Hester likes doing a lot without raising taxes

Published on September 06, 2013 with No Comments

Like many military people, Grady Hester didn’t plan on staying in Milton when he was assigned to Whiting Field in 1975.

But he’s still here, serving on the Milton City Council and taking part in numerous church and civic activities.

Hester didn’t originally plan on running for the City Council, either.

“I’d always been interested in the community, but I hadn’t considered running for office,” said Hester, who served from 1987-94 on the Board of Adjustment, which handles variances and other land-use issues.

He said he was encouraged to run for the council in 1994 by Guy Thompson, who won his first term as mayor that year.

Hester won the council seat and soon found himself deluged with a heavy workload to master all the things a city council member must oversee – budgets, public safety, recreation, natural gas, drinking water and waste water, to name a few.

“To do it right, you have to do your homework,” said Hester, 75.

The long haul

When Hester commits to something, he goes the distance. He spent 22 years in the Navy, including a tour in Vietnam, before retiring in 1979.

He worked for 21 years at West Florida Community Care on Stewart Street, retiring in 1999 as assistant administrator. He was with the agency from its early days, when he did a bit of everything to help it get off the ground.

He and his wife have lived for decades on Happy Lane, where they raised their three sons.

Watching pennies

In his 19 years on the council, Hester has seen Milton add to its population and significantly improve its facilities – everything from big-dollar construction projects like City Hall, a police station and a fire station to smaller but important tasks like beautifying streetscapes and opening a dog park.

“Everybody wants money, but there’s not a lot of that around,” he said. “We’ve done a lot without increasing taxes.”

In recent years he has heard more and more citizens ask for better streets, a request he takes seriously.

It’s difficult because the city relies for much of its funding on its water service and its natural gas company. Mild winters and rainy summers have kept those revenues down, but still the city has managed to undertake major upgrades of trouble spots like Sanders Street and Canal Street. The city also has a timetable for improving other streets as funding allows.

People wanted better streets, Hester says, “and we’re doing that.”



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