Public service is clearly in Todd Dantzler’s blood and the city of Winter Haven has benefitted for a couple of generations now. His dad served as the town’s mayor in the ‘60s; his younger brother, Brad, serves in the role today. And Dantzler himself is winding down after eight years with the Polk County Board of Commissioners.
In fact, none of the Dantzler boys (there’s an older brother, too: Rick) have strayed from the city their South Carolina-born grandfather settled into back in the ‘20s. Rick married a local girl. Brad chose a bride from Ohio, but all call the city home, as do Dantzler’s own children – Hannah, 26, and Jacob, 24.
The city’s a little different these days from when he and the neighborhood boys played wiffleball and Capture the Flag and a neat take on baseball that their motley neighborhood crew invented.
“We’d take the fuzz off a tennis ball and get a bamboo stalk from the neighbor’s yard across the street,” a laughing Dantzler told GrowthSpotter. “You could hit the ball a lot farther!”
While Dantzler has memories of riding a fire engine in a local parade when his father was the City Commissioner, he had no designs on following in his dad’s footsteps outside the commercial real estate industry.
“He was a broker and I enjoyed working with him,” he explains, noting that his older brother had an interest in politics early on.
“[Rick] was 26 then and Dad said not to, because that’s where people get you at the grocery store and church and tell you that the potholes need fixing or the garbage didn’t get picked up. But he passed away before passing that advice on to my younger brother and me.”
His dad wasn’t wrong, he says with humor. “But that’s fine,” Dantzler notes. “It’s part of the gig.”
So, too, are meetings that can draw irate residents from the woodwork, like the time a man from the Green Swamp area came to gripe about his septic tank issues.
“He was upset about the $500 fee we charge for septic inspection,” he explains. “But it’s the state Health Department that performs them. We charge $500, send them $480 and keep $20 for the processing and paperwork.” The man made a few graphic suggestions, inviting the commissioners to view his septic tank up close.
“The Chairman at the time became apoplectic, banging his gavel to bring order and the rest of us are all cracking up that the man said such things in a public forum and I thought, ‘Well, giddy-up – this is going to be a good gig I’ve got myself into!’ Sometimes it does get spicy, but that’s fun. That’s what I like about it.”
It’s not all septic tanks and giggles, of course, and as he winds down and readies to take the reins at the CFDC, he’s quick to note they’ve never taken a land-use case lightly.
“I’m so impressed with our Commission,” he says. “We pay attention to the applicant and the opposition. We’re professional in our approach. We do our research and we have never had a cross word with each other on any decision we made … it’s been an honor serving with these guys.”
Making investors the center of the organization is one of the things Dantzler hopes to accomplish while at the helm of the Central Florida Development Council, along with getting the eastern leg of the Polk Parkway back on the books, but he’s got some ideas about his personal time, too. This includes golf, travel and lots of family time.
“I’ve really spent the last 8 years focused on the job,” says Dantzler, admitting that being a public official tends to take control of a person’s schedule.
He and his son plan to see more of their Marco Island condo, not to mention the water adjacent; Dantzler bought a new boat a few weeks back. He expects they’ll do quite a bit of fishing this summer.
“I just want to enjoy assimilating back into normal life,” he says.