By YVETTE C. HAMMETT
Knowing just how to create a beautiful, safe and sustainable neighborhood isn’t something people necessarily learn in school.
So 15 years ago, when Hillsborough County officials were trying to think of a way to let everyone know the services it offers to neighborhoods, it devised the annual Neighborhoods Conference, filled with workshops and activities to help its communities thrive.
Registration is now under way for this year’s conference, scheduled for May 12 from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Tampa East Hotel, 10221 Princess Palm Ave. in Sabal Park. Participants must register by Friday, May 4.
“How it got started was the county wanted a venue to explain services that the county offers to neighborhoods and along with that, give people an opportunity to network with one another as well as with county employees and county leadership,” said Wanda Sloan, neighborhood liaison for the Office of Neighborhood Relations.
“It’s once per year. We used to charge to attend, but then through the years we decided if we can get enough sponsorship it should be free for people to come and learn about neighborhood laws, leadership and other things,” she said. “A lot of people get on community boards or homeowner association boards and have never been in leadership positions.
“It’s about creating safe, sustainable neighborhoods. We talk about grants that you can get to make it sustainable and beautiful. This year, we are highlighting the services through county government,” Sloan said.
The county announced the event recently, listing many of the workshops that will be offered.
“This year’s theme is ‘Creating Community.’ Neighborhood and community leaders are invited to increase their leadership skills, hear new ways to engage residents and make where they live safer and stronger, and learn how to navigate processes and regulations,” the county announced in a press release. Admission is free and includes continental breakfast, giveaways, access to all exhibits, valuable workshops, and a Neighborhood Recognition Awards luncheon.
“The workshops will be on how the county engages residents on projects we are doing, also,” Sloan said. “We are also talking about things like teaching ‘when do I need a permit or do I not need a permit’ and letting us be your guide, which is a hands-on tutorial on how to report issues like potholes.”
A few of the other conference workshops include: Leadership development and techniques; Neighborhood street parking and towing regulations; Code enforcement questions and answers; Keeping children safe in neighborhoods; Social media strategies, tips, and tricks; Inclusion and diversity in neighborhood engagement; and a roundtable discussion with Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill.
Sloan said this will be the first year residents will have the opportunity to sit down with Merrill.
“You can also get certified to be on a HOA board,” she said. “The state requires it.” The course includes going through the documents needed for enforcement in neighborhoods. “It has to be taught by someone certified through the state. John Ellis, a local HOA attorney, is going to do the board certification training.
“Also, we will have leadership classes, like emotional intelligence for leaders. A lot of times people don’t know how to deal with stronger personalities.”
During the luncheon, the Children’s Board will also give a $2,000 award to a youth group that has made an impact in their community, either by creating a youth council or doing a project,” Sloan said. “This year, the Wimauma Youth Council won. They have gone out and helped survey the community on what is needed and how people can get help.”
Since Children’s Board is such a big part of the county, they give a $2,000 award to a youth group that has made an impact in their community, either created youth council, done a project. This year the Wimauma Youth Council won. They have gone out and helped survey the community on what is needed and how people can help.
The event typically draws 400 to 500 people. “They come all over, from Ruskin and Sun City Center, Carrollwood, Keystone, Lutz, Temple Terrace and Plant City.”
There will also be about 100 vendors on site, both county vendors and companies that want to get their products to the public.
To register by May 4, go to www.Hillsboroughcounty.org and type: neighborhood conference.