People who make lists really, really like Brevard

Written by Britt Kennerly for FLORIDA TODAY

You want museums, retire to New York. Mountains and the Pacific Coast? Corvallis, Ore., is calling.

Like the idea of parks, golf courses, affordable housing, great weather and the beach, no matter your age? Think Brevard County. People who make lists of places to like do. They like us. Or, at least, like to list us on lists of places with lots to like.

Just recently, we’ve made Forbes’ “Most Innovative Cities” list and landed in “The Top 100 Cheapest Places to Retire in the U.S. in 2012,” a book by Tom Corley.

Now, we’ve captured the No. 3 spot on the latest “Best Cities for Retirees” list from Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

So what’s in a list? Promotion opportunities galore. Sometimes, dubious distinctions.

Don Walker, Brevard County’s communications director, isn’t a big fan of lists. But this latest one, he’ll take.

“Old Spice used to do a ‘Sweatiest Cities In America’ list, and I would scoff at it,” he said. “I mean, who would want to be on that, when really, it was about selling deodorant or aftershave lotion?

“But, truth be told, if there was a list of most-pleasant-climate locations in America, where the average temperature is 72 degrees, I’d darn sure look to see if Brevard County was there — and if not, then it would be an outrage.”

Earlier this summer, a Yahoo! Travel piece named Brevard County among the 10 most-crowded beaches in America. Walker’s initial reaction, he said, was “Why pick on us?’

“But the more I thought about it, the more I thought I should alert the area media,” he said. “If we’re crowded, that means people are coming to our beaches and we need to brag about it. Brevard County has 72 miles of shoreline, so by all means, pick a spot and enjoy it. There’s plenty to go around.”

Yes, our affordable housing, in large part, comes from a recession-pummeled housing market. But it’s lots cheaper than New Orleans, No. 1 on the list, or New York, No. 4.

New York? New Orleans? Sharon Block of Kiplinger’s said she and other editors considered everything from health care — we score very well there — to cost of living, income growth, crime, public schools, community services and cultural resources.

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New Orleans has affordable health care, a mild climate and retiree tax breaks. New York scores with “car-free living, some of the nation’s best medical facilities, restaurants on every block and museums all over town, many of which offer senior discounts.”

Along with housing prices and medical care, we’ve got a business-friendly climate. A great climate, period.

Sue Hann, Palm Bay city manager, said the list validates what officials see as Palm Bay’s strong selling points and the beauty of life in Brevard.

“The list talks about the parks and aquatic center and fishing, and that shows you the value of parks in your community,” she said.

“The last few years, as we’ve had to reduce our budgets, we’ve tried to make sure we still invest in our park services because it’s important if we want to live in a quality community.”

But just as New York has little appeal for people who like wide open spaces, not everyone wants to fish their way through retirement.

“We’re close to big cities but you’re not in them,” Hann said. “You have access to Broadway shows and professional sporting events, but you don’t have the downside of traffic congestion … you can still ride your horse in this area if you want to.”

The message Walker hopes comes from Kiplinger’s acknowledgment “is that it’s just the tip of the iceberg of what Brevard County has to offer,” he said.

“We’ve got more where that comes from. There’s plenty to go around, we’re not sweaty and we’ve got great beaches.”

Sniff. Sniff. I think I smell a winner.


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