Pensacola, Florida
Saturday December 16th 2017

Archives

Facing the Public

By Rick Outzen

The Escambia County Board of County Commissioners is not intimidated to hold town hall meetings. All four commissioners meet regularly with their constituents face-to-face in school cafeterias and community centers across the county.

Freshman Commissioner Jeff Bergosh has stepped into the town hall format, even adding his own twist to how he interfaces with this district.

“One of the things that I talked about with the constituents when I walked to over 8,000 houses during the campaign was that I wanted to be accessible,” Bergosh said recently on “Pensacola Speaks.”

“What I wanted to do was to have a series of regularly scheduled meetings away from the downtown complex, out in the district, so people could just come after work, or before work, and just share anything they wanted with me,” he said.

Bergosh has held two “Coffee with the Commissioner” sessions since the first of the year.

“What I like about the coffees is that folks can come by, they can grab a cup of coffee, they can sit down with me very, very informally, and they can just tell me what’s on their mind,” he told Inweekly. “They don’t have to worry about being recorded, or people asking them for all their information. They can just come and tell me what’s up, and I really, really value that.”

Over the next two weeks, Bergosh and fellow commissioner, Grover Robinson, will host forums. Bergosh, who was elected to the District 1 post last November, is hosting a One-Stop roundtable on the first Monday in April at the West Florida High cafeteria.

He has invited the other elected officials from his district, Vicki Campbell of ECUA and School Board member Kevin Adams, as well as Escambia County Chief Deputy Chip Simmons, Property Appraiser Chris Jones, Tax Collector Scott Lunsford, and Supervisor of Elections David Stafford.

Bergosh said the roundtable idea has been well received by his constituents. “It has never been done in Escambia County before, so I’m delighted to be the first county commissioner to bring this concept.”

The West Florida High student government association will be present to watch the “wheels of government turn.”

“We’re each going to introduce ourselves, and then we’re going to go to our own areas in the cafeteria of West Florida High School,” explained Bergosh. “Then folks can go from table to table to table, kind of like a vendor fair. They don’t have to go from here, to there, to there, figure out where the website is, what the phone number is. We will all be there. ”

He is excited to see how the first roundtable does. “I think you’re going to find that folks figure out, ‘Well, wait a minute. He’s here, so I could ask him about this, and this kind of dovetails with this, so I’ll see what he says, and then I’ll go over to this one.’ The beautiful thing is there are absolutely no Sunshine Law problems with this because none of us serve on the same board.”

Commissioner Grover Robinson will hold a town hall meeting on Pensacola Beach on Tuesday, March 28, starting at 6 p.m. at the Santa Rosa Island Authority Office, 1 Via De Luna. The two primary topics will the Bob Sikes Bridge toll and the congestion management plan.

Earlier this month on “Pensacola Speaks,” he said that the congestion is a good problem to have. “We see numbers up dramatically in tourism. That’s more people coming to the area, advancing and being a part of West Florida and helping to pay the taxes that both governments share.”

Since his election to the Board of County Commissioners in 2006, Robinson has held town hall meetings in his district. Early this year, he hosted one in the Ferry Pass area to discuss the construction on Olive Road.

“I’ve done them for 10 years,” he told Inweekly. “To me, they’re invaluable. You learn certain things. People come for different issues. Some of the things that were a problem 10 years ago are no longer a problem, but that doesn’t mean something new doesn’t come up.”

Robinson believes the town hall meetings are critical in staying in touch with what the people are wanting.

“They also give the people the opportunity to voice in on some things that are going on,” he said. “I think at no other level of government do we have that ability to voice concerns to elected officials better than we can do with the local government.”

It’s the interaction with the residents that makes the commission job worthwhile.

“It is challenging, but it is very rewarding if you get it right,” said Commissioner Robinson. “You can make it better for your community.”

—–

Upcoming County Meetings:

District 4 Town Hall
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 28
Where: Santa Rosa Island Authority Office, 1 Via De Luna
More info: myescambia.com

District 1 One-Stop Roundtable
When: 6 p.m. Monday, April 3
Where: West Florida High School Cafeteria, 2400 Longleaf Dr.
More info: myescambia.com