On March 11, voters will choose either Paul E. Ray (1002 Hull Street South) or Yolanda Roman (5919 19th Avenue South) as their next representative for Ward Three. We asked them both the same set of questions. You can read their unedited answers below.
What is your career?
Yolanda Roman: After graduating from Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, I began my career as a research pharmacologist with Johnson & Johnson (J&J). In the ensuing years, my career transitioned into a variety of sales and marketing roles. After 28 years, I retired from J&J as the National Director of Advocacy Relations. Upon leaving J&J in 2006, Alkermes, Inc. approached me to join them as a Regional Director of Access & Reimbursement. This is my current position.
Paul Ray: Software developer/engineer, former software development and consulting firm president and owner of a restaurant.
How long have you lived at your current address?
PR: Three years.
YR: In April of this year, I will have been in my current home for six years.
Who else lives in your household?
YR: Currently, I share my home with my two dogs, Duchess and Rocco, and my newest addition, a kitten named Maddy. My children have lived here and return periodically as they transition from school to their careers. My eldest, Julian, after returning from the Peace Corps; Jonathan after graduating from Florida State University; and most recently, Jolie after graduating from Florida International University.
PR: Wesley, my other half of 14 years with whom I am married (in MA) and been with for 14 years.
In 10 words or less (we’ll talk more in depth in a later interview), tell voters why you chose to run:
PR: Out of a commitment to the city has adopted me.
YR: I am motivated and possess the skills to serve Gulfport.
Where is the last place you lived before Gulfport? Why did you move away from that place?
YR: Prior to moving to Gulfport in 2008, I spent 20 years in Laverock, Pennsylvania, where I raised my three kids. In February 2005, I purchased a vacation cottage near Clam Bayou, where I spent a considerable amount of time from 2005–2008. It was during these years that I came to love Gulfport.
When I purchased my current home in Gulfport in the spring of 2008, I had two kids studying in Florida public universities, and my mother, brother and his partner already living in Gulfport.
PR: Jacksonville, Florida. I came down to Gulfport with Wesley, my other half, 14 years ago. He is originally from Pinellas County, his family is from St Petersburg, and some of them have lived in Gulfport over the years. He took me to the downtown of Gulfport and I fell in love. The charm of Gulfport is very reminiscent of Cape Cod where I grew up, the friendliness and openness of the people, restaurants, views from the beach, and of course the weather. I determined that day we would live here, it just took me almost 10 years. The reason for leaving Jacksonville is that we never felt the same as we did in Gulfport.
What in the city most needs council’s attention?
PR: The sewer, water, and storm drainage system. Although the bayou came to mind as well, the sewer system is going to cost the city more and more money the longer we ignore it.
YR: The city budget is the vehicle through which council can have the most impact. We must budget in a fiscally conservative and responsible manner, while maintaining optimal city services and amenities.
How many hours a week do you think it will take to serve on Gulfport city council?
YR: It is clear to me that time requirements will vary depending on the time of year (e.g., budget discussions) and/or the type of issues before the council. I completely understand that as a council member I will be required to come to all meetings fully prepared to engage in discussions, ask questions and share findings from my own research and/or input from the community. Regardless of the time required, I am committed to meeting this obligation.
PR: The conversations I have had with the other council members lead me to believe that this will be a minimum of 15 hours a week.
Describe Gulfport in three words.
PR: Quirky, accepting, artistic.
YR: Community. Diversity. Welcoming.
Would you have run for office had the incumbent (Jennifer Salmon) chosen to remain in office?
YR: I decided to run upon learning that the Ward III City Council seat would be vacant.
PR: No. Had the Ward Three city council member Jennifer Salmon not announced her intent on not running for re-election, I would not have entertained the idea. I was mostly pleased with her performance on council.
What’s the worst thing about Gulfport?
PR: 49th St Corridor. This is not a good first impression we leave people with.
YR: Gulfport is an inviting city, with many different attributes that showcase our commitment to our community. This comes in the form of festivals, events and recreational activities. Accordingly, the “worst” thing about Gulfport is trying to find the time to experience it all.
One of our greater challenges is the work necessary to finally bring our sewer systems up to date, in a timely and fiscally responsible fashion.
What’s the best thing about Gulfport?
YR: The people! Gulfport is defined by its vast amount of diversity. This is exemplified by our various cultures, the artists among us, our youth, our retirees, and the many visitors that come and enjoy our hospitality. There is no other place I would choose to call home.
PR: That’s a hard one to answer, the people come to mind, the restaurants, the character, and the acceptance is sometimes like an oasis in the desert.