By Stephanie Costolo Photos By Bob Thompson – Thompson Brand Images
The first time Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore ever set foot in Pasco County was to be an extra in Edward Scissorhands, at Carpenters Run, off State Road 54. As a teenager and young adult, Moore’s dream job was to work in broadcasting. He never even thought about going into politics until after he owned his own business.
So how do you get from a radio/television major in college to becoming a County Commissioner? Resident Magazine goes ‘behind the scenes’ if you will, with Mike Moore, to discover the person behind the policy. Local decision makers and public figures tend to be viewed more as campaign road signs, ordinances passed, and policies enforced, rather than as the person they are; or in this case, the father, husband, son, and fisherman that Mike Moore is. Human beings are so multifaceted and each one of us fascinating in our own right. From policy to person, upcoming local changes to his favorite vacation spot, and a day in the life of a County Commissioner, Resident Magazine gets into what local politics looks like on the human side.
RM (Resident Magazine)- First things first, what does being a County Commissioner entail?
MM (Mike Moore)- In layman’s terms, we are the policy-making and legislative body for Pasco County Government. We make all the budget decisions for Pasco County Government; right now our budget is at 1.3 billion dollars. Most people don’t realize how large the budget is, (and) as the County Commissioners, it is our job to make the decisions for every dollar of that budget. When it comes to making policy or legislative decisions for the county government, whether it’s roads, new parks, or land acquisitions for Environmental Protection, we vote. A lot of people probably don’t see how many votes we take during our commission meetings. If you count the consent items, it’s well over 100 every meeting.
RM- How long have you been the county commissioner of Wesley Chapel, and what prompted you to run for this office?
MM- I was elected in November of 2014. Being a small business owner and raising a family, I began to get more and more engaged in politics. Being a business owner, I realized what policies and legislative actions have affect (on me), not only on a personal level but also on a business level. I was always a strong voter, and I started to get more engaged in the Republican Party and ended up becoming the President of the Wesley Chapel Republican Club for a few years. I was on the executive board for the Republican party of Pasco, so after some time and being involved in that process in helping others get elected and helping to campaign for others, it finally got to the point where we thought it would be a good idea to run and make a difference. I was encouraged by quite a few people over the years to run and the right opportunity had to come about. I had sold my home health company and had the opportunity to give back, so we thought it was perfect timing.
RM- Do you have a specific geographical area that you cover, or is it all of Pasco County?
MM- We have five Pasco County Commissioners and there are five districts. I’m District 2. It’s hard to show you on a map, but my district has the majority of Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills, Land O Lakes, Lutz and those places. But we make decisions for the entire county; you just need to live in your district. They have us spread out so there is representation from each district, but I work towards helping people in New Port Richey as much as I do in Wesley Chapel or any of the other areas in Pasco County. We’ve got to make the right decisions for the entire community.
RM- What does a typical ‘day in the life’ look like for a County Commissioner?
MM- It matters what day it is; every other Tuesday, we have our County Commission meeting at 10am sharp. Those can last anywhere from 10:00am to 4:00pm, or they could last until 7:30 or 8:00 at night, depending on how much is on the agenda. We have workshops once a month where all the Commissioners and staff sit around the table and have an agenda on upcoming items and decisions that will need to be made. We don’t make decisions there, but we give staff direction on where we’d like things to go. Those typically last from 10:00am to 3:00 or 4:00pm, and anybody from the public can sit there and watch. Anytime all five Commissioners are together for an advertised meeting, the public is always allowed. Everything needs to be transparent. Other days, constituents will come to my office about their cares and concerns in the county. In addition to that, there are quite a few functions in the community that people ask us to speak at. We do a lot of ribbon cuttings and speak at a lot of functions, such as grand openings and things like that. When Florida Hospital did the expansion, I was one of the speakers. I enjoy it; sometimes the family comes along, depending on what the event is and what time of day it’s held. It’s not a nine-to-five gig; we are doing things on weekends and nights out in the community too.
RM- So this is a full-time job?
MM- It’s slated as a part-time job, but it ends up being more of a full-time situation, and it’s how much you put into it. In reality, the only things you’re obligated to do is go to the County Commission meetings, workshops and committee meetings but we all do so much more. I’m also on a lot of boards and committees (Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA), Pasco Economic Development Council, Circuit Conflict-Sixth Judicial Circuit, Dependency Drug Treatment Court Planning Steering Committee, Government Operations Committee, Insurance Selection Committee, Homeless Advisory Council, Public Safety Coordination Council and the Transportation Disadvantaged Local Coordinating Board).
RM- What about any future political goals?
MM- At this time, I’m focused on the County Commission. I’ve only been here for about a year and a half, so that’s my main focus right now. I’m enjoying what I’m doing, and I know we’re making a difference and getting a lot done. I feel very proud of what we’ve accomplished.
RM- Tell me about some projects that you are proud to have worked on.
MM- I’m big on public safety and economic development. One of the first things that we got passed, which I proposed, was the new sexual offender ordinance. The state statute doesn’t allow certain sexual offenders a thousand feet from schools and parks; that’s now been extended to 2,500 feet. Since that time, less sexual offenders and predators have moved into the county, so it’s working.
Another of the things that I was really excited about this past year was a blight ordinance. If you go through certain areas of the county, you’ll notice a lot of commercial blight – dilapidated buildings falling down. That doesn’t bode well for residential property values or commercial property values. We are really focused on bringing companies to this area, so the last thing we need is a representative from a company driving down our roads and seeing dilapidated buildings. In the past, if the building got to a point that was definitely uninhabitable, we could force them to demolish it, but the county would end up paying for that. This (new ordinance) puts the pressure on the property owner. Basically, what the ordinance states is that these buildings need to be safe, secure, maintained, and can’t be an eyesore. Starting May 1st, somebody gets a warning and if they don’t comply and in 30 days they get a citation. By day 61 if they didn’t fix it, they get a fine of $500 a day.
We got the 56 extension done, which is huge and important, and took a lot of work. That was a perfect example of a public-private partnership going right. Involved were the Department of Transportation, Pasco County, current and past legislators and individual landowners. It’s going to be huge for the Wesley Chapel and the Zephyrhills area; it’s going to give a lot of relief to the people that are going back and forth on 54 in Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills. They are going to start construction on that later this year, so it’s moving fast.
Recently, the predatory towing ordinance was passed. If somebody left their car at a bar or a restaurant overnight because they decided to go ahead and get an Uber or ride home with a friend, towing companies would come and tow their car. The new ordinance says that between 9pm and noon the next day, you can’t tow these cars unless you have the property owner’s permission. The only reason they’re going to do that is if the vehicle is blocking an emergency exit or something like that. These people are being responsible for not driving home after drinking; let’s not penalize them.
Something I’m working on right now is in cleaning up the areas around charity bins. People currently come and drop off the bins, a lot of times without permission, and it turns into a dumping ground. What we found is, you have your legitimate charities and they keep their area clean and ask the property owner for permission. Yet some people drop these bins off, and they actually sell the donations for money, and they tend not to ask the property owners for permission. They don’t clean them up, and it turns into a dumping ground, so we’re working on an ordinance to manage that. We won’t get rid of them, but you want legitimate charities that have asked for permission to have them. The ones that are not being good community partners and not asking for permission or keeping their area clean are going to be held accountable because they are costing the county money. It’s costing the property owner money too because a lot of times they’ll have to bring somebody in to haul off the stuff. And I’ve talked to some of them; they’ve had to do it ten or more times, and it costs them quite a bit of money. If the county sees (the unkempt bins), we have to clean them up using taxpayer’s dollars.
RM- With so much growth and development occurring in Wesley Chapel, what can you tell us about the preservation of land and green spaces?
MM- A lot of good things are happening right now in Pasco County when it comes to growth and development. At the same time, we want to think about the future and make sure there’s green space for our future generations to come. We do environmental land acquisitions from willing sellers, and something coming up is the ecological corridors to make sure wildlife has access across the county. The ecological corridors go up for a final vote (at the end of May); they’ve been working on that for years and years, and it’ll probably come to fruition. There were some things that had to be worked out, such as property owner rights and things like that. We purchased a 65-acre coastal preserve in Port Richey named Rocky Creek not too long ago because we want to have green space and need to have it for future generations and for the wildlife. So, while I’m big on economic development, I’m also big on having those lands and parks for families and kids.
RM- Can you give us any information on new businesses that are coming to the area?
MM- Obviously there’s one in particular everybody’s waiting for.
RM- Raymond James?
MM- Yes. The discussions about that are positive. There’s a manufacturing company that moved into an 85,000 square foot building with 125 new positions. A medical device company located a portion of their operations here in this area. They purchased land, and they’re going to put up an 80,000 square foot building closer to the Sun Coast, but they have operations in Wesley Chapel right now. An IT company recently moved to this area, and their average salary is about $106,000 a year. A pharmacy company moved in this area with 54 new jobs; I think their average salary is about $46,000 or $47,000. Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel is growing, and the ice rink is on its way. There are a lot of things that are in the works.
Additionally, we have one of the best incentive packages compared to other counties in terms of bringing businesses to the area. The population of Pasco County is expected to increase 50% by 2040 – estimated 730,000 people by 2040. It’s an attractive area right now, and we are the youngest average population of the surrounding counties. We’re not the bedroom community to Tampa that we once were; we are growing out of that. Also, our financial position is incredibly strong; we have one of the lowest debt levels of any county.
RM- What are your thoughts on the political atmosphere right now?
MM- I look at the elections of the last couple of election cycles, and I think the political atmosphere is definitely changing. I think you’re seeing a lot of ‘outsiders’ getting into the political arena a little bit more. People are getting engaged in the process now and more and more people want to run for office. And I think it’s a good thing. If somebody feels that they would make a good candidate and wants to run, I say go for it. I don’t see why not.
RM- Tell me about your family.
MM- My wife Lauren and I have been married 15 years this October; she is a registered nurse and works for the Pasco County school system. We have three kids. Aubrey is 12; she does horseback riding and is a cheerleader. Aiden just turned 10 last week. He plays flag football and golf. Amberlee is 7 and also plays golf. They’re all trying different things right now, and I help assistant coach the football team, which is fun.
RM- Do you have any siblings?
MM- I do not; I am an only child. My parents separated when I was 5, so my mother raised me with my grandparents. When we moved to Winter Haven, I was in 2nd grade and we moved in with my grandparents. My grandparents, my mom and I shared a two-bedroom, one-bath house and lived there until I was in 7th grade. I came from very humble beginnings and have a very caring mother. She always cares about doing things for other people, not herself; that’s the way she’s always been.
RM- What is your favorite way to spend free time?
MM- The whole family loves to fish, so we do a lot of saltwater fishing on our boat when we have time on the weekends. We love going to the kids sporting events and watching those. We have an RV, so we like to go RV-ing as a family; we’ve gone as far as Ohio, up into the Carolinas. We do lots of family time. We have great neighbors, who we like to hang out with. It’s a great Community and that’s why we love Wesley Chapel. Any given day of the week you’ll see us out front with kids running around and playing, and the parents are sitting outside talking.
RM- Favorite place you’ve traveled?
MM- Costa Rica is probably the most amazing place that I’ve ever been. Lauren and I went there on our honeymoon. But when it comes to favorite place, I’ll be honest with you, I like going with the kids and Lauren down to the Keys, or the mountains in the RV. That’s what we enjoy the most. I’d rather do that than getting on a plane to travel.
RM- What music was playing the last time you drove somewhere?
MM- It was definitely country. I like everything. I’ll listen to today’s country, Pearl Jam radio; I listen to a little bit of everything, but the last time I got in the car this morning, there was country on.
RM- What’s the last book you read or are reading?
MM- This might sound crazy, but (laughs) I read a lot of agenda items at night in bed.
RM- If you could put up your own billboard anywhere you want and have it say anything you want, where would you put it and what would it say?
MM- I’d put it on the corner of 56 and 75, and it would say “be kind.”
Mike Moore prides himself on being a public servant and is more than just a man of words. He proves his dedication and passion for Pasco County and Wesley Chapel through his commitment, actions, and ideas. Mike Moore brings more of the good—economic development, public safety, cleanliness, and easing traffic congestion—and less of the bad—predators, blight, and crime—to our communities. As a family man, he experiences the same struggles and concerns as most families do, and he strives everyday to make life just a little sweeter here in Pasco County.