By Kyle LoJacono
The Pasco County Commission and school board adopted new district lines for the next 10 years with significantly less political attention than its neighbor Hillsborough County.
The only real debate for the two Pasco boards was if Gulf High should be in District 4 or 5, a relatively minor matter according to Commission Chairwoman Ann Hildebrand.
“I was really happy we didn’t get into a lot of heated arguments like you usually see when districts are redrawn,” said Hildebrand, of New Port Richey. “One school’s district was the only thing that held us up at all. … We decided to put Gulf in District 4.”
Hillsborough had more arguments about the new districts, including Democratic Commissioner Kevin Beckner arguing the county’s new lines were drawn to “keep Republicans in power.” No such accusations were made during Pasco’s workshop — though all five commissioners in Pasco are Republicans.
Pasco realigns the five districts for the county government and school board every 10 years to reflect changes in population. The U.S. Census shows there are 464,695 residents in the county, so each district needs to have as close to 92,939 people as possible.
The most apparent change with the new lines is the shift of representation east. The previous alignment had three of the commissioners and board members based entirely west of the Suncoast Parkway. Now all five stretch east of the highway.
“All of the growth during the last 10 years has been in District 2,” said County Administrator John Gallagher. “We needed to bring those districts more eastward to represent that growth.”
District 2 is represented by Commissioner Pat Mulieri, who has been on the board for the last 17 years.
“It was a big shift,” Mulieri said. “All the time I’ve been a commissioner there has always been more people in the west. Things have changed a lot.”
Mulieri said she would like to continue representing all the people who re-elected her last November, but understands that is not possible.
“It is actually a good thing because when more commissioners are representing this area, that means more people are looking out of those communities,” Mulieri said. “It used to just be me advocating for this area. Now it’s basically all the commissioners.”
Ted Schrader’s District 1, which was already the largest district in terms of land mass, grew even more. The east Pasco district now stretches further west of I-75 and north of SR 52 past the Suncoast.
Schrader said he liked how the new districts followed “logical boundaries,” such as major roadways.
One of the more unusual-looking alignments is Hildebrand’s District 3, which stretches from the Gulf coast to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in Wesley Chapel. It mainly stays south of the SR54/SR 56 corridor.
At the workshop, Gallagher joked that the new District 3 makes sense for Hildebrand because “you spend most of your time over there shopping.”
Hildebrand got a laugh out from the observation.
“I do enjoy the malls in Wesley Chapel,” Hildebrand said.
The new districts have similar population totals, all within 500 of the others. The schools are not evenly distributed however, with three districts having 15, District 1 having 19 and District 4 having 20. District 3 school board member Cynthia Armstrong said the nature of how the county redistricts makes it hard to be completely balanced.
“I don’t think there’s any way to keep the schools perfectly balanced,” Armstrong said. “I’m amazed they came out as balanced as they did.”
Pasco has five government commissioners, which are elected by the entire county but must live within the zone they represent.
Pasco’s government and school district lines are identical. The new lines go into effect next year.
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