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Pasco parks director departs as public outreach begins

Pasco County, embarking on a campaign to try to expand its parks and recreation system, will be doing so with a new public face heading up the department.

Kelley Boree, 51, resigned last week as director of the county's Department of Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources. Her resignation letter, dated Sept. 16, contained no reason for her departure. The resignation is effective Dec. 8, but Boree will act only as an off-site consultant on an as-needed basis for the next 11 weeks, said her immediate supervisor, Cathy Pearson, assistant county administrator.

Boree's departure from her $107,100-a-year-job came a day before commissioners hired Consensus Communications Inc. of Orlando for an $85,000 public awareness campaign. The company has been asked to determine the level of public support for implementing the county's 2015 parks master plan, which calls for $149 million worth of park expansion and repair projects over the next decade.

Commissioners previously declined to increase the park impact fee on new home construction to help finance new parks and indicated they might schedule a voter referendum in 2018 on a new tax for parks.

Using public opinion polling, town hall meetings, social media, informational videos and other techniques, the consultant will spend the next six months trying to build consensus "that support our key messages and encourage the County Commission to place the funding of parks on the ballot for voters to decide,'' according to the scope of services attached to its county contract.

Boree's resignation letter mentions that effort. The master plan and public awareness campaign "will be a tremendous guiding path to the premier park system so deserved by the community,'' she wrote.

In a text message, Boree declined comment beyond her five-paragraph resignation letter, which mostly detailed her accomplishments since joining the county in January 2016. She was hired by former County Administrator Michele Baker to direct the department, which had been reorganized to include the county's environmental lands program.

The only evaluation in her personnel file lauded her performance as meeting or exceeding all expectations.

"Thank you Kelley for a job well done in the short time you have joined the Pasco team. Looking forward to big things to come,'' Pearson wrote in December 2016.

Boree previously served as director of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection/Division of State Lands and director of recreation and community services for the city of Jacksonville. Pearson said the county would conduct a national search for her replacement.