Pasco administrator emphasizes teamwork, service

As Pasco County’s rapid growth continues, County Administrator Dan Biles said his team continues to focus on the county’s mission.

Stated simply, it’s this: “Serving our community to create a better future.”

Biles loves the clarity and simplicity of the statement.

“How many governments have a mission statement that is eight words?” the administrator asked, during a recent luncheon meeting of the North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce.

Pasco County Administrator Dan Biles said if the county was a city, it would rank between Tucson, Arizona, and Fresno, California in terms of population. It ranks 12th in population, among Florida’s 67 counties, he said. (B.C. Manion)

The mission statement lacks the bureaucratic gobbledygook often found in mission statements.

It doesn’t even mention the word government.

But, Biles said that every member of his 2,500-member team knows that they play a role in pursuing that mission, and he noted that internal studies reveal that employee engagement continues to increase.

“I tell my team, ‘You come to work every day with the ability to go home, knowing you’ve improved somebody’s life. It doesn’t matter if you work in purchasing, and you happen to be purchasing the water valves for the water department — making sure we have clean water to go to our customers; or you work in community services and you’re working with the homeless to help the people in the county who have fallen on hard times.

“Everybody in the county has the ability to do (improve lives) that,” Biles said.

The county is a big operation, with a budget of more than $1 billion and 60 departments and divisions.

And, it’s easy to see — with new development popping up along the State Road 54/State Road 56 corridor, that the county continues to grow, the administrator added.

Pasco issued 50,000 permits last year, according to county records. That included permits for simple things, like water heaters, he said. But, it also included 3,600 single-family home permits last year.

Biles expects the growth to continue, and he expects the county’s population to approach 560,000, when the population is counted in the U.S. Census in 2020.

“If you look at growth trends in Florida, just among the 67 counties, there’s about 18 counties driving all of the growth in Florida,” Biles said, including Pasco County.

“For comparison purposes, if we were a city, we would rank between Tucson, Arizona, and Fresno, California,” he said, adding that it’s Florida 12th most populous county.

In terms of land mass, the area west of Little Road to the coast is actually larger than the city of Seattle, Biles added.

As the population increases, county services must increase, too, Biles noted.

“We will probably, in the next couple of years, have the second-largest fire department in the region. We’re about 630 firefighters and administrative staff in 24 stations, and we’re adding five stations,” he said.

Those stations are being financed through a bond issue overwhelmingly approved by voters last November. Voters also agreed to general obligation bonds to upgrade libraries, expand the county’s jail and enhance county parks.

Biles said his job is to guide the county in the direction that the Pasco County Commission wants the county to go.

The county has worked hard to improve its delivery of services, and has made progress, Biles said.

“It’s the existing team that has made it happen, not me bringing in a new team of people,” said the administrator, who was selected to fill the post when former County Administrator Michele Baker retired.

Biles said that he works to create an atmosphere where employees can feel comfortable expressing their opinions and sharing their ideas.

“We want to be a great organization. What is a great organization? It has people who show up to work, who want to be there,” Biles said.

Two of his goals are for Pasco County to be named a Best to Place to work, among large companies; and for the county to win a Sterling Award, for the entire county, not just a department.

Biles said the county has made strides in many areas to increase transparency, and improve access to services.

The MyPascoApp recently has been redesigned, which gives residents and customers quick access to many types of information, he said.

For instance, App users have a direct link to storm updates, he said.

“You can actually see what our wait times are at Central Permitting, on the App,” he added.

“You can drive down the street and see a new construction pop up, and you go, ‘What is that?’ “Well, in the app, under permitting, you go to the project pipeline, you can actually find out what that project is,” he said.

There are some limits, though. “If it was permitted over 2 years ago, it is not in the database right now,” Biles said.

The county administrator also told the luncheon crowd that his job is to lead his team, not to know every detail, of every project.

If there’s a discussion over the price for a piece of right of way, for example, that’s something that experts on the county’s staff can and should handle, he said.

His job, he said, is to serve the people, who serve the people.

Published April 24, 2019

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