BROOKSVILLE — By the close of applications last week, Hernando County had received applications from seven local residents, including business people and educators, who want to help the county with economic development.
Establishing an economic development technical advisory committee wasn’t a unanimous decision by the County Commission, but it was approved last month. County Administrator Jeff Rogers plans to have a group in place and ready to meet for the first time next month.
The committee will provide input to the county economic development staff, including director Valerie Pianta. Members will take on issues including strategic planning, goal setting, prioritizing, policies, investments and incentives.
Rogers wanted the committee to have seven to nine members with expertise in areas such as manufacturing and logistics, education, health care, real estate, financial services, construction and development, and community-based organizations. The board’s policy on the committee makes the diversity of the membership a priority. County commissioners must approve the final slate.
The group is expected to meet at least four times a year. Rogers has said it will operate in public view, covered by the Florida Government in the Sunshine Law.
Several applicants are well known to commissioners, because they have appeared before them on business and development-related projects.
The applicants are:
- Cliff Manuel, president of Coastal Engineering. Manuel’s company has participated in dozens of county projects for decades, including many at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport, which is the hub of the county’s economic development focus. He said he wants to join the committee because he is "interested in participating and working with Hernando County on the economic benefits associated with a healthy partnership with the private sector on the direct benefits of a healthy and strong economy.''
- Pat Crowley, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce. Crowley writes that "with 20 years of experience in working with new and established businesses in our county, I would like to be involved in the future planning of our county’s economic development.'' The Chamber helped to re-write the county’s comprehensive plan with a focus on growth and is working with the county on changes in its future land-use map.
- Walter E. “Buddy” Selph, realtor with Tommie Dawson Realty since 1984. Selph said he wants to participate "to contribute my 35 years of experience as a business owner in Hernando County, together with current business development in Hernando and adjoining counties.'' Selph also helped with changes to the county future land-use plan and has represented multiple developments before county boards.
- Bryan Blavatt, previous Hernando County Schools superintendent. Blavatt left that job in 2013 and wrote on his application that he hoped to participate in the committee "to continue over 40 years in public service as a volunteer.'' Among the things Blavatt cited that he would miss when he left the superintendent’s job was helping the school district and the county develop vocational programs for students.
- Sophia Watson, supervisor of adult and technical education with the Hernando County schools. "I work with the economic development office as part of my current duties,'' she wrote on her application. "I believe I would be able to assist with knowledge of local training programs and providers.''
- Mathew Kline, chief operating officer of the nonprofit Mid Florida Community Services since 2017. Kline has a lengthy resume of community service work, has a master’s degree in human services and business and a bachelor’s degree in health care management. He said that his background serving those in need and his experience dealing with government programs would "add value to addressing the economic development of Hernando County.''
- Ruth Lyons Delbert, automotive operations consultant from January 2011 through December 2019. She has also worked in real estate for Palmwood Realty and in several other sales and business jobs. She said she was interested in being on the committee because of her background in business and as a marketing representative. She said she is recently retired and seeks "meaningful community involvement.''