Editor’s Note: The Santa Rosa Press Gazette will feature Santa Rosa County candidates running in the Aug. 28, 2018, primary election and Nov. 6, 2018, general election.

NAVARRE — Retired Air Force engineer David Piech of Holley by the Sea is running for Santa Rosa County commissioner of District 4. Piech believes his over 27 years' experience in the military as a civil engineer gives him the leadership and planning experience necessary for the role.

Here, we catch up with the candidate.  

Tell us about yourself

I own a home in Holley by the Sea in Navarre that I bought 2.5 years ago. I moved to Navarre June 2015. I’ve been in the area since 2013.

I’m originally from Chicago, the seventh of eight kids. I moved to Colorado to go to school to get my bachelor’s of science in mechanical engineering then entered the Air Force. My sister commissioned me and her husband gave me my first salute in the Air Force. They gave me the opportunity to live with them and go to school.

I’ve been a career civil engineer for the Air Force 27 years as an engineer, in construction, planning, programming, base maintenance, kind of like public works for bases. I’ve had a lot of different assignments, stationed at 11 different locations.

I was a squad commander three different times. My last assignment was at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico as a group commander, which entails leading six different squadrons (totaling) 1,500 different personnel, all support organizations that run a base. Logistics, communications, contracting, security, police, civil engineers and all recreation and family services fell under me.

I’ve had an awesome career, no regrets. I would do all over again. I decided to retire last February and got married just this past October, my very first marriage. (I was a workaholic in the military. I never made time for anything other than my job.) A month after that we decided it would be good to run for commissioner.

I have no children, just my three Labradors.

Why are you running for this position?

With my military experience, I believe working with the other commissioners and people of Santa Rosa County I can help build a stronger, safer, more prosperous community.

My forte in the Air Force was planning and programming for projects. I see a lot of that in the county. I worked with local governments in command positions at the county and city levels.

I see Santa Rosa County growing, which is a good thing, but I definitely see the need to plan it and program for it and have right support for that growth. We’re growing faster than our support. That’s a recipe for trouble.

I see that now in some areas in the south of the county, even up toward Pace, with flooding and infrastructure issues that haven’t been well thought out or planned.

I told my wife I’m a fixer of 20-plus years fixing and building bases with the education tax payers gave me to use.

I’m 52 years old and I love serving the community. 

If elected, what would you like to see accomplished in the county?

I’ve got five basic points I’m pitching and putting out there: the Piech Plan.

One, planning is key in everything we do. I see a lot of plans being funded but don’t see them being tied together in a good, solid, cohesive way.

Two, we can’t just build infrastructure on a whim, not knowing the overall plan. We can’t put in water and sewer lines, roads and sidewalks without knowing where to plan for growth. Right now, the Pace and Navarre systems are stressed to the max.

Three, we have to bring in industry to make people want to stay in the county and drive people from Okaloosa and Escambia to come to to the county. In Navarre, there’s not a whole lot of commercial development or industry. Everybody goes to Pensacola or Fort Walton Beach. With diversification, we can bring them to us instead of raising taxes or more bonds. We have to make it attractive for business to come, too … but not a free ride on taxpayers’ dollars. There’s a fine balance. Th economic development group should be looking at those things.

Four, throughout the county there are diverse organizations that do fantastic things for residents and their children. Leadership needs to pull those groups together for economy of scale. We don’t want different directions but a core sense of community with people. With that come community spirit, communication and a safer community.

Five, you have to be honest. That’s the cornerstone, especially for elected leaders. Straight-forward honesty and transparent talk goes a long way. After all, it’s not my ideas but the community’s ideas.

If I’m elected, I’ll be the voice for the voters in the community. It’s not Dave Piech. It’s Santa Rosa County.