Manatee County is a growing economic powerhouse and is making a name for itself in the economic development world. Our county has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years. Northeastern states with high taxes, excessive business regulation and Covid-19 protocol insanity have caused the rate of migration to our county to intensify.
Recent elections are bringing new faces to our county commission. The county commissioners will have major issues on their plate. Inflation has reared its ugly head and has caused the borrowing costs for the county to increase. The costs associated with building infrastructure such as roads and parks have increased dramatically. One example of this is the 75th Street West project that has more than doubled in cost since it was originally budgeted.
Fortunately, Manatee County has an administrator, Scott Hopes, who is helping our commissioners make changes that will benefit our community. Most county administrators are political animals that are good at keeping politicians happy but not good at reigning in and streamlining bureaucracy. Defenders of big government will argue that a governmental entity cannot be run like a business because it must perform many non-business functions. This is usually just an excuse for increasing the government payroll and allowing incompetent managers to retain their jobs.
Recently, some Manatee County commissioners were erecting roadblocks to prevent our county administrator from making our county government more efficient. Some commissioners were making it difficult to replace department heads who were not up to the task.
Our former administrators had as many as 17 department heads reporting directly to them. This can be highly inefficient. Hopes has put in a new structure that presently has 3 deputy administrators who help manage the county workforce. Several of the deputy administrators will still manage departments but will also oversee other department heads. Hopes understands that organizations thrive when they empower competent
managers. He also understands that that organizations suffer when incompetent managers are allowed to retain their positions.
Over the past months, several department heads have resigned, retired or been replaced. Several local political commentators have been shocked with these changes and they have inferred improper motivations for the actions. This is the reaction you expect from people who lack business experience.
In several instances, Manatee County had department heads who, in the past, may have been competent in their area. However, they were not the ideal person to lead a department in a county that has grown by 50 percent. Your typical county administrator is not willing to take the political heat associated with replacing department heads. Hopes, however, has been willing to make changes in personnel that will benefit Manatee County over the next decade.
Hopes is overseeing seven major transportation projects. In many instances the land has been purchased and the projects have been engineered and are ready for commencement. The county has recently completed bond sales that will provide the funding to initiate these projects that are necessary to avoid major gridlock.
Hopes has also commissioned an inventory of county owned land which will also include a determination of the highest and best use of the land. As a result of this process, the county will determine which county land is surplus inventory. Some of the surplus parcels will be rezoned to their highest use and then sold. The funds from these sales can be used for other infrastructure needs.
Hopes and the county commissioners are also exploring avenues of offering incentives to developers of work-force housing.These incentives can hopefully address the shortage of work-force housing in Manatee County. Hopes understands that affordable housing is necessary to attract the service workers that we need as our area continues to grow.
Hopes also sees a need to provide more parks and recreation facilities in the growth areas of Manatee County.
Manatee County is experiencing unprecedented growth. Scott Hopes is working with our county commissioners to develop the infrastructure that is needed to prevent the growth from being disruptive. Hopes and the county commissioners have brought a private enterprise mentality to the county offices. Hopefully, the new county commissioners will work with Hopes and avoid the bickering that has characterized prior board meetings.
The public needs to stay informed and observe the changes that will continue to impact the county. Don’t panic every time you hear someone complaining about the changes to the structure of our county government. Most of the time these changes will help our government be more efficient and responsive to the taxpayers. THAT WILL BE TRULY GROUNDBREAKING!!!!