By Buster Thompson, Citrus County Chronicle
Citrus County had its vision checked and focused towards a destiny designed by those who know it best.
Roughly 164 county government officials, residents, business owners, community leaders and visitors gathered Saturday at the College of Central Florida’s Lecanto campus for Citrus 2030’s Vision Check to clarify what they’d like to see happen over the next decade.
Citrus 2030, Leadership Citrus’ successor to Citrus 20/20, and its 10 focus groups took down a lot of notes from the public and its desires for education, the arts, economic development, health, the environment, public safety, tourism, growth and the youth.
More than 135 surveys were also submitted at Citrus 2030’s website, www.citrus2030.org.
Citrus 2030, whose motto is “Destiny by Design,” will put another survey online out on Oct. 14, when it will ask county stakeholders what ideas from the Vision Check they’d like to prioritize.
For the latest on Citrus 2030 and future events, email email@example.com to join its email news list.
Here are the highlights of what Citrus 2030’s focus groups found out from the public during Vision Check:
Health & Social Services
Presented by lobbyist Gene McGee.
McGee said his group came up with several strategies that touch on improving physical- and mental-health services in Citrus County by:
Building a Baker Act facility; starting a free health clinic; working with county commissioners to offer nonprofits land for affordable housing; funding nutrition programs; creating an information center on area health providers and services; and adopt health-friendly polices.
Arts & Culture
Presented by Sharon Davis, Art Center of Citrus County.
Davis said her Arts & Culture Focus Group has masterplan outlined to have a sustainable and arts center completed by 2030 to service every artistic medium.
They’ll be meeting in December to develop committees that will partner with local art agencies and county commissioners, Davis said.
Presented by Don Taylor, board president of the Economic Development Authority for Citrus County.
Members of Citrus 2030’s Economic Development group reported that county officials should use future growth to address shortcomings in infrastructure and improve an area’s economic opportunity.
That includes working with the school and business community to better fast track specialized careers from the classrooms, having a good inventory of affordable houses and rentals and retraining hospitality workforces to direct guests to activities around the county.
Trade/Career & Technical Education
Presented by David Benthusen, Citrus County School District.
There was a public consensus to provide seamless transitions for students moving from to technical education, and into a trade that’s needed by industries within the county.
Commenters also wanted to expand vocational clubs in the K-12 school system, and promote the benefits of career technical education in the classrooms.
Public Safety & Security
Presented by Lindsay Tozer, Citrus County Clerk of Courts.
With over 900 people moving to Florida each day, Citrus 2030’s Public Safety discussion group believed that investments in in the county’s security has to happen sooner, rather than later to safeguard communities, the environment and unfunded state mandates.
There also a call to have more transparency between the public and the agencies that seek to protect them, and getting messages about the importance of public safety on traditional and social media platforms.
Presented by Donna Bidlack, Citrus County Building Alliance.
As money funnels into the county to pay for the expansion of major roadways, the Smart Growth Focus Group is asking county commissioners, to create a community-led taskforce to identify sites that would benefit the most from the infrastructure.
There would also be participation from the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce and Realtors association to provide input on what those developments should be.
Presented by Clayton Doak, interested party.
Group members noted that a Community Education Council be established to coordinate the allocation of educational resources, create awareness about opportunities in education careers to attract talented teachers and find housing for them.
Schools must also embrace the modernization of technology usage in the classroom, and learn to leverage that for the benefit of students.
Presented by Jessie’s Place Executive Director Melissa Bowermaster, and Boys and Girls Clubs of Citrus County CEO Travis Anderson.
Citrus 2030’s Youth Development emphasized the need for a youth council that has involvement in county government.
Other notes talked about building more recreation facilities to meet the demands and numbers of families, identify ADA compliance issues at parks, reduce barriers to transportation access for children traveling to out-of-school activities.
Living In Harmony With Nature
Presented by Ben Kampschroer, Citrus Libraries.
Group members noted several talking points from the discussion to preserve and strengthen the county’s ecosystems by:
Encouraging people to be good stewards of waterways by incorporating eco-friendly landscaping and installing energy-efficient appliances; prepare for rising sea levels through a lower carbon footprint and protecting shorelines; promote smart community development; and reduce waste.
Tourism, Recreation & Social Venues
Presented by Brandie Wooten, tour-and-dive business manager.
Focus group discussions were about informing visitors of what else goes on in the county, beyond the regular tourist hotspots.
The goal would be to create county ambassadors that would educate hoteliers and restaurateurs about local happenings that showcase Citrus County beyond manatee and scallop seasons.
Contact Chronicle reporter Buster Thompson at 352-564-2916 or firstname.lastname@example.org.