The first step in finding out who will replace Pat Mulieri on the Pasco County Commission begins at the Aug. 26 primary. There voters will choose between three politically focused men — Ken Littlefield, Mike Moore and Bob Robertson — to represent Republicans in the November election.
But a primary win for any one of them is just the beginning. The eventual GOP nominee will have to win over voters one more time after August, and prove he’s the better candidate than the lone Democrat in the race, a Land O’ Lakes social worker who says she wants to return the county government’s focus back to helping people.
Erika Remsberg works long hours for Pasco County Schools, helping some of the more than 1,800 students stay focused on their studies, despite the fact they don’t have a place they can call home.
“You lost your home, you lost your friends, you lost your teachers and classmates, and you probably lost all your stuff if you were evicted from somewhere,” Remsberg said. “Your family is focused on survival, not necessarily reading and math, and all of that can have a tremendous negative impact on their education.”
Remsberg and her husband, Philip, moved to Pasco County 13 years ago to be closer to her parents. She was born in the Bronx, but raised in Long Island, graduating from New York University and marrying soon after.
Remsberg never imagined herself running for any type of elected office, but when she learned Mulieri was retiring, she feared one of the lone voices for the issues closest to her heart was going to be silenced.
“I have been very vocal that the county has not done enough to coordinate social service, and they haven’t done enough to deal with the critical needs in the county,” Remsberg said. “I think Pat Mulieri has done the best job in trying to advocate and listen, but now the best advocate that we have is now retiring.”
The commission has been plagued with bitter disputes over recent months, ranging from a park one commissioner wants to turn into a tourist attraction, to how the county is going to pay for much-needed road improvements and new construction projects, she said. In the process, money has been wasted on large corporations —including some that never made it here, like T. Rowe Price — but smaller businesses have been ignored.
“We need to start from the base up, not from the top down,” Remsberg said. “You don’t give a corporation millions of dollars while failing to help people get the transportation they need, the jobs and career centers they need, or the income they need to survive. You want to give tax breaks to companies that are going to pay at or above the median income, and not companies that are just going to pay minimum wage.”
The key to growing jobs and salaries is through workforce development, Remsberg said. County officials are missing a number of grant opportunities available to them, some which could help smaller businesses grow and enhance the work force at the same time through projects like apprenticeship programs.
“There are always ways to reach more than one goal,” Remsberg said. “These small businesses might need some help, and many of these people need job experience. It’s a way to give something back to everyone.”
County officials also have to spend more time learning how to spend money smartly, and less time getting worked up about small increases in taxes to help pay for it, Remsberg said.
“I hear a lot about the millage rate, and everyone gets very excited when taxes get raised,” she said. “But many times, we’re only talking about increases of like $20 a year. That’s a small amount of money that can dramatically impact programs that are being strained or completely ignored otherwise.”
Remsberg also believes there are not enough sheriff’s deputies on the streets, and more money is needed to help both law enforcement and fire-rescue. Public safety must become a higher priority, because a county cannot grow properly unless its residents feel safe.
So far, Remsberg has raised a little more than $3,000 for her campaign, a fraction of the more than $111,600 combined for the three Republicans in the race. But winners aren’t always determined by how much money a candidate has in the bank, and Remsberg won’t be discouraged.
“I am a social worker, so I love going for the underdog,” she said. “It’s just that this time it’s me, which is a new experience for me. But I’m good with grassroots efforts and community organization, and I’m getting out wherever I can to share a message of how we all need to work together.
“We can’t put a roof on a home with no foundation, and no walls,” she said. “We need to take care of our responsibilities when it comes to helping everyone, and only then can we truly start growing.”
Democrat for Pasco County Commission, District 2
Homeless liaison social worker, Pasco County Schools
Philip Remsberg, husband
Jordan Remsberg, son
Alex Remsberg, daughter
Land O’ Lakes, since 2001
Fundraising, through July 18
Published July 30, 2014
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