The following is an edited excerpt from an interview with Eliseo Santana on The Kelly Kelly Show.
Doug Kelly: You had a long career with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and are a community activist. Eliseo, welcome to the show. Eliseo’s going to be asked the same questions we posed to all the other candidates running for the three seats in Clearwater. We do that to be fair, so no one feels like they’re being backed against the wall. Eliseo, what’s your educational background?
Eliseo: Well, I finished high school and I joined the military. I served two tours of Korea and I recommend that everybody go outside this country and experience what is there. I was in the Army and when I came back to Florida, I also joined the Florida National Guard. At the same time, I started working with the Sheriff’s Department. I’ve spent over 30 years in service to our community. In the process of being with the Sheriff’s Department, I went to university and I received an Associate’s degree in Technology, which I applied to my job in the Sheriff’s Department. I eventually received an MBA and that enabled me to be able to become an Administrator within the Sheriff’s Department.
Kelly Kelly: How long have you lived in Clearwater?
Eliseo Santana: We’ve been in the area for over 40 years now. In 2006, I bought a residence in the Sunset Point and Highland area.
Kelly Kelly: What is it about Clearwater that’s kept you here this long?
Eliseo Santana: You know, people pay good money from all over the world, all over the United States, to come here and vacation in Clearwater. This question cannot be answered, except to say that I live in the place that everybody wants to come to.
Doug Kelly: Why are you running for the Clearwater city council?
Eliseo Santana: That’s a good question. My friends, my family, people in the community – they really wanted me to run. In my past experiences in the military and in my years with the Sheriff’s Department, I found it best if I started at the beginning.
Kelly Kelly: What are the main challenges facing Clearwater?
Eliseo Santana: That’s a fantastic question. I find that parking and traffic are huge issues that need to be addressed. Also [affordable] housing. We have paramedics, we have police officers, we have professional people that live and work in the city that are not able to afford to live in the city. I think that’s a consideration and it’s something that I want to be able to bring about by the utilization of opportunity zones – tapping into a lot of resources that are available. But the key thing, too, is that if you’re a realtor, I’m going to be looking for you because I dreamed we need to identify all the properties that are able to be brought in that can be used for affordable housing. We need to identify the properties and also in Step 1, address with bankers bringing in investments. We will have the properties identified. They will be ready to be developed. We will have the finances through the banks to spend money in our community because of the opportunity zone. Tax breaks are there. And then the third element is, we’re going to be bringing in the developers. We’ll have the developers compete because we have everything in place – we have the place, we have the money, we have the funding. We will be able to get really good leverage.
Doug Kelly: How much time would you be able to attribute to serving as a council member?
Eliseo Santana: I’m retired with over 30 years of experience with the Sheriff’s Department. I am not an attorney looking for clients, so I don’t have to do that. I can work at it full time.
Doug Kelly: The U.S. economy is doing exceptionally well. I know the stock market was rocky last week due to the coronavirus situation, but what’s the financial picture as it relates to both citizens and city government in Clearwater?
Eliseo Santana: Wow, you know if you read the newspaper and are following the headlines, as a source of revenue, we have Clearwater Beach, so we need to make sure that our city is well-prepared and does everything that it needs to do to be able to handle that because that could be devastating.
Kelly Kelly: Tell us a bit about your family.
Eliseo Santana: I have five siblings. My wife and I were fortunate enough to have three daughters and one son. By the way, they were all born in Pinellas County. They gave me 13 grandchildren.
Doug Kelly: How would you handle working with the Church of Scientology?
Eliseo Santana: I fully support the current city manager and the city attorney and the others that have started the dialogue of bringing people together and talking. It is so important that every player, everybody with a stake – whether it be homeowners associations or civic groups or religious organizations – all are involved. All parties should be able to have their say. We need their input to try to get as much cooperation from as many people as we can. That’s really what politicking is about, when you come down to it. It is dealing with people. We have a representative government and I’m here to represent the people.
Kelly Kelly: What do you like doing in your free time?
Eliseo Santana: I have 13 grandchildren. My 11-month old granddaughter, she just starting to walk and I told her just today to come here and give me a hug and she wobbled over to me. I kick the ball around with them. Something as simple as going to the movies with them, it is a bonding time.
Doug Kelly: Give us your contact info for your campaign.
Doug Kelly: I know you’re campaigning hard and if you get elected, you’ll do a great job.
Eliseo Santana: Citizens, go out and cast a vote. I’m asking everybody out there to vote for Eliseo Santana!