MANATEE COUNTY — Manatee County District 5 Commissioner Donna Hayes has served as East County’s representative since 2004. Hayes, a Republican, was elected Dec. 15 by her fellow board members to serve as chairman for the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners for 2010.
What was your reaction to being named chairman for the coming year?
I saw it as an opportunity to serve Manatee County, and I’ll say that I’ve always been active in the county since I moved here 30 years ago. It’s a natural progression after serving for five years.
My goal at that time (when I was elected) was to encourage more business activity in Manatee County. I’ve always been pro-business because I see business as a means to provide jobs and opportunities for constituents and their families. With the recent decline in the economy, this issue has been even more important to Manatee County.
As board chairman, what will your focus be for 2010?
I plan to work on business issues as well as implement transportation projects in Manatee County. As a (Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority) member, it has been emphasized to me the need for a regional transportation system in Manatee County, which would connect the spine roads we have in our county to (roads in) the other six counties in the authority.
Transportation is essential for business and economic growth within any county. Also, serving on the (Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization) board, I have had the opportunity to understand the need to work with other counties for connectivity. Many projects have been started in Manatee County and have been put on hold due to state and federal funding restraints.
Although Manatee County has invested funds into infrastructure and utility improvements, residents would like to see something visual such as improving transportation. This includes transit services in all areas of the county. Transit service has been provided in north county, south county and west county, but East County has been left out.
Why is transportation so important?
As a county commissioner, our No. 1 responsibility is safety. Adequate transportation is part of that. When a family emergency arises, residents should expect ambulance and EMS services to arrive promptly. A delay of five to 15 minutes can be life-threatening.
What do you think will be the ongoing issue in Manatee this year?
It always comes back to jobs, jobs, jobs. There have been businesses closing, which has resulted in home foreclosure. Residents who have been a vital part of the quality of life in our community are leaving.
In addition, the county is in the service business. We must continue servicing our residents.
What do you expect will be the biggest challenge in 2010?
The biggest challenge will be to fund projects we already have in our five-year plan. Challenges will be to provide incentives for businesses to relocate here. Additionally, providing services, parks and recreation and cultural opportunities to the community are vital. A sustainable community is only as good as what it has to offer the folks who call this their home.
As chairman, are there things you will do differently than your predecessors?
Yes. We need to have a professional attitude where residents feel free to address us on any issue. We need to present a civil attitude and respect our fellow commissioners’ viewpoints. We do not always agree, but each commissioner should feel free to extend (his or her) view on the subjects.
My job as chairman will be to make sure meetings are conducted in an orderly fashion with commissioners having their time to speak without interruption.
Additionally, all recommendations from commissioners will be taken in the form of a motion. This gives more direction to staff. They know exactly what we are asking of them.
Even as chairman, you will be watching over East County. What things on your agenda are specific to our area?
I want to see transit service provided to Lakewood Ranch. I’d like to see us continue forward with 44th Avenue construction, the Fort Hamer Bridge and hopefully initiate the Tara bridge project.
What are you most looking forward to in 2010?
I will continue serving on many of the boards in which I’ve been involved such as TBARTA, the MPO, Suncoast Workforce board and the library board.
I love working with constituents. As chairman, I’m going to be meeting the rest of the 340,000 folks in the county, not just East County residents. I look forward to the start of the new year and working with the new board that will be taking office in November 2010.
Any other thoughts you’d like to share?
I appreciate the expertise and knowledge of staff.
Also, I am very encouraged with the success of LECOM (Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine), Keiser, MTI (Manatee Technical Institute) and MCC (the State College of Florida). I see a real need for a medical residency program at one of our hospitals. When these folks graduate, we need to encourage them to stay and be permanent residents of our community.
The business growth predicted for 2010 is encouraging and evidenced by seven new hotels constructed and planned for the University Parkway and Lakewood Ranch area. That certainly shows a sign of economic activity returning to our county.