And We Are Off!

10/01/2019 4:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

With the perennial Bus Tour days, all 33 members of the Class of 2020 have begun their Leadership Pasco adventure.

by Harold Sample ’91 | October 1, 2019

This year's tours were on Thursday and Friday, September 19th & 20th.  Fortunately no hurricanes forced any changes to the day and the weather cooperated, with only a brief shower while the class visited the Saint Leo Abbey church.  Harold Sample (’91) and Senator Wilton Simpson (’02) escorted the group on the east tour, while Kurt Conover (’92), Frances Werner-Watkins (’11) and Michael Cox (’15) were the co-moderators with Harold on the west side.


The new Pasco County Utilities Administration building served as the base for the first day.  Jeff Novotny, the past Board Chairman of the renamed North Tampa Chamber of Commerce gave the amazing statistics and plans for the exploding Wesley Chapel area. Billy Poe (’10), now the Zephyrhills City Manager, was joined by Todd VanDe Berg (’03), City Planner, to tell the class about the City of Pure Water and the impacts of skydiving and seasonal residents on their economy.

The Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce was again the morning break site with John Moors, the Chamber's  Executive Director, giving a presentation on Dade City events, and breadsticks from Olga's Bakery!  The dynamo of Tommytown - Margarita Romo (’95) joined the bus for the annual loop in the Calle de Milagros ("Street of Miracles") community and the services Farmworker's Self-Help  continues to provide.  Harold described plans for long-needed new industry in Lacoochee while Wilton outlined the impacts of the agriculture industry on the Pasco economy.  He also explained the egg production facility at his farm in Trilby, before leaving the bus to head off to address his duties as the incoming 2020-22 President of the Florida Senate.

Dr. Jen Shaw, Ph.D., Vice President of Student Affairs for Saint Leo University welcomed the class to the campus for the lunch stop, and provided an over view of Saint Leo's ever expanding academic programs. Leadership Pasco's own Jason Longo (’17) coordinated tours of the campus and arranged for Brother Apollo to be available to answer questions about the Saint Leo Abbey and the church.

Following a ride back across State Road 52, the class had their afternoon session start with Craig Laporte (’06) giving the class information on October's Criminal Justice day.  President Stephanie Pontlitz (’13)  then outlined the program's structure and requirements for the rest of the class year.

Friday had the group meet at the site of their new afternoon activity in Holiday. Following the loop along the coast through Anclote and Baillie's Bluff, a stop was made at Metropolitan Ministries where Nancy Dougherty (’17) outlined their services and expansion across the County.  She also highlighted the assistance provided by the Leadership Pasco Class of 2018 through its project of badly needed floor covering replacements  for their shelter.

The morning break at the beautiful and active New Port Richey Aquatics and Recreation Center was coordinated by Elaine Smith ('98), Parks & Recreation Director for the City. Mayor Rob Marlowe (’97) and City Manager Debbie Manns (’18) welcomed the Class, while the renamed Greater Pasco Chamber of Commerce, under the direction of President and CEO Tim McClain (’15), provided refreshments.

Mike, Frances, and Kurt provided information and background throughout the trip, gained from each of their growing-up in West Pasco and their work experiences. Mike focused on New Port Richey and Port Richey, their history and challenges. His service as Mayor of Port Richey, County  Commissioner, and now Planning Commission member provided great insights.  Frances' mother's family were some of the original settlers of Hudson and Port Richey. She tied those beginnings to her experiences and the development in the area by her father - Gene Werner, who was instrumental in the creation of the Werner-Boyce State Park, north of Port Richey.  A stop there with a presentation by the Park's manager, gave a vivid glimpse into the natural coastline and endangered environment of the State. Kurt handled navigation for the outstanding motor coach operator, Gene, from Olympus Limo, and information on the largest tax payers in the County along with other tidbits.

Frances also arranged for Scott Tremblay, the newly elected Mayor of the City of Port Richey, to meet the class at Nick's Park on the river. He spoke on the efforts to reset the course and direction of the City, which has experiences so much governmental turmoil over the past decades.

The tour then went to the Pasco County government complex on Little road.  There they stopped at the County's Emergency Operations Center ("EOC") and had a presentation by the County's new Emergency Management Director,  Andrew Fossa,  on disaster planning and response operations, and a fascinating tour of the 911 Center.


Following a delicious lunch at Craft Street at Mitchell Crossings (thank you Tyler and crew!), the tour ended back at Race to Escape in Holiday.  There, Past Leadership Pasco President Kim Hamm (’15), and her team presented a new activity as part of team-building for this year's class.

It was a great two days and the Class of 2020 is off to a good start!

Visit Facebook for additional photos of Bus Tour Day 1.

Visit Facebook for additional photos of Bus Tour Day 2.

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