Gothia’s goal is to strengthen the local workforce

Published 8:43 am Saturday, July 28, 2018

By Ginger Broomes

The Orange Leader


After taking office just over a year ago, John Gothia’s main focus for his first six months was to strengthen the local workforce here. He saw that a lot of county employees were leaving because their benefits had been taken away, and Orange was losing our workforce because of it.

“We wanted to recover those benefits because (at the time), we had the funds available,” Gothia said. “Our overall job as a commissioner is to serve our community, and you have to have good people in all of these departments to be able to do that.”

County commissioners were making headway in that process and had just given one of the largest raises that the county has had in years, right as Harvey was hitting.

“We got everybody’s raise in right as the hurricane hit,” Gothia said.

Being a commissioner was something Gothia had thought about doing for a long time. He wanted to get involved with the process here, wanted involvement with his community, which he says wasn’t anything new to him, as he had been involved with volunteering and economic development in his previous 32-year tenure working locally for a robotics company. A lifelong Orange resident, the decision to run for commissioner following his retirement was an easy one.

“How things operate, I’m a firm believer in that if you have issues with things, it’s a better way to be a part of the solution instead of sitting back watching it happen,” Gothia said.

During his previous career, he said the opportunity rose to move away from Orange and chose not to do it. He and his wife always wanted to raise their family here and to retire here, and he says that was the catalyst for taking on the role of commissioner.

“In order to stay, we had to have opportunity here,” Gothia said. “We had to have a growing community and I saw a lot of need for that.”

After barely squeezing in the pay raises prior to Harvey, he now sees the majority of his time taken up with helping people recover from the storm.  The storm paused the focus of rebuilding the workforce but did not stop it, as the county works to recoup their costs from storm recovery, continuously applying for and receiving funds made available for Harvey rebuilding.

“There’s no doubt that a lot of what we are doing, is drainage,” Gothis said. “My second day on the job, one of my first phone calls was about drainage. That is nothing new, it was a problem before, but no doubt that Harvey brought it to a new level.”

Gothia stresses how the city, county and drainage district have been working together diligently, and have gotten a lot done with drainage in the last few months. But that’s not his biggest accomplishment.

“Personally I’ve been able to help a lot of individuals with localized funding to help them get back into their houses – grants and recovery groups. Getting people connected to those that can help and that has been very rewarding to me to be able to do that,” Gothia said. “And I’ve got to say, I was flooded too, so I know what that ‘s like. It’s heart-wrenching. It just takes it out of you, and for those folks with no insurance it’s even more so. So, trying to help our community come back and build back and stay here is very important.”

Gothia had two main goals when he began his tenure as commissioner: being able to keep and recruit more county employee, and economic development. Those goals remain a focus although they were affected by the storm like everything else.

“For this community to grow and be vibrant, we have to have economic development. If you’re not willing to invest in yourself, other people are not going to invest in you either,” Gothia said. “In order to attract companies, I would like to maintain focus on that. You need to grow your community. If businesses come, then people will follow, and it affects everything.”