Rich Shopes, Times Staff Writer

Rich Shopes

Rich Shopes is a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times covering government and politics in Pasco County.

Before coming to Florida in 1999, he lived in Philadelphia and New Jersey. He worked at the Tampa Tribune before joining the Times in 2012 to cover Plant City. He currently lives in Manatee County with his lovely wife, Sandy, and their squirrel-obsessed Norfolk terrier, Charley.

Phone: (727) 869-6236


  1. Legg backs Gregg in Pasco primary


    House District 36 candidate Chris Gregg picked up state Sen. John Legg's endorsement this week after House Speaker Will Weatherford announced his support for the New Port Richey Republican last week.

    "Chris Gregg has demonstrated a commitment to service as an (Air Force) veteran," Legg, R-Lutz, said in a statement Friday. "As a small business owner, Chris knows firsthand just what it takes to spur job creation and grow our local economy. I’m excited to support his bid for state representative."...

  2. Neighbors push for noise barrier on I-75

    Human Interest

    SAN ANTONIO — John and Sally Hart can't hear themselves over the swoosh of traffic, and vibrations are causing cracks in their kitchen ceiling.

    Bill Bushey says he and his wife, Wilma, rarely venture into their grassy back yard.

    "It's beautiful, but you can't use it," he says.

    And Kathy Oney worries a tire will fly into her house. It nearly happened in 2007, a year after she moved in, when a truck tire came careening into a neighbor's yard....

    John Hart, 77, has collected petitions that he plans to send to the governor. So far, he has about 200 signatures.
  3. SunWest issue won't die, to ire of some Pasco commissioners


    NEW PORT RICHEY — One commissioner walked out. Another accused the chairman of "doing an injustice to the board." And by the time Pasco County commissioners had wrapped up for lunch Tuesday, numerous issues divided them.

    One thing was clear: After two hours of public testimony — most of it surrounding the SunWest park project in Aripeka — nerves were starting to fray.

    At issue was Chairman Jack Mariano's proposal to allocate more money to the proposed park. Commissioners have allocated $3.9 million to build a beach, volleyball courts, parking and a boardwalk. Most considered SunWest a closed issue....

    BRENDAN FITTERER  |  Times (07/13/2011 Aripeka) Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano is a champion of a planned county park and adjoining mega-development at the old Sunwest limestone mine site. "You've got this amazing asset sitting out here, doing nothing," Mariano said. BRENDAN FITTERER  |  Times
  4. Study: Pasco animal shelter needs more improvements

    Local Government

    LAND O'LAKES — A recent University of Florida study praises Pasco County's animal shelter for "record-breaking decreases" in euthanized animals, but it has harsh words about conditions there and recommends more attention be paid to animal nutrition, cleanliness and behavioral issues.

    "Many animals are experiencing signs of profound emotional suffering and distress, and some long-term residents appear malnourished," the report said....

    . Dogs in particular are prone to aggressive or withdrawn behavior when caged for too long, making them harder to adopt out, a University of Florida study said. The researchers also suggested more frequent and thorough cleaning of cages.
  5. Hacienda Village seniors fight management company

    Human Interest

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Sandi Nelson has resorted to carrying pepper spray on morning walks. Patricia Dew avoids the pool area after glimpsing drunken late-night parties there. And Robert Abbey says too many people in their 20s and 30s are moving to what is supposed to be a 55+ gated community.

    "There are no rules and regulations, no background checks," said Abbey, a retired Navy veteran....

  6. Weatherford endorses Gregg in Pasco GOP primary


    Republican House candidate Jim Mathieu, his party's leader in Pasco County, is getting snubbed again by outgoing House Speaker Will Weatherford.

    Weatherford is endorsing Mathieu's opponent, Chris Gregg, in the House District 36 Republican primary.

    "Pasco County needs effective leaders to help represent our great county in Tallahassee," Weatherford said in a statement released Tuesday....

  7. In the saddle 50 years, performer 'Cowboy Tom' reflects

    Human Interest

    SAN ANTONIO ­— Tom Glasgow apologizes for being out of practice, but he still manages a few roping tricks on the narrow porch of his mobile home off Vineland Street.

    He spryly hops inside the spinning rope, then manipulates it the length of his wiry 5-foot, 7-inch frame. The trick goes well until the rope catches the lip of a chair and plops to the floor.

    "I'm a little rusty," he says before starting again....

    At 63, “Cowboy Tom” Glasgow has a lifetime of roping tricks under his belt, after 12 years on the rodeo circuit, stints in TV commercials and experience wrangling horses on movie sets. Still, he can feel retirement creeping in. “I can’t trick rope as much as I could,” he said. “I have to practice.”
  8. New interchange approved for I-75, Overpass Road in Pasco

    Local Government

    WESLEY CHAPEL — Pasco County officials have won federal approval to add an interchange at Interstate 75 and Overpass Road.

    The project, estimated at $55 million, is the first step in a larger effort to expand Overpass Road east toward U.S. 301 in Zephyrhills.

    The project, which is still several years from breaking ground, requires multiple environmental and engineering studies and state approvals....

  9. Proposed Pasco budget awards raises, keeps taxes unchanged

    Local Government

    DADE CITY — Pasco County administrators on Tuesday unveiled a proposed $1.2 billion budget that would keep the same tax rate, though it would spend more on employees and add 45 positions after $30 million in revenue losses since 2008.

    "For the first time in six years, we're seeing an increase in funding," Commission Chairman Jack Mariano said. "We are now able to get our employees into a more positive position."...

  10. Group launches to help Pasco's nutrition program for the elderly

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — This time last year, Gabriel Papadopoulos was appealing to Pasco County officials and charities after federal belt-tightening eliminated $83,000 from the county's nutrition program for the elderly.

    With 200 seniors on the waiting list for free or discounted meals, the last thing the program director needed was a five-figure revenue loss.

    In the end, charities stepped up and the county dipped into reserves to cover costs. Then in April, Papadopoulos got word of a $75,000 grant award under the Older Americans Act to bridge most of next year's budget gap....

  11. Federal appeals court sides with Pasco firefighters in appeal of discrimination lawsuit


    Times Staff Writers

    A federal appeals court has reinstated a jury verdict for two firefighters who claimed Pasco County retaliated against them after they filed discrimination complaints seven years ago.

    The 37-page opinion issued Thursday found that the county retaliated against firefighters Anthony Booth and Jerry Brown by requiring psychological tests to keep their jobs.

    The case began in 2007 when Booth, who is Hispanic, filed a discrimination complaint against Fire Capt. Mark Bodden. Brown served as a witness for that charge and later filed his own complaint. Brown, whose wife is Jewish, claimed that Bodden made anti-Semitic remarks....

  12. Mail-in ballot requests up in Pasco


    Pasco Elections Supervisor Brian Corley is seeing huge vote-by-mail numbers.

    Compared to the 2010 mid-term election season, requests for mail-in ballots are up roughly 400 percent to 42,000 so far this year.

    "Most years we'd have 8,000 to 10,000 for a mid-term," Corley said.

    Most of those wanting to vote by mail are "carry-overs" from the 2012 races, which also saw a spike in mail-in ballots....

  13. Pasco mulls growth plan, new incentives

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County officials are betting the economy is improving to the point where it's time to invest millions of dollars in economic development projects.

    The county's planning director, Richard Gehring, has asked commissioners to consider creating an office of economic growth to work with developers in creating "pad ready" office and industrial sites. The idea is that by pitching areas with infrastructure already in place, businesses will be more likely to locate there to get up and running....

  14. Mulieri backs Robertson for Pasco commission


    Retiring Pasco County Commissioner Pat Mulieri says she's endorsing Bob Robertson to succeed her over two other Republicans, including one who served in the state House.

    Mulieri, a Republican herself, said Robertson's earnest approach to learning about government coupled with his background as a financial adviser convinced her to back him over rivals Mike Moore, president of the Wesley Chapel Republican Club, and former lawmaker Ken Littlefield. A Democrat, Erika Remsberg, is also running....

  15. Pasco parks department: Millions more needed for maintenance

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County's parks and recreation department is asking for millions in new funding to replace funds lost during the recession to tackle maintenance.

    The department, making a pitch Tuesday to county commissioners as they prepare for budget talks, said $6.5 million is needed over the next five years after years of successive cuts.

    About 30 percent of department staffers, including 48 carpenters, equipment operators and others, have been let go since 2007, the recession's start. Most of those jobs were in maintenance....