Government and Infrastructure Day started at the Greater Tampa Chamber Office and was sponsored by Bryant, Miller Olive and their most capable representative Kareem Spratling (LT 12).
Bob Rohrlack, President and CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce
Our Day began with an introduction from Bob Rohrlack (Leadership Gainesville ’89), who provided an overview of Vision 2026, the roadmap to Organizational Excellence for the Chamber. This 10 year Plan is built upon 3 Pillars: To be a Catalyst; to be a HUB for Business; and to be an Inclusive Organization. This plan is the foundation for strategic planning and is reflected in the Strategic Goals for 2017 – 2019.
Dr. Susan McManus, Professor of Public Administration and Political Science at the University of South Florida
Our next speaker was the nationally known political expert Dr. Susan McManus, and we knew we were in for a thorough and insightful discussion. Dr. McManus focused on the important role of local government in Florida. We learned how the “Ps” of politics (e.g., Police, Potholes, Property, and Pollution, etc.) are driving issues in local politics and that by being closer to their constituents, the leaders of these nearly 2,200 local governments, separated into 4 areas (i.e., Counties, Cities, School Districts and Special Districts), are best able to address these issues. As a result, they tend to be the most trusted by their constituents. Dr. McManus explained that local governments are created by the individual states and are uniquely subject to obligations, privileges, powers and restrictions they impose. She went on to describe the three forms of county government in Florida (Traditional Commission, Commission Administrator, and Council-County Executive) and the four forms of city government (Commission, Council Manager, Weak Mayor-council, and Strong Mayor-council). For example, Tampa is a strong Mayor-Council city within Hillsborough County, which is a County-Administrator county. Dr. McManus explained that we elect our local officials either through At-large District Residency, Single Member Districts or a combination of the two. Of the 67 school boards in Florida, 41 of the superintendents are elected, while 26 are appointed by the School Board. Finally, although the Special Districts are often the least well known, their functions are often the most popular among residents, including Community Development/Redevelopment, Fire Control & Rescue.
Dr. McManus explained that there are big challenges for local governments in the Tampa Bay area, especially since most of these issues are metropolitan-wide which require cooperation vs competitiveness between jurisdictions to find solutions. This must also be balanced considering the many federal and state mandates that must be met while addressing the concerns of voters, including an anti- tax sentiment, economic uncertainties, and a new way of communicating with constituents while addressing ever-changing technologies and cybersecurity concerns. Tampa Bay is increasingly becoming a power in Florida politics when you consider its racial/ethnic makeup, diverse political geographies (rural/urban/suburban) diverse age composition, partisan composition and the size of the media market. As data from the 2016 election is gathered and analyzed, it has become clear that Tampa Bay is playing an increasing role in Florida and national politics while working to support the needs of local communities.
Mike Suarez, Tampa City Council, District 1 and Council Chairman
We were fortunate to have Mike Suarez join us to discuss the Tampa City Council and his role as Council Chairman. Mr. Suarez explained that although the main responsibility of the City Council is to enact ordinances and resolutions administered by the mayor, it is also tasked with reviewing and signing contracts, land-use planning and zoning issues, and establishment of various boards. Questions from the LT ’17 crowd addressed impacts of legalized marijuana on current zoning, balancing conflict of interest while performing council duties and impacts for future infrastructure work under the proposed Trump Administration spending. An interesting point stressed by Mr. Suarez was that as a City Council member he is prohibited from discussing zoning and land-use issues privately, and that if approached by anyone on a personal level (including family), he is obligated to report it at the next council meeting.
Hillsborough County Center discussions
- Craig Latimer, Supervisor of Elections for Hillsborough County
Several speakers awaited us at the Hillsborough County Center, starting with Craig Latimer who was both knowledgeable and engaging. He shared how he and his team delivered superior results to the voters in Hillsborough County, earning the Governor’s Sterling Award for performance excellence. Mr. Latimer stated “It’s all about the process,” and that includes having a well-trained and dedicated staff to execute the process. He shared that Election Day voting is 9 times more expensive and voters are increasingly choosing the mail-in and early voting options. Even still, some 3,500 poll workers were needed on Election Day to ensure a smooth process and delivered with secure results. Since Hillsborough County has picked 20 of the last 21 Presidential Candidates, it is no wonder that there was a media blitz in Mr. Latimer’s lobby on Election Day with all eyes on Florida and the I-4 Corridor. Mr. Latimer fielded a barrage of questions from the LT ’17 attendees related to election security, sun-setting of the Voters Rights Act, vote re-counts, ballot style and configuration, exit polling and the certification process. In the end, it was reassuring to know that voting in Hillsborough County is serious business.
- Andrew Warren, Hillsborough County State Attorney
We then heard from Andrew Warren (LT ’16) who was recently elected to his position over incumbent Mark Ober. Mr. Warren began with the question “What does the State Attorney do?” and went on to explain that his office prosecutes state level crimes in Hillsborough County whereas the Attorney General prosecutes civil cases for the state of Florida. His office has 308 employees, including 135 prosecutors, making it the largest law firm in Hillsborough County. He stated that a strong community is built upon three areas that are interdependent: Economics, Education and Criminal Justice. He believes that Criminal Justice must consider these 4 components: Retribution, Recidivism, Rehabilitation and Restitution. In the long run, the community becomes safer when it addresses the long-term consequences of the justice system on education and economics. Mr. Warren fielded several questions from the LT ’17 attendees related to which cases his office pursues, normal time to adjudicate cases, roles of schools in criminal justice, relationship between law enforcement and citizens, and the increase of cybersecurity crimes. It is clear that Mr. Warren is excited and ready to lead the Hillsborough County State Attorneys forward.
- Transportation and Infrastructure Panel Discussion
Joe Waggoner, CEO, Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA)
Katerine Eagen, CEO, Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit Authority (HART)
Ray Chiaramonte, Executive Director, Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA)
We ended the morning with a panel discussion on Transit and Transportation where each of the panelists described their organizations and the challenges/opportunities that they face. A common theme was that Transportation and Transit solutions are not complex and require cooperation across many jurisdictions.
Mr. Chiaramonte explained that TBARTA was established in 2007 and adopted its first master plan in 2009. TBARTA represents the 8 county Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) impacting Tampa Bay, and coordinates closely with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
Ms. Eagen described several initiatives at HART including rideshare, autonomous vehicles, incorporating Google technology into bus service, and providing service to those living in food deserts and/or having physical disabilities. She stated that HART is “blowing up the current transit model” and is transforming from a bus company to a transit company.
Mr. Waggoner explained that THEA owns and maintains the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway. Explaining that the tollway was built using bonds, he said that the current revenue stream supports maintenance and operations. Mr. Waggoner explained how the use of Reversible Express Lanes (REL) was a first in addressing urban congestion. THEA is also exploring new technology moving forward, including automated vehicle technology and connected vehicles.
The panel fielded several questions from the LT ’17 attendees including how to best overcome resistance to change, change management, funding, and communication across jurisdictions. It became obvious that Transportation & Transit continues to be a complex issue requiring cooperation among leadership to resolve.
Lunch with Mayor Bob Buckhorn
The group experienced the healthiest mode of inner-city transportation by walking to Tampa Club to meet with Mayor Buckhorn (Leadership Florida ’98). As expected, Mayor Buckhorn provided an inspiring introduction where he shared his pride of the City of Tampa over hosting the National Football Championship. The Mayor fielded questions for the LT ’17 attendees including what’s next in development of Tampa as a “Well City” in Channelside, capturing the essence of Tampa, future development of the Port of Tampa, and looking at other cities as role models.
In a nutshell, the mayor shared that Tampa is a city on the verge of radical transformation with a unique and diverse community. This city is a magnet for talent and new business but recognizes that we must address our lack of mobility. To do this, we can look to what other cities are doing and take lessons when we can.
Afternoon activity “Leadership Tampa Amazing Race”
There are no words to express the shock and awe that awaited us as we were broken into 12 teams based purely on the luck of the draw. Our task: To be the first to return to the Chamber Office after completing a series of stops using five separate modes of transportation (documented with selfies), and completing 5 Road Block Challenges. Each team had their own unique experiences and challenges along the way, and the debrief left us all in stitches. The afternoon can best be captured in a single phrase, “Man Down!!”