Excerpts from Developer sets sights on governor run
By KARI COBHAM – Staff Writer
DELAND –– Michael Arth is an enigma –– at once driven and intellectual, hands–on, somewhat eccentric, a nomadic jack of all trades.
You might know him as the cocky yet earnest man who moved from California's Santa Barbara hills in 2001 to transform a decrepit DeLand neighborhood into the Garden District –– picturesque blocks of restored turn–of–the–century homes, quaint shops and pastel facades.
Or you might remember Arth two years ago as the vocal proponent of a pedestrian village for the mentally ill and homeless out near the Volusia County Branch Jail.
He's also an artist, self–taught green urban planner, author and futurist.
Now meet Arth the gubernatorial candidate.
His campaign strategy?
“To tell the truth, to speak up openly and honestly about what I believe about everything and not hide anything.
“I don't have experience working backroom politics, raising money for a campaign, schmoozing people and saying things I don't believe and pretending to be something I'm not and all the other things politicians do that I find so unsavory,” said Arth, 56, who's running as a Democrat. “And so that's what I have to offer: You'll know where I stand.”...
...“Apparently, his idea of impossible is a little bit different,” (Michael's wife Maya) said. “I have to say he manages to get what he sets out to do.”
Arth has faced long odds before.
Eight years ago, he sold his California home and moved into a dilapidated house in a notoriously dangerous area of southeast DeLand known as “Cracktown.” Arth –– who has lived from Texas to Paris, run a bed and breakfast in Colorado, worked as an animator in Los Angeles and built Hollywood houses from the ground up –– cobbled together financing, eventually buying 32 homes and businesses, and went about rebuilding until the drug gangs, dealers and neighborhood's unsavory rep were gone. He even created an award-winning documentary about the endeavor, “New Urban Cowboy: Toward A New Pedestrianism.”
“He's remade part of a town. I'd like to see him remake a state,” said former Republican Committeewoman Maureen France, referring to Arth's revitalized Garden District. “These crazy times demand a little out–of–the–box thinking and he's got it.”
France, a former DeLand commissioner and Mainstreet DeLand director, pledged to endorse Arth, but admits she's “sticking my neck out to support someone like Michael.”
“He's never been in office; that qualifies him very well,” she said with a chuckle. “In this day and age, the lack of leadership proves to me that it doesn't matter if you started out as a city commissioner and worked all the way to the top.”...
...“I'll win because the times are changing, people are fed up with the system we've got,” Arth said. “The recession has shown that maybe business–as–usual is not going to work so well after all.”
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