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

Email: rshopes@tampabay.com

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  1. Littlefield mailer features Fasano

    Blog

    Pasco County Commission candidate Ken Littlefield this week rolled out a mailer featuring a smiling photograph and glowing quotes from Tax Collector Mike Fasano.

    "It's not an endorsement. He just said some nice things about me," Littlefield, 70, said of the mailer that shows the two men smiling and standing side by side.

    Littlefield said he sent 13,000 of the ads to west Pasco voters....

  2. Metropolitan Ministries Pasco to expand food program, build apartments

    Human Interest

    HOLIDAY

    The Rev. Dan Campbell didn't need much reassurance to know that his Methodist congregation made the right decision to minister to the poor.

    He couldn't ignore the evidence: homeless people sleeping in cars, in doorways of businesses, even outside the church.

    "The need was so great," he said.

    His dwindling congregation was moved as well, which is why members voted seven years ago to close the church and reopen as the Joining Hands Community Mission. The group now operates as Metropolitan Ministries Pasco, having joined the huge Metropolitan Ministries charitable network based in Tampa....

    Matt Haitz, left, and Josh Baker, with Michael K. Purdy Construction, work on the kitchen that will provide prepared meals and will adjoin a dining hall.
  3. Pasco approves contract with fire chiefs

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco commissioners on Tuesday finalized a contract with fire battalion chiefs after signing a separate collective bargaining agreement with county firefighters last year.

    The dispute, which started more than a year ago, was resolved when the county staff agreed to award the supervisors 3 percent pay raises retroactive to Oct. 6 and to allow overtime pay instead of "comp time" for extra hours worked....

  4. Donor returns to aid Gregg campaign

    Blog

    A conservative campaign donor who gave big in last fall’s contentious House District 36 race in west Pasco is making another appearance and looks to be getting local help.

    Melbourne-based Carmela Falcone, whose electioneering committee sent out thousands of mailers last summer slamming Democrat Amanda Murphy, is throwing support — and funding — behind Republican Chris Gregg’s candidacy for state House District 36....

  5. Pasco County Commission, District 4

    Politics

    County Commission | District 4

    Four years ago, Henry Wilson surprised many when he toppled incumbent Michael Cox after just one term. Now Wilson faces a challenge from his own party in Mike Wells, the son of Mike Wells Sr., a former county commissioner who has served as Pasco's property appraiser for 18 years. Because there is no Democrat running, this Republican primary decides the race. Rich Shopes, Times staff writer...

    Henry Wilson
  6. State House, District 36

    Politics

    State House | District 36

    Jim Mathieu, Pasco's Republican party chairman, lost last summer's District 36 primary election. This time around, he faces Chris Gregg. The winner will challenge Democrat Amanda Murphy, who won a special election in October to replace longtime legislator Mike Fasano, who resigned to become Pasco's tax collector.

     

    Jim Mathieu, 60

     ...

    Chris Gregg
  7. Pasco County Commission, District 2

    Politics

    County Commission | District 2

    Ken Littlefield, Mike Moore and Bob Robertson are vying to succeed fellow Republican Pat Mulieri, who's stepping down from the commission after 20 years. The winner of the Aug. 26 Republican primary will take on Democrat Erika Remsberg in the Nov. 4 general election. Rich Shopes, Times staff writer

     

    Ken Littlefield, 70

     ...

    Mike Moore
  8. Tab for Pasco justice facilities hovering at $250 million

    Local Government

    A report by a Miami-based consultant is adding more square footage — and expense — to the county's plans for a courthouse near the Land O'Lakes jail.

    The findings, discussed at a County Commission workshop Tuesday, called for a bigger courthouse than envisioned last year by Pasco officials and suggested that before commissioners build it they should expand the jail. Further upping costs, the report recommended adding administrative offices for the sheriff as well....

  9. Pasco Fiasco backs Wilson, Robertson

    Blog

    Pasco commission candidates Henry Wilson and Bob Robertson won endorsements this week from the south Pasco civic group Pasco Fiasco.

    The group recommended incumbent Wilson for the District 4 commission seat and Robertson for District 2, saying both are staunchly against the ill-fated toll road plan.

    The state Department of Transportation dropped support for the developer-led project in May, but it remains part of the county's long range transportation plan. Pasco Fiasco said it backs candidates who support removing the road idea from the county plan....

  10. VLOC to shutter Pasco manufacturing plant, lay off dozens

    Business

    TRINITY — High-tech manufacturer VLOC Inc. will shut down and lay off dozens of employees by the end of the year, capping almost 20 years in Pasco.

    Mark Maiberger, general manager for military business at VLOC's parent company, Saxonburg, Pa.-based II-VI, said "across-the-board" cuts in VLOC's defense contracting business prompted the decision.

    "It's not just one program. It's cuts in multiple programs," Maiberger said....

  11. VA bill includes funding for new Pasco facility

    Local Government

    President Barack Obama signed sweeping legislation Thursday to ease access to health care for the nation's veterans, a $16.3 billion package that includes money for 27 new or expanded VA clinics across the country.

    One is slated for Pasco County, the only Florida site identified in the bill.

    That's welcome news to veterans like Steve McDonald, who drives nearly an hour from his home in New Port Richey for treatment at Tampa's James A. Haley VA Medical Center for injuries he sustained in Vietnam....

  12. Three vie for Pasco commission District 2 GOP primary

    Kyc

    WESLEY CHAPEL — Pasco Republicans have a choice among two up-and-comers and a political veteran for the District 2 County Commission primary election.

    Ken Littlefield served in the state House from 1999 to 2006. He ran against Commissioner Pat Mulieri in 2010, losing in the primary. Littlefield, 70, says he enjoys making public policy, which is why he jumped back into politics.

    Bob Robertson, 57, a financial adviser, serves on the county's Library Advisory Board and Restore Act Committee. Until a month ago, he also served on the Lake Bernadette Community Development District, an elected position he had held since 2008. He says he's passionate about community service and wants to bring that enthusiasm to the commission....

    Mike 
Moore
  13. Wesley Chapel neighborhood needs road repairs, but at what cost?

    Local Government

    DADE CITY — Fox Ridge residents have complained for years about potholes and flooded streets in their Wesley Chapel neighborhood. On Tuesday, more than 50 of them showed up at a Pasco County Commission meeting to demand something be done — but not at the prices suggested by the county.

    County staff last month suggested setting up a special taxing district to tackle the infrastructure problems. The first job — correcting the neighborhood's stormwater system — was estimated at $1.3 million, and residents would have to pay for the work themselves: $458 per household per year for five years....

    Michele Baker, Pasco County administrator, says the County Commission  is “between a rock and a hard place” over the repairs.
  14. Agency housing immigrant boys settles with Pasco

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County officials say a nonprofit agency housing immigrant children violated the terms of a federal grant when it closed a group home for elderly disabled adults two years ago.

    County attorneys learned about the closure two weeks ago when reviewing the county's financial arrangement with Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services. On Wednesday, Gulf Coast paid the county $167,762 to settle the matter....

  15. U.S. 19 redevelopment a long-term pursuit for Pasco

    Local Government

    PORT RICHEY — Lacy Herman lucked out with two blouses for $18 thanks to JCPenney's close-out sale last week, but don't count the 23-year-old University of South Florida student among U.S. 19's regular shoppers.

    She prefers the Shops at Wiregrass and Westfield Countryside Mall.

    "It doesn't have the stores I like," she said, explaining she went to Penney's at Gulf View Square Mall only because it was closing....