Pete Cuccaro/Guest Column to the Chronicle
It has been a challenging year for public servants across the board. The word COVID will forever be brain-imbedded.
The pandemic has had a clear impact on the structure of the input of the Citrus 2030 Public Safety Committee.
We recognize it was not possible to always be present at committee meetings; it was a rotating roster of attendance.
It is based on this consensus thinking and in concert with facilitator Dr. Eloy Nunez, we believe we have met the initial goal of the committee. Realizing, of course, not every thought or objective can be fully realized with such a broad mission, all committee volunteers are all commended for lending expertise to issues that will be a challenge throughout the next decade. Dr. Nunez has shared it and rolled it up to the umbrella of Citrus 2030.
As the Citrus County Board of County Commissioners and the Citrus County School Board (current and future) consider a proper annual budget for their respective departments they should always have an eye for enhanced funding for public safety. It is a balancing process. Further, the ripple effect for agencies serving the front line can’t be ignored. Whether it’s connecting the dots between the Fire Department and Nature Coast EMS, or the Sheriff’s Office and Department of Corrections, the interconnectivity of entities should always be a consideration.
The potential for school violence has come to the forefront and caused a vigilance unnecessary in bygone eras. Sometimes not always apparent in budgeting formulas are the impact on the Clerk of the Courts or the judiciary overall. Cooperation among all entities serving the citizens of Citrus going forward is most important. The competition for budget dollars will, of course, always be present. It is here when understanding the missions of every entity become apparent at the executive levels. Relationships and meaningful discussions should always be straightforward and robust.
Having spent the better part of my career in law enforcement, followed by another in business, I can unequivocally advise the largest and most daunting public safety issues are proper funding and always evolving training — be it technical, supervisory or managerial. The level of professionalism in any private or public organization can almost always be traced to education and training, which of course goes back to proper funding. It can never be paused.
There are many citizen representatives as part of this committee who presented meaningful issues. They were encouraged to meet with private and public forums and to bring attention to the issues. Many did just that. Others were encouraged to reach out to the public through the media. Again, there was success. This has been a committee of large and small gears and the overlap was intentional. Some subcommittees will continue to meet to create frameworks which will be examined annually. We encourage this continuing concept.
Citrus County will have substantial growth in this decade. It will be at a rate not previously known. When you consider thriving communities have exponential growth, progress and progression is to be expected. Whereas, there has been an abundance of discussion on the arrival of Suncoast 2. From my perspective, this is just the most visible “culprit.” It will certainly be a conduit, but a complete examination of the “ancient” and recent history of State Road 589 reveals it exists because of successful commerce. Add to that more than 1,000 people a day moving to our state, the notion Citrus County could remain hidden is but a yearning for the past. Unfortunate as that may be, there will be an exciting future. We don’t all share the sentiment,but it is the reality for which Citrus 2030 exists. We will have to adjust accordingly.
In conclusion, the Citrus 2030 Public Safety Committee has met its original goal. Although the Public Safety Committee will remain viable, rather than meet every quarter as has been the case, we will meet on an annual basis in support of our public safety partners. We exist to be that formal citizen voice as needed.
There are so many people to thank for so many reasons, and I will conveniently thank one and all.
It is an honor and pleasure to serve as chair. I appreciate the friendships made and can say I undoubtedly learned more about Citrus in the last year than in any previous time. Absent a specific issue or need, we can expect to meet again in May 2022.
Pete Cuccaro is the chairman of the Citrus 2030 Public Safety Committee.