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. Pasco meeting looks to identify sites for VA clinic

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Congressman Gus Bilirakis said he wanted to hear from veterans about possible locations for a new Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Pasco County.

    But when about 100 veterans gathered for a town hall meeting Wednesday night at the West Pasco Government Center, the Palm Harbor Republican got an earful, including complaints about long wait times at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa....

    U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis plans to use $11 million in federal funding to lease a new Pasco facility.
  2. Gregg cruises to win over Mathieu in Pasco House race

    Elections

    Chris Gregg cruised to an easy win over Jim Mathieu in Tuesday's Republican primary for House District 36 in west Pasco County.

    Gregg held a comfortable lead early on and never let go. With almost all precinct totals in, he held a 58.5 percent lead to Mathieu's 41.5 percent, making him his party's nominee in the November general election against incumbent Democratic state Rep. Amanda Murphy....

    Among other reasons, Chris Gregg says he won by “being a veteran that people can relate to.”
  3. Work, detours to begin on Shady Hills Road in Pasco

    Roads

    LAND O'LAKES — Motorists who take Shady Hills Road should get ready to allow for extra time starting Wednesday as work crews begin a six-month reconstruction of the road.

    Workers will detour cars along a 3-mile stretch of Shady Hills between Softwind Lane and State Road 52, though only a mile of Shady Hills Road will be affected by the project.

    Cars traveling south on Shady Hills will be detoured onto Softwind Lane, then directed to Hudson Avenue and Hays Road, which leads to SR 52....

    iStockphoto.com
  4. New Boys & Girls Club builds hope, instills pride in Lacoochee

    Human Interest

    LACOOCHEE

    Dave Armstrong couldn't resist eliciting roars of approval from the 40 children lined up outside the new Boys & Girls Club at Stanley Park.

    "Are you guys excited?" he shouted.

    "Yeah," came the deafening reply.

    "Are you really excited?"

    "Yeaaaah!"

    With that, Armstrong, executive director of Pasco County Boys & Girls Clubs, flung open the front door of the community center that has been under construction since last summer across the street from Lacoochee Elementary School. For far longer, it's been viewed by county and community leaders as a long-overdue asset for this impoverished, rural corner of northeast Pasco....

    Yazherion, 11, center, checks out a book in the library at the new Boys & Girls Club in Lacoochee as he and other children try on new hats during their first look at the facility. The community center also has a computer room and a game room. 
  5. Rep. Gus Bilirakis sets town hall on Pasco VA clinic

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis has scheduled a town hall meeting for Wednesday to seek veterans' input on potential sites for a Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Pasco County.

    "Although the final decision on the location remains in the hands of the VA, I feel it is my duty to solicit opinions from veterans and their families within our communities," said Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor....

  6. 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....

  7. 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....

    Groundbreaking for 12 apartments is to start in November.
  8. 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....

  9. 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....

  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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....

  14. 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....

  15. 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....