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Commissioner aims to inform one episode at a time

Hines aims to inform constituents on current issues in their community through his new Access Sarasota program.

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  • | 10:10 a.m. February 7, 2019
Commissioner Hines stands on the set of the Access Sarasota studio.
Commissioner Hines stands on the set of the Access Sarasota studio.
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Sarasota County Commissioner Charles Hines has a goal: make sure the citizens of Sarasota County are informed.

The problem, he says, is that it’s just not possible to have open conversations in meetings where discussions are limited by time and can take on the air of debate.

His solution? “The Chair.”

“The Chair” is Hines’s new Access Sarasota TV program where he, the chairman of the County Commission, sits down with other community leaders to discuss the county’s top issues.

Hines said the Sarasota County communications team has worked to expand its Twitter and Facebook outreach. However, effectively educating constituents on local issues has remained a consistent challenge.

As they grappled with the correct way to move forward, Hines said he decided to mirror the city of Sarasota’s approach, which has a similar TV program called “Commissioner’s Corner.”

“We have this huge communications department — we have our own TV station — and we’re not utilizing it to give information to the public,” he said. “So I said ‘All right, here’s another avenue to do it.’”

Nestled in a corner of the County Administration Building, the studio is complete with a green screen,  multiple cameras, a teleprompter and a control booth.

County spokesman Drew Winchester said there’s no overhead cost to each episode because it’s produced in-house.

Each episode takes about 30 minutes to shoot, then a day or two to edit, review and post. The final result,  is a 15- to 20-minute episode, which Hines plans to release once a month.

He launched “The Chair” on Jan. 14 by bringing Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight in to discuss the county jail.

Hines says he likes that the general question-answer format of an interview is easy to follow. Additionally, as the videos are posted to YouTube and shared to various spots online, they are preserved in case any residents decide to do a quick Google search on that topic of concern.

At the time of publication, his first two episodes on YouTube had 205 and 135 views. Hines says he is more concerned with content than clicks.

“I’m not watching how many people are clicking on it,” he said. “I don’t know how many people have clicked on the show. But, what’s nice about is that, once it’s out there, it’s out there forever. So, you may only get a small number at the beginning but, once you get someone who’s saying, ‘You know, I want to learn more about that jail facility,’ well, they’d find the show. That might be six months from now, but the information is still good.”

In brainstorming episode topics, Hines says he has mostly taken inspiration from the County Commission’s legislative priorities for the year. His most recent episode dealt with Dona Bay restoration.

Next, he says he might do an episode about the Atlanta Braves or the Legacy Trail extension

The Access Sarasota in-house television studio.
The Access Sarasota in-house television studio.

“Everyone is really excited  about the [Legacy Trail] vote. It passed overwhelmingly, and now everyone is like, ‘Why is it not built yet?’” he said. “I’m trying to find topics that are at least interesting. I’d probably also have the people on from the Atlanta Braves because that’s a big deal.”

The Braves are opening a new spring training facility in March in North Port.

Plus, Hines says that by sitting down with other community leaders, “The Chair” is helping him remain informed.

Fundamentally, though, Hines says he simply wants “The Chair” to be a resource that leads to collaboration between the county and its residents.

“We might disagree on policy,” he said, “but when you have all the information and I have all the information, then we can make a rational decision.”


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