BY JEROLINE D. MCCARTHY
Howard Holley is seeking to make history in Flagler County.
He’s a longtime Republican turned Independent running for Flagler County Commissioner, District 2. He faces Frank Meeker in the November election. If he wins, he will be the first Black and first Independent elected to the commission.
Holley is CEO of the Holley Group, a marketing firm, and is cofounder and chairman of Touch Point Alliance, a communications company. He also hosts a radio show, “Against All Odds: How Successful People Overcome Adversity.” The show airs Saturdays at 10 on 106.3 FM and 1550 AM.
He is a former senior executive of Xerox Corporation. During his 33 years with Xerox, he ran organizations and operations in San Diego, Calif.; the Northeast United States and around the world. He ran global operations in developing markets (China, Brazil, Russia and India).
He also lived in Shanghai as a senior vice president for Xerox China’s Enterprise Solutions Group. His last assignment was as a line of business leader for Xerox Global Services.
Jobs and more jobs
At a recent “Meet and Greet” at the home of John and Sybil Lucas, Holley discussed ways the would benefit Flagler County as its District 2 commissioner.
“Jobs, jobs, jobs. Flagler County needs No. 1, more jobs,” Holley said. “Number 2, better-paying jobs, and No. 3, jobs that offer real-career opportunities.”
He related that the county’s unemployment rate is the second highest in the state at 9.5 percent, behind South Florida’s Hendry County. The national average is now 5.9 percent.
Holley says Flagler’s high rate is unacceptable and stated that someone should be elected to the County Board of Commissioners who knows how to grow businesses, has corporate experience and can communicate with corporate executives.
“New businesses must be attracted to our community. Existing businesses must be grown and entrepreneurship encouraged at every opportunity,” he said.
“I have relevant business experience and global corporate experience that I want to bring to this county and to this community,” he asserted.
Holley suggests that the county cannot suffice on the backs of residents, seeing that no one wants the property taxes increased.
“But if we continue to rely on residential property to fund our county over the next 10 to 20 years, taxes will increase. I have a better idea,” he continued. “Let’s focus on diversifying the property tax base. Let’s focus, truly focus, on increasing commercial, industrial, and agricultural property investments in this county. It will grow jobs; it will grow the economy, and will protect our financial future. Just what we need.”
No match in Flagler
Holley further indicated that the recent economic downturn has highlighted a significant problem throughout Florida, which affects students the most – jobs don’t match with skills
“No. 1, our students are graduating with skills that cannot be matched to jobs,” he explained.
No. 2, our businesses have jobs that are going unfilled, and No. 3, our loved ones who want to move here are not able to because they can’t find the jobs that they need.”
“We need a solution: A communitywide effort executed by the Board of County Commissioners, to solve this problem. Leadership that matches jobs with skills is just what we need,” he added. “We share a sense of pride and appreciation for this unique place.”
The early years
Holley and his wife, Dr. Barbara Holley, former school principal, moved to Palm Coast seven years ago from Norfolk, Va.
He grew up in public housing with his two siblings in Norfolk, and his dad worked at a post office. An uncle appointed him manager at a young age at the local YMCA.
Holley was living in New York City when he was drafted into the Army. He returned there, following an honorable discharge in 1968, to work. He joined the Xerox Corporation in 1976 as a sales representative.
He was part of the “new push to break the glass ceiling,” to help minorities and women be promoted to high-level executive positions. “I was one of the leaders who was a part of that push inside Xerox for African-Americans and women,” Holley said.
Family, community work
When Holley is not campaigning, he and his wife spend time with their four adult children and 10 grandkids.
Holley’s quiet time includes reading, watching movies and listening to the icons of jazz. He is active with the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce, the chamber’s Board of Directors, Economic Alliance Council, and its Business Issues Committee.
He’s also a member of the Board of Directors, Executive Committee and the Investment Committee for the Daytona State College Foundation. He has served on numerous committees, including the Palm Coast Arts Foundation and the Florida Hospital Flagler Foundation.
Furthermore, he is a member of the men’s ministry and men’s choir at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church of Palm Coast.