TALLAHASSEE — Elected officials and staff of Hamilton County participated in 2020 Rural Counties day Jan. 16–17 in Tallahassee.
Based on the tremendous success of the initial Rural Counties day during the 2019 Legislative Session — initiated and spearheaded by Florida House Rep. Bobby Payne — this year’s event was expanded and offered to all 14 counties in the North Florida Economic Development Partnership region.
A welcome reception was held on the evening of Jan. 15, where Rep. Payne (D-19) was introduced and recognized for his leadership on behalf of small, rural counties in Florida. Both Senate and House members spoke on the importance of rural counties making their voices heard during each Legislative Session.
Sen. Bill Montford (D-3) addressed the county leadership group and directed his comments on the need for the rural counties to work together on their priorities. He focused on unity of purpose, the need for the rural counties and all their communities to support each other as the 2020 Legislative Session moves forward.
A Statement about Rural Florida prepared by Chris Doolin, Government Relations Consultant to the Small County Coalition, identified the following major issues: rural economic development, fiscally constrained funding, access to health care, septic to sewer, infrastructure — roads/fire houses/parks, library, historical and cultural funding, enhanced education funding, special facility school construction, school safety and mental health funding, affordable housing and expansion of internet capacity and broadband.
The rural counties are asking the Florida Legislature and relevant state agency leadership to take a comprehensive look at the short-term and long-term needs that are essential to sustainability, productivity, and quality of life. Leaders in the public and private sector are requested to support efforts to address job growth, support educational services targeting the needs of rural areas, expand accessibility and reduce health care cost, expand internet services, and provide critical infrastructure and other elements needed for stable and sustainable recovery and growth.
The following day the rural counties set up display areas to highlight and market their communities and assets.
Rep. Chuck Brannan (R-10), whose district includes Hamilton County, joined his constituents at the Hamilton area for discussions about the county’s needs and priorities. Rep. Brannan said his door is always open and his staff are always ready to work with Hamilton County.
The Hamilton team included Commissioner Beth Burnam (District 1), Commissioner Robert Brown (District 3), County Coordinator Louie Goodin, Hamilton County Development Authority Executive Director Chadd Mathis, Parks & Recreation Director Chuck Burnett, White Springs Mayor Helen Miller and Ed Miller and Jennings Council Member Samantha Prueter.