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Elected representatives promise links between government and governed

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By MELODY JAMESON

SOUTH COUNTY – As both successful candidates and their constituents here put the 2010 mid-term elections behind them, what is the immediate outlook?

How do the veterans and the newbies plan to represent their districts which include the many diverse communities – rural to suburban, young families to northern retirees to those with roots generations deep — that comprise unincorporated South Hillsborough from the Alafia River to the Manatee County line?

Their approaches vary, but their concentrations are specific. They speak repeatedly about encouraging small business development to generate more employment in the region to, in turn, relieve the pressures of a lingering economic recession. They see education as a strong factor. They don’t talk in terms of “feeling the pain,” but they’ve picked up on the oft-repeated mantra of “jobs, jobs, jobs.” And, for some, that is a matter close to home as they consider the potential – but yet unknown – effects of voter-mandated redistricting in the areas they represent.

State senator Ronda Storms, easily re-elected last week to continue representing her sprawling Florida Senate District 10, said this week her representation plan during the forthcoming term is what it has been in the past. Storms does not schedule routine meetings around the district that reaches into three counties in order to interact with constituents, but rather looks for opportunities to “highlight their achievements” and to use her “influence to call attention to the district,” she said.

“There is no ‘best way’ to meet with people in the district,” she added, “it has to be whatever works for them – whether a chance conversation over carts in the grocery store or an emailed message or direct communication at an event.” Disinterested in the internet’s social networking sites, she pointed out she’s not intentionally on Facebook and added firmly “I do not Twitter.”

On the other hand, the Plant City Republican noted her recent appearances in the South County included Sun City Center’s Wounded Warriors benefit in October and that she will be in the community for Veterans’ Day observances this week.

There’s no doubt, she said, the emphasis needs to be on creating small business development in South Hillsborough; “people need to be working” in order to return to a healthy economy.

And the office certainly is attuned to the forthcoming redistricting, now called for by virtue of voter approval on November 2 of Amendment 6 to the Florida Constitution, allowed Audie Canney, Storms’ chief legislative aide. Storms’ District 10 stretches from Zephyrhills in Pasco County to parts of Lakeland in Polk County to most of East and South Hillsborough, with a total population of almost 400,000 citizens, Canney said. “But, it’s a pretty compact district,” she said, indicating its clearly defined outline may not require re-drawing to meet amendment requirements.

Storms can be reached via email at Storms.Ronda.web@FLSenate.gov. Her district office telephone number is 813-651-2189.

For Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg attorney whose Florida House District 55 touches the southern reaches of Ruskin, the situation may be different. The district spills from north to south across Tampa Bay through four counties – Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota. “I understand why it was drawn as it was,” the recently re-elected Democrat said, noting the rationale at the time was to achieve balance with a substantially minority population district. But, results of the 2010 census and the increasing imbalance of the political parties in the legislature – going from 76 Republicans and 44 Democrats to 81 Republicans and 39 Democrats after last week’s election – seem certain to impact the district outline, he indicated.

Nonetheless, Rouson, who noted four of the six bills he proposed in the last legislative session became law, said he would welcome more opportunities to interact with the distant reaches of his far-flung district, especially Ruskin. “I want to do better by Ruskin,” he asserted.

Associated with the law firm of Morgan and Morgan, Rouson now practices in the personal injury specialty and talks candidly about his former addiction to illegal substances. He counts every day of the 12-plus years he has been clean, he said, and has a particular interest as a lawmaker in substance abuse issues, favoring the addition of required treatment over nothing but incarceration. However, his overall objective is “to get things done for the district” during the new term as he did in the last one, he added. “I want to be effective,” he summed up.

Rouson’s district office in Bradenton can be reached by telephone at 941-708-8570.

A former Republican legislator, Sandy Murman now is a freshly minted county commissioner elected to represent the BOCC’s District 1 which slices from Tampa’s Town and Country area south along the east side of Tampa Bay, taking in parts of Gibsonton , Apollo Beach and much of Ruskin.

As a district commissioner, Murman said her focus in its South County communities would be encouraging existing as well as new small businesses entities; looking for means to help those on the verge of closing and those not yet able to open. One of the first steps she can take, she added, is trying to align her commission office with the most potentially helpful among the numerous county and regional boards to which commissioners are assigned each year. Sitting with the leaders of such groups as the Tampa Bay Partnership, the Agency on Bay Management, Workforce, the Port Authority, Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit (HART) and the Children’s Board could prove helpful to the South County, she suggested.

Scheduled to be sworn in and formally seated as a Hillsborough commissioner Tuesday (November 16), Murman said this week she’s still in the process of organizing the office being vacated by Rose Ferlita, who chose not to seek another term in county government. However, Murman added she definitely plans to conduct monthly open meetings with South County constituents, beginning early in 2011.

Murman’s office telephone number next week will be 813-272-5470.

Commissioner Ken Hagan, who, with voter help , has successfully moved into the District 5 countywide commission seat, said this week he wants to continue to build on relationships with the South County business communities during his forthcoming term.

Asked if he has considered conducting regular constituent meetings in the region, he replied “I guess the answer is yes, but I haven’t worked out the details.” He will, he added, continue to attend meetings and functions, and “keep an ear to the ground” regarding South County issues and concerns.

Hagan’s new telephone number next week will be 813-272-5725.

Another incumbent returned to office last week, April Griffin said her next four-year term on the Hillsborough County School Board will be characterized as the last term was – by “an open mind and an open ear.” To maintain the continual flow of communications, she keeps up an interactive blog accessed at AprilGriffinblog.com , provides constituents her cell telephone number, 813-924-1742, and offers email contact through AprilGriffin@SDHC.K12.Fl.US.

As for her convictions about public education in Hillsborough County, Griffin said she remains interested in boosting the number of college entrances by the district’s graduating high school seniors, but “I believe we need to understand not every child is going to college.” The objective, she added, should be helping students - even adults – to become skilled in order to obtain the job they want to do and become successful at doing. The advanced placement (AP) classes concept is good for the college bound, she elaborated, but that emphasis should not preclude arrangements for those graduates who want to go on into the occupational training that translates into success for them.

Much the same sentiment was echoed by Stacy White who will join the county school board on November 16 as the new district 4 representative. White, a pharmacist, said he thinks one of his top priorities as a board member will be ensuring access to career and technical courses for the numbers of students not committed to years of post secondary education.

White said he has a strong vested interest “in what goes on in the district” because he has two young children enrolled in Hillsborough public schools. But, the young father added ruefully that his first objective in the next week will be preparing “to hit the ground running.”

Newly-elected Florida House of Representatives member Greg Steube, a Bradenton Republican whose district 67 takes in part of Sun City Center and at one point reaches north to Rhodine Road, did not respond to a telephone inquiry from The Observer. In addition, veteran county commissioner Mark Sharpe, re-elected in last week’s general election, could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts by The Observer.

Copyright 2010 Melody Jameson
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