Scott Black was only 25 years old when he was first elected to the Dade City Commission, in 1990.
Three decades later, he remains just as passionate about the post.
“I still get excited about the meetings, I still feel like I’m learning things, I still feel like I’m kind of young with it,” Black said in a recent interview with The Laker/Lutz News.
The commissioner, now 55, jokes he’s almost in denial about serving the municipality for so long.
“I keep redoing the math and it’s like, ‘Oh, my goodness, what happened here?’ I’m noticing more and more that I’m not the youngest one in the room anymore,” he said.
Black’s milestone was recognized during a recent commission meeting. He will also be formally recognized by the Florida League of Cities later on this year.
A passion for service
Growing up in Trilby, Black always had an interest in politics and community pride. He held various leadership roles in organizations such as the 4-H Club and Future Business Leaders of America while attending Pasco Middle School and Pasco High School. “I was always running for an office,” even during his youth, he recalled.
As a young adult in the late 1980s, Black and his family moved to “the big city” of Dade City 7 miles south of his original hometown. Almost instantly, he became interested in local affairs and attending commission meetings.
Once the next election cycle came around, Black figured he’d try his hand at becoming a city commissioner. “I thought, ‘You know, it would be kind of fun to run,’” he said.
Black won that April 1990 election by just four votes, unseating then incumbent William Dennis. He’s gone on to be re-elected six times over, running unopposed for five of those elections.
Black, a full-time insurance agent, has appreciated the decision-making role ever since — valuing the ability to help solve problems and concerns of local residents: “I’ve been very pleased with it, and I’ve been very challenged by it. It’s one of those things where you can actually go in and make a difference within a few minutes.”
Over the years, Black has simultaneously served as the city’s mayor on four separate occasions. He’s held countless roles in numerous other boards and committees, such as the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and Dade City Historic Preservation Advisory Board, among others. He was president of the Florida League of Cities, from 2001 to 2002.
Serving in city government for so long, Black teased he often feels “on assignment” when he visits or vacations other cities, taking notes on any interesting features and services and utilities: “My wife has joked that I notice things like fire hydrants and the wastewater treatment plants that most people don’t notice, just because I’ve gotten involved in things related to the city.”
To Black, Dade City will always be home. He can’t imagine living anywhere else.
The commissioner takes pleasure in the small-town, tight-knit community, rather than a big city lifestyle others have pursued.
“I enjoy the neighborly aspect of it,” Black said of Dade City living. “Seeing people that you grew up with and seeing people that were your schoolteachers or people that go to church with, it’s just something special.”
Simply put, in Dade City, “People are very nice,” he said.
The commissioner doesn’t take for granted having a commute shorter than most. His home sits a mere five blocks from his Fifth Street office. Being within walking distance to the local post office, bank, City Hall and downtown restaurants is another bonus, too. “My biggest challenge is crossing Seventh Street every day,” he quipped.
Dade City’s growth has been at a slower pace compared to other parts of Pasco County and the greater Tampa Bay area, Black acknowledged. Yet, he remains bullish on the city’s future prospects.
One of the more positive changes has been the revitalization of the historic downtown area — with an emphasis on unique eateries and antique shopping opportunities to help draw tourists and day-trippers, he said.
“I think a lot of small towns our size would give their left eye to have a downtown like we have — just the opportunities here and the neat features,” he observed.
Upgrades and extensions to the Roy Hardy Trail, tied in with future plans for a multi-purpose downtown splash park, are other investments the commissioner feels will help raise the city’s profile in coming years.
Said Black, “People are always saying, ‘We need to do more things for our kids in Dade City,’ and that’s what we’re doing.”
He thinks future generations will appreciate those efforts.
Meanwhile, this year is setting up to be one of the more distinctive periods during Black’s tenure on the commission.
The commission has held virtual meetings since April, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The municipal election — which has been rescheduled to June 30 — will see two, if not three, new faces on the five-member commission.
Commissioners Nicole Deese Newlon and Eunice Penix are not seeking re-election for Seats 4 and 5, respectively, while incumbent Commissioner Jim Shive is running against Matthew Wilson for Seat 3.
And, the changeover will come while the city gears up for a tighter budget, also due to COVID-19.
Black plans to use his extensive experience to help bring new commissioners up to speed and to help foster an atmosphere of collaboration.
Black put it like this: “Hopefully, I can help find common ground and consensus, and we can all move ahead. …We have a common goal and that’s keeping Dade City viable, successful, rebuilding.”
Black’s current term doesn’t expire until 2022, but he is already thinking ahead to a future run for re-election.
“I still have things I’d like to see us accomplish. I still feel useful,” Black said.
He went on: “But, the important thing to remember is it’s not about me, it’s not about (the commission), it’s about the City of Dade City.”
Published June 10, 2020