Ron Oakley brings more than 50 years of business experience and a passion for public service to his new job as Pasco County District 1 commissioner.
Oakley was sworn into office on Nov. 29.
He replaced former Commissioner Ted Schrader who decided not to seek re-election and instead made an unsuccessful bid for property appraiser.
Though this is the first time Oakley has served as an elected official, he’s not new to public service.
He was appointed to serve on the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s board, and served as treasurer, vice chairman and chairman.
It was while serving on that board, Oakley said that he began “loving public service.”
Oakley, 71, is chairman of the Boys & Girls Club of Lacoochee. He also sponsors the annual John Anderson Benefit Concert in Dade City, with proceeds aiding local charities.
Oakley views elected office as a new way of serving, and he takes it seriously.
Before and after the election, he frequently could be found in the audience at commission meetings, listening and observing.
“I did that as preparation,” he said. “I’m very, very honored to be elected commissioner of District 1 and to serve the people of Pasco County.”
Oakley grew up in Dade City and worked in the family’s businesses, including cattle ranching, citrus growing and a truck transport business for liquid food products.
He sees his business experience as a plus in dealing with the county’s budgets.
“I’m going to focus on everything as it comes up and try to do my best to come up with solutions,” Oakley said. “I’ll keep taxes down and be frugal with your money. It’s got to be used in the proper way.”
High on his list of priorities is road maintenance.
The county is about 13 years behind in addressing crumbling roads, he said. “It didn’t happen in one year or four years, but you have to start somewhere, and money is an issue.”
Expanding some two lanes roads to four lanes, and creating greater connectivity between east and west Pasco is important, Oakley added.
He supports extending Ridge Road, but also shares in the county’s frustrations over waiting years on a decision from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding permits for the project.
The 8-mile extension would provide an evacuation route during hurricanes or other emergencies, and would give the county another east-west connecting route.
The Connected City project also is on the commission’s agenda. In 2015 state legislators approved a 10-year pilot program which will focus on development of communities and new jobs utilizing cutting edge technology, including gigabit Internet speeds.
Pasco County and Metro Development Group are partnering on initial projects within the boundaries of the Connected City. The total area covers about 7,800 acres in northeast Pasco, bordered by Interstate 75, State Road 52, Overpass Road and Curley Road.
Some residents within the Connected City have raised concerns that future developments will harm the rural character of their neighborhood.
Oakley said he supports the Connected City but, “I want to be very aware of what I’m voting on, make sure I study the issues.”
Flooding problems, which affects much of western Pasco, also need solutions. Oakley said he believes his service on Swiftmud’s board gives him a useful background in tackling the
The commission also faces tough decisions on solid waste, in particular the funding of an estimated $190 million expansion of waste-to-energy facility at Shady Hills. The facility burns trash to produce renewable energy.
Ultimately, everything comes back to the budget, and a conservative approach to what can be done, he said.
“We have budgetary restraints,” Oakley said. “Money is an issue.”
Published December 14, 2016