DeBARY, Fla. – For DeBary Mayor Karen Chasez, maintaining a small-town feel while expanding the city is important for her community.
Chasez began her term in 2019. She had a vision to move away from news articles about crime in DeBary and move toward articles describing the growth of her beloved city.
“I had a successful corporate career and retired early and then I became more involved in my community and volunteer opportunities because I wanted to do some meaningful things and also reach some of my retirement goals such as traveling,” Chasez said.
After several years as an active DeBary citizen, she made a run for mayor.
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“I decided to run because I felt that some of the executive skills and knowledge that I had could be well used in DeBary to try to pave a path forward that would be less likely to garner negative attention and hopefully over time garner positive attention,” Chasez said.
One of the ways Chasez is garnering positive attention is by purchasing 170 acres along the St. Johns River that will be transformed into a park. A priority in this project for Chasez is avid public participation.
“We’re involving the public from the very beginning,” Chasez said. “We’re not doing one of those ‘The board will plan it ourselves and then three weeks before we break ground on the first improvement, we’ll ask if you want blue signs or green signs.’ That’s not public involvement.”
Chasez was reelected in 2022 and will continue her leadership until 2026. In the past four years of her term, she’s been able to guide her team into expanding the city.
“Over the last four years, we were able to do many things that began to take control of the direction the city is heading,” Chasez said. “We have a significant buildout happening in the south of our city near SunRail.”
A balance between expansion and community, however, is key.
“It’s really important that we keep the small-town feel, which we are working hard to do, but we also needed to take control of the growth within the rights that have been established for these property owners back when all of the planning around SunRail was done,” Chasez said. “Now we have been able to do some really significant things and move forward.”
Chasez expressed gratitude for her team for their work.
“I had no vision that we would be as successful as we have been in setting a vision and methodically going forward with it,” Chasez said. “I feel incredibly grateful for all the contributors, the council members, the city staff and particularly the city manager.”
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