Honored by Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder, officer Reeshemah Taylor has helped to change policies and training procedures in the Osceola County Corrections Department.


Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder honored Osceola County Corrections Officer Reeshemah Taylor with the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor in a White House ceremony. The medal, authorized by the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Act of 2001, is the highest national award for valor by a public safety officer. A total of 78 medals have been presented since the first recipients were honored in 2003. Taylor is the first corrections officer to receive the award. During a June 22, 2009 incident, Taylor found herself in a face-to-face confrontation with an armed inmate dressed in a correction officer’s uniform. With a weapon pointed at her, Taylor grabbed the 9mm pistol, diverting it from her direction and delivering a knee spike to the inmate’s groin. The inmate dropped to the floor and the gun dropped several feet away. Taylor immobilized the inmate and with her free hand, summoned assistance with her radio. Also notably, the incident prompted numerous security enhancements by the Corrections Department, which also revamped policies and training procedures.



Hernando County Administrator Leonard Sossamon appointed four new assistant county administrators: George Zoettlein, assistant county administrator for Budget and Community Development; Russ Wetherington, assistant county administrator for General Services; Brian Malmberg, assistant county administrator for Operations; and Ronald Pianta, assistant county administrator for Planning and Development. Each was an existing Hernando government employee, with tenures ranging from two to 14 years; Zoettlein has the longest tenure, hired in June 1999. According to Sossamon, the new assistant county administrators will “work closely with me in the continuing process to develop a strategic plan for Hernando County.” Sossamon also plans to “continue to grow Hernando County and its economic prowess.”


The Hillsborough County Commission on the Status of Women has named three women to the 2013 class of the Hillsborough County Women’s Hall of Fame: Dottie Berger MacKinnon, Deanne Roberts and Juel Shannon Smith. The Hillsborough County Commission on the Status of Women created the Women’s Hall of Fame in 2011 to recognize “significant contributions to the betterment of life for residents of Hillsborough County.” MacKinnon has dedicated her life to children as a founder of Joshua House, Friends of Joshua House, Kids Charity of Tampa Bay and A Kid’s Place. She served as a Hillsborough County Commissioner from 1994 to 1998. Roberts, an advocate for creating business opportunities in Tampa Bay, is founder of the now-ChappellRoberts Public Relations firm. She is a former chair of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Emerge Tampa, Connect Tampa and Creative Tampa Bay. Smith has been a driving force at the University of South Florida as founding executive director of the USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy Program and the USF Institute of Black Life.


Lake County’s Growth Management Department is now accepting commercial and industrial permits electronically through the county’s website at The county has 40 types of permits available online. The pre-application conference and online site plan process are also available electronically. Among the goals of the county’s Economic Action Plan are creating a business-friendly environment and simplifying the permitting process. A team of staff comprised from the county’s Growth Management, Information Technology, Communications and Health departments achieved the conversion of permitting to an online format, along with the development of informational tutorials. In April, the team is slated to complete an online impact fee calculator. Future projects for the team include creating online tutorials and allowing applications for preliminary plats and rezoning requests.


The Manatee County Commission has extended the contract of County Administrator Ed Hunzeker until 2018, almost four years beyond his expected retirement date. Hunzeker was hired as County Administrator in 2007. Since that time, County Government has been reduced by nearly 300 positions, and its operating budget has been cut by $142 million, or about 25 percent. Hunzeker reduced the size of government without broad service cuts to the community. Also during his tenure, according to county officials, Hunzeker transformed the Manatee County Building Department into a responsive and efficient arm of local government that has served as a model for others around the region. In addition, Hunzeker mapped out the board-approved local plan for job creation and retention. Manatee’s Economic Development Incentive package offers performance-based incentives to businesses that create or retain quality local jobs. More than 4,000 jobs may be created over the next five years as a direct result of that package.


Award-winning work on the A. Max Brewer Bridge in Brevard has resulted in an engineering scholarship at Brevard Community College.

The Florida Department of Transportation has awarded a $10,000 scholarship to Brevard Community College, as part of the A. Max Brewer Bridge project winning a national People’s Choice Award. Last November, that FDOT bridge project won the People’s Choice Award, a national contest sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. In turn, FDOT received a $10,000 prize to share with a charity of its choice, Brevard Community College. The scholarship will go to a student pursuing an engineering degree in the transportation sector who has completed course work at BCC and is transferring to a four-year school that offers a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Students must meet certain criteria, including taking courses at the college’s Titusville or Cocoa campuses. The A. Max Brewer Bridge—a $44.8 million fixed span bridge—replaced an aging and structurally deficient swing span over the Indian River.



Transit options in Citrus County have increased, thanks to a new fixed-rotute system. The complete circuit takes about two hours.

Citrus County’s Orange Line Bus now services the entire county. Previously, the county had only point-to-point appointment/pickup bus service; the Orange Line is a fixed route system. The purpose is to “provide safe, courteous, clean and reliable transportation” for residents, offering “convenient transportation to shopping and recreation opportunities without the cost and bother of driving.” The buses operate Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to about 7 p.m., excluding major holidays. Times for door-to-door service are 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., not to be confused with fixed times. The complete circuit takes about two hours, with the route designed to help residents in the Crystal River, Homosassa and Floral City areas, along with routes in Inverness and Beverly Hills. Officials also hope that students will utilize the line to get around the county.


Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, in collaboration with the Heart of Florida United Way and Florida Prosperity Partnership, have launched Bank On Greater Orlando, a public-private partnership among the area’s regional financial institutions and community-based organizations. The initiative is aimed at increasing the financial stability of the “unbanked” and “underbanked.” The program connects residents with financial institutions that can provide assistance tailored to specific needs. Nearly one-third of Orlando residents are either unbanked (no checking or savings account) or underbanked (have an account but frequently use alternative financial services like check-cashing). The Bank On program has spread throughout the country and is based on a collaborative effort with local communities and their financial institutions, local governments, and community-based and nonprofit organizations, such as the Heart of Florida United Way.


Pasco County Commissioners approved $100,000 for the county’s first business incubator, which will be located in the Dade City Business Center and managed by a team led by the Pasco Economic Development Council Inc. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 20 percent of new businesses remain in operation after the first five years. By contrast, a U.S. Economic Development Administration-funded study concluded that 87 percent of all businesses graduating from an incubator stay in business after five years. Pasco EDC’s goal is to work with new entrepreneurs and scalable start-up companies in the incubator, helping to build their businesses from the ground up. Pasco EDC has promised $50,000 and has secured $50,000 for the new incubator from Dade City. It is partnering with Saint Leo University, the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce and the University of South Florida Small Business Development Center to provide technical assistance. Pasco EDC has been laying the groundwork for entrepreneurs over the past year through its Pasco Enterprise Network, a collaborative effort of business-help organizations.


New entrance monuments reflect officials’ continuing efforts to rebrand the airport.

St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport has unveiled a new logo, emphasizing the airport’s three-letter identifier PIE, and a new slogan, “Tampa Bay The Easy Way.” New monuments at the east and west entrances to the airport feature the new logo. The airport’s permanent three-letter identifier PIE was assigned to the airport based on its name in the 1950s, Pinellas International. The former logo first appeared in 1976. Merging PIE, St. Pete-Clearwater International and the Tampa Bay region is key to marketing the airport to travelers and airlines in the future, according to airport officials, who added that after renovating the terminal in 2010, it was time to continue the re-branding of the airport. Also, a new website design is in the works, and renovations to the terminal will continue with the addition of new Flight Information Displays and other improvements.


Polk County residents have greater access to their county commissioners with the launch ofThe Commissioner’s Report on Polk Government Television. The 30-minute show features two commissioners each month who discuss various topics relevant to their work as a commissioner and current board action. Host Jim DeGennaro talks to the commissioners one-on-one to deliver an “inside look” at the workings of county government. The first program featured County Commissioners George Lindsey and Melony Bell. Through PGTV, residents can follow local and state government meetings, learn about county services, watch community performances, discover activities and engage in important issues. The programming is available online at


The Fort Myers office of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection now represents the Sarasota County district. The FDEP maintains district offices representing five regional areas throughout the state. In an effort to establish a more consistent workload and develop more uniform jurisdictional areas, FDEP revised its district boundaries. As a result, Sarasota representation, which previously had occurred at the FDEP office in Tampa, has moved to the South District. FDEP provides oversight of many county environmental programs. Among them are storage tank compliance, petroleum cleanup, air quality, environmental permitting for mangrove trimming and alteration, and dredging and fill activities. The South District is responsible for Charlotte, Collier, Desoto, Highlands, Hendry, Glades, Lee, Monroe and Sarasota counties.


Nominated by the Society of Women Engineers, the City of Sanford was the winner of the 2013 Engineers Week Outstanding Organization of the Year Award for Central Florida. Numerous reasons were cited. Utilities Department staffers, for example, have volunteered at industry events such as the Water Issues and Innovations Symposium, American Society of Civil Engineering Luncheon and Florida Water Resources Conference. Also, the Utilities Department developed a water-conservation program that included replacing old water meters with automatic-meter-read and leak-detection functions. Currently, Sanford is working on improving customers’ water quality by adding ozone and granular activated carbon to water treatment and using a unidirectional flushing program to move stagnant water throughout the system. Each year, more than 70 engineering, education and cultural societies plus more than 50 corporations and government agencies observe National Engineers Week, held on the third week of February.


Volusia County has expanded its online permit, development and contractor information services. With the latest phase of Connect Live Permits, registered contractors can apply online for licenses, demolition permits and certain types of residential permits at Other registered users can submit certain application types online. Contractors, permit applicants and other persons actively involved in development can register on Connect Live Permits to schedule inspections, make payments and check the status of applications online. Connect Live Permits, launched in September 2012, also allows residents to submit complaints about potential code violations and research permits, developments, complaints and contractor licenses from their computers. The county will continue to expand Connect Live Permits to include additional application types in the future.