In his sixth year as Hernando County administrator, Len Sossamon, who is also the county's economic development director, recently shared his thoughts on the challenges and accomplishments of the past year and what he looks forward to in 2018.
Q: What have been the county's top achievements in 2017?
A: The number one achievement for 2017 is surviving Hurricane Irma (see related story). However, close on the heels is the fiscal year 2017-18 budget produced by Hernando County Board of County Commissioners' staff and the staff of the county's five constitutional officers: Sheriff Al Nienhuis, Tax Collector Sally Daniel, Property Appraiser John Emerson, Clerk of the Circuit Court Don Barbee and Supervisor of Elections Shirley Anderson.
Other accomplishments include:
• The recent grand opening of Hernando County's first tree-top adventure course, TreeUmph!, accomplished in the face of tremendous damage left by Hurricane Irma.
• The dedication and opening of the expanded wastewater treatment plant at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport and Technology Center.
• The opening of Hernando County's new Linda Pederson/Bayport Paddling Trail.
• The success of Hernando County's "Speculative Building Incentive Program" created by the Office of Economic Development. So far, it has helped produce two new buildings at our Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport and Technology Center.
Q: Has anything been disappointing to you in 2017?
A: The continued prolific use of social media to promulgate fake news.
Q: What will Hernando residents see happening in the county in the coming year?
A: I believe that Hernando County residents will see in 2018 the continued expansion of our local economy. This will be evidenced by the creation of more new jobs and added square footage of manufacturing and other diverse industrial space. Residents will see the continuation of growth in the retail and hospitality sectors. This will produce more jobs and generate more tourism throughout our county, which means more visitors and dollars being spent here.
I believe Hernando County will see the release of the first Restore Act dollars from the U.S. Treasury in 2018.
This will be the start of some of our planned recreation and environmental projects for the west side of Hernando County along the Gulf Coast waterways and parks. (The Restore Act governs the disbursement of funds collected from BP in its settlement over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to coastal communities impacted by the accident.)
Q: What are your top goals for 2018?
A: Top goals for 2018
• Close on several businesses we are recruiting to locate to Hernando County.
•Begin construction on 200,000 square feet of new, industrial space.
•Create another 200 jobs in the manufacturing or distribution sectors.
•Create several dozen new aviation-related jobs.
•Continue growth in the tourism sector to reach double-digit gains in hotel occupancy rates, as well as gains in revenue per available room
•Achieve growth in our housing/subdivision stock
Q: Are there specific bumps in the road you are anticipating with any of our ongoing projects?
A: Hernando County has a really solid multi-year implementation program in place pursuant to the Restore Act, and the only real impediment to our progress could be the release by the U.S. Treasury of funds approved for our county.
Q: Do you have any personal goals you would like to share for 2018?
A: Personal goals will include seeing more of the state of Florida. I do really enjoy driving the back roads of Florida and seeing the many small towns. There are many "discoveries" to be found along the way.
The downtowns of the small towns are what I thoroughly enjoy.
Also, I need the weather to cooperate so I can resume my usual long walks on the weekends and late afternoons after work.
It is great exercise and gives me time to reflect on the day's events and to plan for the future. I also would like to catch up with some of my family who I have not been able to visit this past year.
Of course, losing a few pounds is always a good thing.