Suzy Heinbockel was born and raised in eastern Kentucky moved to Florida to work in hospitality for the Walt Disney Company.
Having two children attending schools in Ocala, she decided to run for city council there in December 2009. Heinbockel is completing her first term as District 1 Councilwoman, holding the at-large seat covering the entire city.
Heinbockel said she enjoys helping people, and her responsiveness is her most valuable contribution to the city council.
“I’ve heard from many people that they are surprised that I always respond to their emails, to their letters, to their phone calls,” she said.
Before Heinbockel took office, Ocala residents had to take their recyclables to a central location and sort it themselves. Under the curbside recycling program, homes are provided with containers for recyclables that are taken to the recycling facility with garbage pickup.
“The recyclables, the garbage and also the yard waste has all been consolidated into one pick up day,” she said.
The single pickup day already saved the city $300,000, according to Heinbockel.
Her efforts to increase transparency resulted in new updates to Ocala’s website.
“We have instituted an ‘Open Gov’ connection on our website where citizens can go and see all of the financial records of the city,” she said.
Ocala’s budget, comprehensive financial reports and transactions are all available on the website.
Forbes magazine recently ranked Ocala fifth for cities in the country to see job growth in the coming years. Heinbockel said Ocala’s central location puts it in a good position to continue this trend.
She hopes to continue job growth by taking advantage of the freight traffic after widening of the Panama Canal in 2015. Ocala is working with the Florida Department of Transportation in its “Freight Moves Florida” program to become an inland port, where containers are moved from trains to roadways.
“I think that’s going to be pivotal for the continued economic growth of our area,” she said.
Heinbockel said she initiated the process of adding five charter amendments to the Oct. 15 ballot. City offices, such as the public information office and the building inspector, can be handled by ordinances and do not need to be placed on the charter, she said.
“The majority of the changes are what we refer to as housekeeping items,” she said.
If reelected, Heinbockel said she plans to continue to support a transparent government by putting economic development agreements online. She hopes this encourages more businesses to migrate to Ocala.