Walking into the law office of George Pappas does not transport one into the realm of corporate lawyers nor does it transport someone into an office disconnected from the community around it. Rather, when walking into Mr. Pappas’ office one not only feels as if he or she has walked into a home but feels the sense of community and true service that lines the walls and rings from door to door. Because it is in this very office that people from all walks of life have reached out to Mr. Pappas who has helped each of them navigate through legal matters for over twenty-five years. Over these twenty-five years, individuals from Deland to Flagler have spoken to the very man who is now running for Congress, the very man who has seen their plights, has seen their struggles, who has helped people when they were at their weakest. Now, as the community in which Mr. Pappas was raised struggles, he feels the need to act.
As a result of political gerrymandering, the Florida Congressional map has changed substantially since the previous Congressional election in 2014 and as of December of 2015, the Florida Supreme Court selected a finalized map in which the current District 6 will now include all of Volusia County, eastern Lake County, Flagler County, and St. Johns County below St. Augustine. The change split up the previous Congressional District so that now Jacksonville and St. Augustine are no longer apart of the same district as Volusia and Flagler Counties. It is quite possible, with the consent of the voters, that the Daytona Beach area will have a member of its own community representing each of its citizens in the halls of Congress. What Mr. Pappas wishes to accomplish if he were elected it is to create an area of innovation that is comparable to that of Silicon Valley in California. When The Millennial Times sat down with Mr. Pappas the experienced attorney asked us a question which was posed to the greater community around us.
“Why can’t we be the Silicon Valley of aviation?” The very optimism that showed through Mr. Pappas’s vibrant smile remained while hewhilewhen he continued to explain that his vision was more than reasonable, that the Daytona Beach-Deland area is not only beautiful, but would provide the aerospace industry with a low-tax area containing one of the most skilled labor-forces the region has to offer. Southward, he explained, NASA still stands as a towering achievement of innovation and exploration while northward, Stetson University, Daytona State College, Bethune-Cookman University, a University of Central Florida Campus, and the “nation's largest educator of aerospace engineers” Embry Riddle Aeronautical University all produce thousands of graduates in the area who are prepared to carry the torch of innovation. Mr. Pappas emphasized the role of these colleges and universities in improving and creating the corridor of innovation he wishes to establish in Volusia County. It is a corridor he sees that the government can help to establish while allowing private enterprise to eventually take over.
“Look at Columbus,” Mr. Pappas said with excitement in reference to the Spanish government’s initial funding of voyages to the New World, voyages that were soon taken over by private enterprise. For a more modern example, Mr. Pappas discussed how the US government initially funded and oversaw space exploration, but now private companies, such as SpaceX, oversee and will oversee most of the space travel in the next generations. This model, which is Mr. Pappas’ vision and hope for his local community, is to attract aerospace industries to the area of Daytona Beach to Deland serves no other purpose than to provide jobs and opportunities for the members of Mr. Pappas’ community. The number of “offshoots that create jobs” as a result of the aerospace industry are truly difficult to predict not because of the difficulties in achieving those offshoots, but because the possibilities are truly endless. (For further reference here is a page created by NASA to demonstrate the numerous technologies and industries created as a result of investment in space exploration and innovation.) Mr. Pappas is someone who has seen the future by looking at the past he sees the United States of America leading, once more, the world in space flight and innovation. This vision is a reality, a reality that he wishes for each of his community members to be apart of. Without a doubt, once the prospects of a new frontier are envisioned, there is no turning back. The United States never turned its back on the idea “of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth” as President John F. Kennedy once said. This is not just a renewal of a community, but also a renewal of a nation and of innovation as a whole. A renewal that has come about as a result of a growing income gap that is destroying the Daytona Beach-Deland area – an area that Mr. Pappas has seen rise up and accomplish more than anyone could have ever imagined.
“We have become a county of the rich and the poor. The rich don’t need us anymore,” he told The Times in reference to the middle class, of which Mr. Pappas has been a member his entire life. The struggles of the middle class are the struggles that he himself has experienced and he has seen many members of his staff and community experience. He saw, when he was younger, General Electric come into the area and provide for jobs and a future to an innumerable number of families. Then they left, leaving the area to become a tourist-haven where minimum wage jobs provide very little sustenance to families and skilled workers. These economic conditions are being seen all across the nation. Mr. Pappas, whose eldest daughter is in college and whose youngest daughter will be attending the University of South Florida in the Fall, knows the dangers and the threat that student loans pose on the up and coming generation. The burden of student loans in the lives of so many young people is out of control, so much so that Mr. Pappas said that “Students are essentially indentured servants” to their loans. His concern for the students in our community and our nation comes from his motto that “Kids come first” and that his family is truly what drives him every day. Just as our nation has a growing population of students crippled by their loans, our nation has an aging generation, the Baby Boomers. Their struggles are seen every day as retired people are forced back onto the job market as a way of meeting ends meet. Mr. Pappas acknowledged that the insurance companies are taking advantage of elderly people and that Congress’ inaction with adjusting the cost of living for Social Security beneficiaries was absolutely unacceptable. His concern for the students and for the aging is a concern for the community in which Mr. Pappas lives.
Daytona Beach is unique in that many of the economic woes that have emerged as a result of the Recession have permanently scarred many of the sectors of its own economy. But it has left Daytona Beach vulnerable. Think about this. What happens if the Spring Breakers who would normally come to Daytona Beach decide to go to St. Augustine or go to the West Coast next year? What happens when the reliable yet seasonal source of economic income becomes unsustainable and eventually disappears? The people which Daytona Beach area depends upon for this seasonal income are the very people who are going to be saddled with more and more debt as they continue their education. So what is to say that they will keep coming? This is why Mr. Pappas’ vision for an innovative aerospace corridor from Volusia to Flagler County is so crucial and so fundamental for the permanent vitality of the economies of these areas. His vision is one that will see that an area hit so harshly by the Recession establishes itself at the forefront of innovation and technology. The vision of Mr. Pappas is to have the citizens of the Daytona Beach-Deland area not only lead the state in this industry, but lead the nation and the world just as Brevard County led the nation in space travel years ago. It is a vision that is attainable and a vision that starts with each member of the community. Because as Mr. Pappas told the Times, his vision to help and to create a more economically vibrant community is only possible when the leaders in Washington reach out to their own constituents and when members of the community get behind a vision, much like Mr. Pappas’ own, and strive toward a goal that creates a better future. A future not just for our own generation, but for the next.
Tapp is the editor-in-chief for The Millennial Times.