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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Job one: Keep smiling



In case you're wondering what qualities Gov. Charlie Crist is looking for in his new administration, here's a clue from new Department of Community Affairs Secretary Tom Pelham.

Pelham, who held the same post under Gov. Bob Martinez, told a gathering of about 200 people at the Everglades Coalition conference in Orlando on Saturday that before Crist offered him the job, the governor asked if he was "optimistic."

"Optimism is a prerequisite for working for Gov. Crist,'' Pelham said. "During my job
interview for my job, the question he asked me -- and he repeated it twice -- was, "Are you optimistic?"

Pelham, pulling no punches, told the crowd that Crist has handed him an agency that has been drained of experienced staffers yet overloaded with new duties. He said it has lost its focus on the big picture, instead it grinds away at minor comprehensive plan amendments.

He criticized the Legislature's much-vaunted growth management bill of 2005 for aiming at paying for growth rather than actually steering development to the places it should go -- and away from the places that should be left alone.

"The starting place with growth management in Florida always has to be its impact on the environment and natural resources," he said in his speech, which drew a standing ovation.

Pelham said he and new Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole will be meeting every week with the new Department of Transportation secretary -- whoever that optimist may be -- to coordinate on those issues. First up for his staff: Re-examining the DOT's recently announced plans for major new highways across Central Florida and down to Southwest Florida, through areas that have never been heavily developed.

And in case you're wondering what answer he gave Crist, Pelham said he told the Optimist-in-Chief: "If there is the political will to identify the problems and take corrective action, then I am optimistic."

-- Craig Pittman

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 1:26pm]


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