Lines would shift from west Pasco to follow population growth
By Kyle LoJacono
When the current Pasco County districts were created 10 years ago, the population base was in the west, but booming numbers in Land O’ Lakes, Lutz and Wesley Chapel are forcing a shift east.
Current Pasco districts, including 3, 4 and 5, are based west of the Suncoast Parkway, but that will change once the new alignments are finalized.
County Administrator John Gallagher has come up with four redistricting options, all of which stretch the three west Pasco districts east of the Suncoast while reducing the size of District 2, which includes Land O’ Lakes, Lutz and Wesley Chapel. Pat Mulieri has represented District 2 since 1994.
“Pat picked up all that new growth of the last 10 years,” Gallagher said. “We need the districts to be as even as possible, and the best way to do that is take some of the population from her district and move it to others.”
The latest U.S. Census data shows Pasco has 464,695 residents, so each district should have close to 92,939 citizens.
“There has been a lot of growth in my district,” Mulieri said. “I’d like to continue to represent the people who have elected me to represent them for the last 17 years, but in a way this is a good thing.”
Mulieri went on to explain as more people in the central Pasco are represented by several commissioners, the larger number of representatives who will be looking out for the communities in the county’s interior.
All four options extend District 3, represented by Commission Chairwoman Ann Hildebrand, from the coast in Holiday all the way to Bruce B. Downs in Wesley Chapel. The proposed district would be relatively thin, staying south of the SR 54/SR 56 corridor.
Hildebrand, who lives in New Port Richey, said she has no problem representing a new group of people.
“I’ve only represented Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity and Odessa before, but I spend a lot of time in the east too,” Hildebrand said. “It will be an honor to represent all of those people.”
Other major changes are offered up in Options 1 and 3. The first option puts sections of western Land O’ Lakes into District 5, represented by Jack Mariano of Hudson. It also lumps in a large portion of the county north of SR 52 between the Suncoast and I-75.
Currently Mariano represents all of Hudson and sections of New Port Richey and Port Richey along the coast.
“If that happens it would be a big difference,” Mariano said. “I’ve represented these communities close to the coast. A lot of those new sections are more than 30 minutes from the Gulf.”
Option 3 keeps District 5 similar to its current alignment, and instead shifts portions of western Land O’ Lakes into District 4 under the representation of Henry Wilson of New Port Richey. Wilson was elected last November and is the newest of the county’s commissioners.
Option three also slides sections of the county north of SR 52 between the Suncoast and I-75 into District 1, which is represented by east Pasco resident Ted Schrader.
One issue that complicates the realignment process is commissioners must live within the district they represent. For that reason, District 2 must include a small section of the county north of SR 52, which includes Mulieri’s Gower’s Corner neighborhood.
Along with the district realignment, Pasco is also redrawing the lines for the school board’s five districts, which exactly match those of the county government.
For the most part, the same principles for the county’s government districts apply for the school board’s, according to Gallagher.
The county commissioners and school board members will continue to have public meetings to discuss the four options. Gallagher said the goal is to have the districts finalized by the time the new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.
For more information on Pasco’s redistricting process, visit portal.pascocountyfl.net.
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