On Thursday, January 11, 2018, the Tampa Connection Class of 2017-18 participated in our Government Program. The mission of the day was to expose class members to the inner workings of local government, including the court system, and the impact these local governments have on the Tampa Bay community as a whole.
We started the day at the Hillsborough County Courthouse where the class began the day learning the history of the Edgecomb Courthouse and the important influence of Judge Edgecomb in our community. Next, Circuit Court Judge Michael Scionti gave the class an introduction to the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit’s Veteran’s Treatment Court. Following Judge Scionti’s presentation, the class toured the courthouse and had the opportunity to observe evidence being introduced in a murder trial, violation of probation hearings, and other motions being argued in the criminal courts. After the courthouse tours, Chief Judge Ronald Ficarrotta provided the class with an explanation of how the different branches of government work together and led a lively discussion on some of the matters being considered in the current legislative session.
Following Judge Ficarotta’s closing remarks, a member from each team provided an update on their team project. The updates included information regarding each nonprofit, the project the team is working on, and the progress the team has made to date.
The second half of the program took place at the Hillsborough County Center, the hub of county government in Tampa. This portion of the program started with an introduction to the County Center provided by Josh Bellotti, Director of Real Estate and Facilities for the County. Following Mr. Bellotti’s opening comments, the class had the opportunity to engage in a question and answer discussion with a panel that included three prominent members of our local government: Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill, Tampa Chief of Staff Dennis Rogero, and Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez. The panel discussion included topics ranging from the future of the Tampa Bay Rays, to future plans for transportation and storm water systems, to the impact of tourism on our local economy. The panel discussed Mayor Buckhorn’s large presence throughout the various aspects of local government and provided some leadership tips to our class on conflict resolution and the importance of listening. A quote that stuck with many in attendance came from County Administrator Merrill when asked about the inherent challenges of running one of the largest counties in the country: “If you want a different outcome, change the system.”
The class wrapped up the Government Program day with happy hour at The Attic on Kennedy, where the class and board members reminisced together about the day and enjoyed great views of our beautiful city!