s a funny segment on the new Netflix special “Springsteen on Broadway” when Bruce talks about his love hate relationship with his hometown, Freehold N.J.

The legendary singer-songwriter talks about wanting to get out of Freehold—after all he was “born to run.”

On the one hand, the town was boring, stifling, depressing, and full of pain and sorrow. But it also was full of life, family, friends, adventures, memories and dreams of a better future.

After busting out of New Jersey to find fame and fortune, Bruce could have lived in any exotic locale in the world, but he ended up living….wait for it…. ten minutes from his hometown. It’s a laugh line in the show—and illustrates the ties that bind. (As an aside, we visited Freehold this summer and we thought the town was lovely.)

I felt some of the same emotions about my hometown of Stony Brook, N.Y.

It was a wonderful place to grow up but by the time I was in college I wanted to see and experience other places. And after four years of snow and biting cold in Oswego, N.Y. I wanted to live in sunshine bathed in palm trees with dolphins nearby. I found that place in Delray Beach.

Still, I miss my hometown. I think about it every day, and sometimes I’ll dream I’m still there.

I visited this summer for the first time in 14 years and it was emotional for me to be there. It’s amazing how much has changed and how much still looks the same. It’s also interesting to note that  you never forget your way around the backstreets.

I was greeted on every corner by a memory—most positive but some a little painful.  On Caterham Lane I saw the house that my mother loved—and she’s gone now— 20 plus years. This was the baseball field my grandfather –who was a hero of mine— stood and watched me pitch and he’s been gone over 30 years.

Truth be told, like Bruce, I could see myself living 10 minutes from where I grew up—but I doubt it’s in the cards. I found a new home here in Delray Beach and despite the complex emotions I have about this place—it seems like we all do— it’s become home.

We have a history here, we’ve raised kids here, we made friends, got involved, and then got very involved and over 31 years made a life for ourselves.

But watching “Springsteen on Broadway” which covers topics as diverse as fathers and sons, hometowns, the pull of the church, love, marriage, brotherhood and music I couldn’t help but wonder what kids growing up here think about their community.

Do they want to bust out of Boca and Delray and head to parts unexplored? Do they want to go off to college and then return and build lives here? What do they think of this place?

Last week, some of our kids were around for the holidays—one’s still at home, one is living in Tallahassee, one up the road in West Palm Beach and one recently moved to Cary, North Carolina.

It’s always fun to see their reactions when the now out of towners come back to Delray—where do they want to go, what places do they like, what do they miss?

I think they enjoyed growing up here. At least that’s what they tell me.

For selfish reasons, I wish those who left would have stuck around. But I also know that it’s important for people to find their own way in life and sometimes their own places.

But I also believe that it’s important to build places that make people want to stay. Or at the very least miss the place a little bit…..


On a sad note, I wanted to mark the passing of a friend, Patsy Westall in December.

Patsy was an active Delray Beach resident serving on the board of the Beach Property Owners Association, working as a guardian ad litem among other civic endeavors.

I met Patsy when I served on the Delray city commission. She became deeply involved in our race relations initiative helping to lead one of our most active and effective study circles. Study circles are a diverse group of people who meet to discuss issues of importance and sensitivity. In Patsy’s case, her study circle embarked on community projects in an effort to unify the community.

When I left office after being termed out in 2007, Patsy came to my last meeting and read a poem into the record. It touched on race relations. I will share it below, but first I am happy to say we stayed in touch all these years, met for lunch and breakfast here and there and continued our discourse on issues great and small via email. I tell elected officials that the joy of service is the relationships you develop with a cross section of people if you care enough to make those connections. Some officials glide through their terms without those connections. I feel sorry for them, because they are missing out what’s most important and they are depriving themselves of what helps you become a better representative and a better person.

Patsy and I didn’t always agree on the issues of the day—although there was significant common ground and mutual respect. But we cared for each other and never allowed the disagreements to mar the bigger picture which was the betterment of our community and our friendship.

Patsy was also a connector and she introduced me to several other people who have become friends and touchstones over the years.

I will miss her. Delray will too.

Here’s the poem she wrote. In it, she gives me a hand. I’d like to return the favor.

“Race relations as a topic these days?

That can’t be an issue – not in Delray

We get along fine, all colors and creeds

For work in that area – is there really a need?

But Jeff saw a need, he’s really astute

Knew that our future was at the root

We must come together, share our deep thoughts

And ask whether we’re actually acting the “oughts”

Study circles emerged, a forum for “yak”

Where those who are “not me” can give me feedback

We talked of our pasts and where they have brought us

Our sharing was civil – there was seldom a fuss

But it became clear there was still work to do

Old patterns die hard in both me and you

There was fun in the talk – maybe Alan’s dredlocks

Or why the white men never wore socks

Susan, our scribe, not hip in black lingo

Studied her notes, on a test now she could “bingo”

There was always food and mostly good cheer

We did tire of subways and wished we’d had beer

But faithful we were to the challenge for new

Through both fun and pain, all of us grew

At the end of 8 weeks when the circle did end

We found ourselves asking, “What’s round the bend?”

There’s work to be done – are we not the ones?

To continue the struggle – to keep up the run?

So history we picked as a subject to tackle

On the surface it seemed not one to hackle

But as we dug deeper in the history of Delray

It was clear there was stuff we needed to say

Exclusion, omissions and plain faulty data

Who cares” you might say – but to us it did matta

Lori, our guru, who knew all the websites

Railed us with info so we could get it right

Susan, the scribe, she did rewrite

A task I assure you that was not labeled light


We continued our circles – the e-mails they flew

We gathered in homes – a good thing to do

And out of all this a changed history grew

Honoring some whose status is new

This may be a small step in the life of Delray

Who knows its impact – only history will say

But our study circle – Zion we’re named

Stepped up to the plate and stayed in the game

Ancestors long gone – we did this for you

And hope that our history reflects what is true

Then our sister Sharon, a pastor who cares

Was recently “dissed”, caught in crosshairs

Our circle we rallied and went to her church

Support we provide for those in a lurch

Can we fix the world – probably not

But impact Delray – we’ll give what we’ve got

So we come before you tonite as a group

To present what we think should go in the loop

Hat’s off to you Jeff, for taking a stand

As you leave here tonight we give you a hand.

More Passings…

Over the holidays we lost a few other very special people.

Fred Sergio, a legendary long time Delray Parks employee, passed just before his 102nd birthday.

Fred was a pillar at Miller Field, a wonderful gentleman and a touchstone for generations of Delray children. He’s a legend, pure and simple.

We also lost Bill McDonough, another long time resident and wonderful man. If you knew “Mac” you loved him. It’s just that simple. His wife Mable too….just nice people.

We got to know each other at various city events over the years. He used to attend the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfasts and could always be counted on for a positive word and a big smile. He will be deeply missed.





Things We Loved In December

Things we Loved in December

Florida Trend magazine released its annual Golden Spoon Awards in December.
The Golden Spoon recognizes some of the best restaurants in the Sunshine State.
Locals winners: La Nouvelle Maison and TwentyTwenty Grille in Boca Raton and Salt 7 and The Grove in Delray Beach.

Andrew Carroll mesmerized a large crowd at the Crest Theatre. The best selling author is collecting one million “war” letters written by those who saw combat in every American engagement from the Revolutionary War through Iraq and Afghanistan.
His readings were enlightening and emotional and told the stories of soldiers on the front lines of America’s conflicts. It was a powerful evening and we recommend Mr. Carroll’s books.
Kudos to the Delray Historical Society and Old School Square for teaming up on this unforgettable event.

Keep your eyes on Delray’s Coco Gauff.

The 14 year old phenom won the prestigious Orange Bowl Girls Title earlier this month playing in the 18 and under division. She’s a star in the making.

A visit to Mathews Brewing Company in Lake Worth was a highlight of the month. Very cool spot.

The craft brewing movement continues to thrive nationally and in our community. Craft beer consumption now commands almost 25 percent of beer consumption in the U.S.

Watching a screening of “Springsteen on Broadway” with friends was special for this Springsteen fanatic.

We were fortunate to see the show at the Walter Kerr Theatre but happy to report that the Netflix production was outstanding. Don’t miss it.

We caught the final show of Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman and Marty Stuart’s tour marking the 50th anniversary of the landmark Byrds album “Sweethearts of the Rodeo.”
The show was amazing and we really like the Parker Playhouse venue. Stuart’s Superlatives Band is a can’t miss outfit. If they tour, run don’t walk to see them.

McGuinn is a frequent visitor to Delray’s Crest Theatre. Let’s hope he plays there again and soon. #legend.

Dinner on a rocking Atlantic Avenue at the superb Park Tavern. Highly recommend this lovely spot with the excellent craft beer menu.

Speaking of great spots,  I’m reminded of the enduring excellence of Boca’s Capital Grille. Yes it’s a chain, but it’s also superb.
We also had a Christmas Eve lunch at the terrific Christina’s where we got to hang with the restaurant’s adorable mascot: Vinny.
Spending the holidays with friends and family was the best part of a memorable month.

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
We’ll resume the blog in 2019. Thanks for reading and sharing thoughts and ideas. Your time is deeply appreciated.

The Pipeline Is Intriguing

Boynton Beach Town Square looking southwest.

So on Monday, I told you that I went to a Business Development Board breakfast in Palm Beach that focused on three landmark real estate projects: iPic, the redevelopment of the Old Office Depot site and a unique public private partnership in Boynton Beach called “Town Square”.

Sadly, I was too tired to actually write about it, but I’ve recovered enough from my whirlwind week to share a few thoughts on these projects which were warmly received by about 150 business leaders at the breakfast.

Let’s start with the iPic.

Now that the dust has settled on the development battle, it’s time to focus on what’s happening to the old Delray library site.

iPic will be moving its corporate headquarters into the project along with its conventional theater offerings. There’s roughly another 23,000 plus square feet of Class A office space left to rent.

Local firm Avison Young is spearheading the marketing drive and they are well positioned to bring solid corporate tenants to downtown Delray.

Downtown office space has been a longtime aspiration for Delray civic leaders.

Cities that are sustainable have to create places where people want to live, work, learn and play.

Delray has done a good job with downtown housing—although I worry about the lack of affordability caused by some very ill-conceived changes to our code. Having residents living downtown makes for a safer city (more eyes on the street) and helps to support downtown businesses.

We’ve done a good job on the ‘play’ aspects of downtown—with festivals and special events, some open space, activities like the CRA Green Market and some cultural amenities like Old School Square, the Arts Garage and the Arts Warehouse. It would be nice if we can finally do something at the Old School Square Park, which remains a major opportunity.

The learning component is a work in progress—some of our cultural amenities have education at its core but there’s room for more learning opportunities.

That leaves work….

Creating downtown office space isn’t easy. The office market is changing, the economics are difficult and parking and access are always a concern. But I’m excited about the office component of the iPic project as well as the offices being planned at Atlantic Crossing.

So I will be anxious to see what Avison Young turns up at the iPic site and wish them well. It’s a great location.

The Boynton Beach Town Square project is also exciting.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet with Mark Hefferin and his team at E2L Holdings and review the plans and vision for downtown Boynton Beach along Seacrest Boulevard. It’s very cool.

The City Hall, library and Police Department have been bulldozed and will make way for a 21st Century City Hall/library with incubator space, an event venue that can accommodate 6,500 people and a restored old school with a 500 seat theater and restaurant. Downtown commercial uses are also planned. It’s a 16 acre project with open spaces, a hotel and other uses that should really make a difference in eastern Boynton Beach.

It’s an ambitious project and it looks amazing. Boynton Beach is clearly going for it as they say. If they succeed, and I think they will, the project will be transformational for Boynton Beach’s brand and its future.

The city is making a big bet on the deal—to the tune of $118 million, plus private equity.

As for the redevelopment of the Old Depot site, I’ll have more later on this deal as it evolves. But the plans call for a mix of uses and some programming to catalyze the corridor.

The site has sat vacant for over a decade since Office Depot moved its corporate headquarters to Boca Raton. The goal now is to re-energize the site and the corridor with apartments, for sale townhomes, a revitalized Arbors office building and commercial uses.

Stay tuned, this is an exciting time in Southern Palm Beach County.

Sometimes Life’s A Whirlwind

Do you ever feel caught in a vortex over a whirlwind?

Did you ever have one of those weeks?

You know the type, just a whirlwind of activity, commitments, travel, deadlines and pressure mixed with a few surprises that make you scratch your head and say “why does this have to happen this week of all weeks, I’m so busy!”


Mix in the holidays with its mix of fun and stress and you have a recipe for exhaustion.

I know you can relate. We’ve all been there.

So I wanted to post about this amazing breakfast I attended last week at the gorgeous and historic Colony Hotel in Palm Beach. The breakfast was sponsored by the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, an organization that I admire and one that I’ve been on the board of a few times over the years. The BDB—as it is widely known—is Palm Beach County’s economic development organization responsible for recruiting, retaining and growing business in our beautiful community.

Their “Upper Level Breakfast” attracts about 150 CEOS and senior level business leaders so the audience is time pressed, smart and the kind of people who make things happen. At this particular breakfast, they welcomed Palm Beach County’s newest relocation, Mueller Industries, a $2.3 billion a year company with 4,500 employees that does business all over the globe. Pretty cool. And I got to sit at the same table with their top local exec which was also pretty cool.

The focus of the breakfast program were three significant—I would argue potentially transformational real estate projects—two of which happen to be under way in Delray Beach with the third in Boynton Beach. Those projects are iPic, Town Square in Boynton Beach and the redevelopment of the former Office Depot site on Congress Avenue. Since my company is involved in the Office Depot project I was asked to speak.

Now, I’d like to tell you more about those other projects and I will. In another blog post, hopefully this week.

But truth be told, last week was such a blur that I couldn’t tell you much. It was my goal to simply get through it—and I did. But my recall of the details is less than stellar.

So here’s how it played out.

We had a major hearing on the Office Depot project on Tuesday and a lot of pressure because of timing etc. So we have been consumed with a slew of details and questions.

Now I know there are people who can’t stand developers and this is not a call for sympathy, but trust me when I say that the field is not for the faint of heart or those who can’t handle endless curveballs and hundreds and hundreds of details that if missed can sink the project and take a huge bite out of your check book.

Since I am not a developer but work for a company that invests in real estate (and many, many other things) a lot of this is new to me and it’s like drinking from a fire hose of complexity on issues ranging from the law and sewage (not the same thing despite rumors to the contrary) to design and engineering.

I thought I knew a lot—and I do—for a layman. But there is no substitute for sticks and bricks experience and so I’ve surrounded myself with people who have been there, done that and know enough not to make the same mistakes— although there is always the chance to make new ones.

But I digress.

We got through the hearing with a nice vote of support from our City Commission and an ongoing pledge to work with the community. But it was late at night and I found it hard to sleep.

The next day I was up at 4 a.m. to catch a flight to Asheville, where we have invested in a really cool start-up. We wanted to meet the team, assess progress and talk about future needs. It was a great day, but also a long one since I had to fly back the same day in order to get up early again and drive to Palm Beach for the breakfast.

I was honored to speak because I respect the BDB and it was a good opportunity to access a slew of top business leaders and put our site on their radar. You never know when the next Mueller Industries may want to come to our beautiful city and we have a very special site.

But even after more than 20 years of public speaking I still get nervous before each and every speech I give. You’d think I’d be able to draw on experience or draw inspiration from past talks that went OK but I still sweat it… every… single…time.

Adding to my stress for this particular speech was my lack of sleep, my lack of preparation (because I’ve been running around) and my inability to connect with Tim Tracy, my BDB contact who was the keeper of the format, timing etc. Tim tried. I tried. We just couldn’t get each other on the phone. Ugh.

When Tim learned I was in Asheville the day before, he freaked out a little and was sending texts early on the morning of the breakfast to make sure I got back to Palm Beach County.

Of course I did and I made sure to be at the breakfast at 7 a.m. 30 minutes before the start so I could exhale and work on my prepared remarks which I inexplicably discarded when I got up to speak.

I’m not sure what I said…but it seemed to go OK. There was applause (a few laughs, I hope it was laughing with me not at me) and I met a lot of nice people after the program who expressed interest in our project. The other guys did great too….I just wish I could remember what they said. I was just relieved it was over.

I treated myself to a leisurely ride back to the office along A1A. I caught up on calls and soaked up the coastal scenery.

The rest of the day was a blur of meetings and emails and day dreams of my couch and hanging with my dogs—Randy and Teddy. But I was reminded by my wife that we had a party to go to that night at the Delray Hideaway, a neat little bar on East Atlantic.


Now, I like parties and I like people. And I really like the host of the party the amazing Delray Beach Community Land Trust and the incredible people who make that organization so cool.

But for one night only, I liked my couch more.

When my wife got a screw in her tire and texted me from XpertTech I replied that I was sorry and I guess we couldn’t go to the party. “Nice try” was the response from a woman who is always supportive, tolerant and sympathetic to my emotions. We were going.

And so we went and had a great time.

I’d like to tell you more about the Land Trust and someday I will. Just as  soon as I recover.



Legacy Leadership

Editor’s note: We have a busy week over here at the blog, so we are posting today instead of tomorrow. See you next week, thanks for reading and take time to enjoy the festivities.

I wanted to wait a few days before posting something on the passing of President George H.W. Bush.
So much has been said already so it’s hard to be original.

President Bush had ties to Delray.

A street named after him.

A friend who lived in Gulfstream.

Appearances at the Chris Evert Pro Celebrity Tennis Classic.

I met him once– for about 30 seconds– as part of a brief meet and greet when he visited the Delray Beach Tennis Stadium.
But you never forget seeing a President up close.

As a spectator at our tennis stadium, I saw his sense of humor and how he was self deprecating when an errant shot struck him in the rear. The crowed gasped, but President Bush smiled, made a joke and the crowd roared.

Moments….leaders are defined by moments.

Moments when they show their humanity. Moments when they rise to the occasion. Moments when they are vulnerable and when they summon strength.

President Bush called for a “kinder, gentler nation” and that exhortation is more relevant today than ever. We need to be kinder. We need to be gentler. Right now, we’re neither.

His passing was hailed as the end of an era. The last World War II generation president.

The word civility was used a lot to describe President Bush. So were the words classy, gentleman and statesman.
But the word that grabbed me  the most was prepared.

President Bush was perhaps the best prepared President ever elected with experience as a combat veteran, Congressman, party chair, ambassador, CIA Director and Vice President.
He knew how government worked. He knew the players and was experienced in world affairs.
His expertise was respected and valued.

Today it feels as if experience is an anchor that weighs down candidates. Politicians are often skewered for spending time in office and while I am a late believer in term limits and don’t feel people should spend decades in the same office,  I don’t like how experience is used against people, how expertise is minimized or even ridiculed.

We are demeaning public service then scratching our heads when our best and brightest sit on the sidelines.

Yes, I get it. People don’t see politics as public service and that’s sad. But guess what? The best elected officials are servant leaders. They care about people and about making a difference. The worst serve themselves and or special interests. They grandstand and they preen. They care about “optics” and play to their base. They end up dividing not uniting. Leadership is not about division–it adds and doesn’t subtract.

I never voted for George H.W. Bush but I admired and respected him. He served well. Very well.

As former Senator Alan Simpson said after President Bush’s passing: “Those that travel the high road of humility in Washington are not bothered by heavy traffic.”

How true and also how sad.

The lack of humility ought to give us pause and be a cause for national reflection.

Because therein lies the problem. Stop electing narcissists, egomaniacs, bullies and jerks. On all sides of the divide because no party is immune.

Instead seek out and support problem solving patriots who exhibit empathy, an ability to learn and evolve and put country and community first.

If that sounds like a high bar–well it is. But we need these people at all levels of government now more than ever.

The Next American City

Former OKC Mayor Mick Cornett has written an inspiring book about how smaller cities can punch above their weight.

I’m reading a very interesting book called “The Next American City” by former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.
The book tells the story of OKC and other “second tier” cities that are thriving as a result of enlightened leadership and a fierce determination to succeed.

Often, the journey to success starts with setbacks or in some cases tragedy. Instead of collapsing, these cities dig deep and make good things happen.

OKC’s spirit could have been crushed by the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995 and a failed bid to land a United Airlines facility after voters approved a sales tax to fund the deal. Ouch!

Its confidence could have been forever shattered when OKC’s mayor  pressed United about why they chose Indianapolis and received a harsh answer. United executives visited secretly with their families and nobody wanted to live in Oklahoma City. Double ouch!

But instead of folding, the adversity led to breakthrough thinking and today OKC is bustling. OKC invested in schools, recreation and encouraged entrepreneurs to reinvigorate its downtown. As a result, OKC is now setting an example for other cities across the nation.

Cornett’s book gives several examples of cities that were once overlooked or fell on hard times but refused to succumb to a death spiral.

By offering quality of life, abundant recreation, cultural opportunities, more affordable housing and vibrant downtowns these cities are attracting and retaining talent which in turn create jobs and opportunities.
One of the fundamental points of the book is that local government plays a role in economic success but it’s a specific one. Here’s what Cornett believes: businesses create jobs; governments and public servants build places.

The cities that thrive fix broken neighborhoods, invest in schools, understand the role of arts and culture in building desirable communities and welcome amenities that build a brand and contribute to quality of life.

They are competitive, aspirational and collaborative.

They ask tough questions, face up to their challenges, roll with the inevitable punches and never give up.

Even after devastating hurricanes (New Orleans), terrorist attacks (NYC and OKC), racial strife, economic losses and the list goes on.
They continue to aspire. And ultimately things get better.

They always get better.

The Next American City is a good primer for elected officials or anyone who cares about the future of their city.

It’s Better (Or Is It The Same) In The Bahamas

Bay Street


A few years back, a small contingent of civic leaders from Palm Beach County were invited to Nassau, Bahamas to advise the government on how to revitalize their main drag, Bay Street.

The trip was organized by the U.S. Embassy which was manned back then by Ambassador Ned Siegel, a Boca resident who was appointed to his post by President George W. Bush.

I was invited along with former Mayor Tom Lynch, Boca Chamber President Troy McCllellan and Kelly Smallridge, the President and CEO of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County.

The trip was truly a first class adventure and Ambassador Siegel introduced us to top government ministers and prominent business leaders. We later invited many of those people to Palm Beach County where they toured West Palm Beach, Boca Raton and Delray Beach so we could show them how theory met practice when it comes to revitalizing downtowns.

I was reminded of that trip last week when I walked Bay Street with my wife as part of a cruise to The Bahamas.

Nassau is picturesque and enjoys wonderful weather. There are some great old buildings enhanced by vibrant colors and a scale that is reminiscent of Delray.

In fact, there are a lot of historical ties between Delray and The Bahamas. Some of the earliest settlers in our town were from The Bahamas. I was especially intrigued by the Pompey Museum of Slavery.

C. Spencer Pompey and his wife H. Ruth Pompey are dear old friends and local legends. I’m pretty sure there is a connection between the museum and the Pompey’s of Delray. Sadly, Mr. and Mrs. Pompey have passed so I can’t ask them but I plan to delve into the history to satisfy my curiosity.

When we were invited to share ideas and best practices with The Bahamian government about a decade or so ago, Bay Street was struggling with crime issues, vacancy in certain sections, an underutilized waterfront and stiff competition from the Atlantis resort which was sucking tourists off the cruise ships out of the downtown and into the casino and water parks.

Walking around Bay Street last week I saw the same issues—only now there is another mega resort to worry about: Bahia Mar.

Sure the streets were crowded on a warm Sunday but it didn’t appear that many people were shopping. The retail mix is heavy on t-shirts, perfume, duty free alcohol and jewelry—not surprising given the heavy influx of tourists.

Bay Street could use more food options—and while I didn’t feel unsafe (despite warnings from the cruise line about crime) the level and intensity of solicitors was a turn off. You were just assailed from the moment you get off the boat to the moment you get back on. Yuck….

Years ago we recommended that Nassau turn up the Bahamian charm—for example increase security but outfit police in traditional uniforms and activate the waterfront by incentivizing restaurants and cafes to balance the multitude of t-shirt shops. Granted these aren’t “genius” ideas and I can’t remember the rest but the exercise was fun and we made a lot of friends as a result.

That I didn’t see a whole lot of change on Bay Street is indicative of how hard transformation is to achieve.

When I think of Delray’s transformation I feel the same way. It takes a whole lot of hard work, dedication, investment and some gutsy decisions to make change—and a fair amount of good fortune too. It helps to catch a break or two along the way, but by the same token change doesn’t happen by accident. It happens via intention.

Recently, I ran into some consultants who worked on our downtown master plan way back in 2001.

The efforts our community made over the years were rewarded with awards which are nice….but not as important as the opportunity and value that were created.

Now I get that not everybody was pleased with the results. And they are entitled to their opinions and we are compelled to respect those views.

Yet, I can’t help but think that sometimes we go overboard with our angst. The consultant mentioned to me that “Delray is so hard on itself” and that statement struck me. It rang true.

Just take a cruise through social media to see for yourself—ugh… all the negativity.

Criticism that isn’t constructive isn’t valuable at all. It doesn’t feel like affection it feels like anger.

Accountability is necessary and important, but it’s best when it’s rooted in love and empathy.

As we head into the holiday season, I hope we see more love and less anger. More constructive guidance and empathy and less vitriol and blame.

Root your community in those values, observe the guardrails and be patient. The magic will happen.