Commissioners make connections at White House

Pasco County commissioners Kathryn Starkey and Jack Mariano attended a special White House conference to promote communications between the state’s county commissions and federal agencies.

The Florida County Commissioners’ White House Conference met on July 27, and included about 120 county commissioners and staff from all over the state. It was the second in what is planned as a series of conferences to strengthen relationships between the Trump administration, federal agencies and local elected officials.

The first conference was for Pennsylvania’s local governments.

Starkey described the Florida conference as similar in purpose to Pasco County’s Citizens Academy, but on a much shorter six-hour schedule. The Citizens Academy is nine sessions over several weeks.

“I think the visit was tremendous,” said Starkey. “It was a wonderful relationship-building day. It can only be the beginning of a good working relationship between local officials and the White House.”

The U.S. Secretaries of Labor and Commerce attended, as did representatives of other agencies, including the U.S. Department of Energy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Department of State, and senior White House staff members.

Those attending heard an overview of each department and agency, their functions and the issues for which they can provide assistance to local governments. Contact information was shared, too.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was among the conference speakers.

And, there were visits with U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist.

Starkey and Mariano headed to the conference with a list of priority issues for Pasco. Those included road projects, such as the new interchange at Interstate 75 and Overpass Road, the Ridge Road extension, veterans’ issues, coastal dredging, flood insurance and work force training.

“We talked a lot about dredging and the need for flood maps,” said Starkey.

An unfinished, 70-year-old dredging project near Sun West Park was high on Mariano’s list, according to a statement included in a Pasco County news release.

Pasco began a new permitting process for the dredging in 2007.

“Pasco County has a project ready to go, but we need federal approval for the dredge, so we can build seven boat ramps,” Mariano stated. “I’m hoping the President can help speed this project along.”

Published August 9, 2017

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