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Johnson to join rural coalition

State Sen. Karen Johnson, D-Inverness, recently was appointed to a coalition that will focus on how to better handle issues and concerns in rural communities.

As a member of the Florida State Rural Development Council, Johnson will meet with federal, state, local and private leaders to discuss how the government and public can resolve problems smaller communities regularly face.

Johnson said two issues she is interested in bringing to the council are how to attract clean industry that will not harm the environment and how to better develop the economies of smaller counties.

"What can we do in those counties without the Disney Worlds and big tourist attractions," Johnson said.

Johnson said she intends to use the information from meetings to draft legislation, and explained the newly formed council will allow the state to help local governments. "This is how it should have been done in the first place," she said.

The council is a cooperative effort with the U.S. Department of Agriculture that wants to foster relationships between private and public groups.

The group also is part of an initiative established by the state Department of Commerce that address issues ranging from education to health care and how they fiscally impact rural communities. Gov. Lawton Chiles and Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay appointed Johnson.

The council's first meeting is scheduled in Ocala for July 27-29 at the Ocala Hilton. Johnson said the meeting will be important because it will set a direction for the council, and she encourages local residents to attend.