Two government officials honored as Home Rule Heroes

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 6/1/22

CLAY COUNTY – Local municipalities and state legislators contest home rule-related issues on numerous fronts whether it’s gardening, vacation rentals or how taxes can be collected.

Two local …

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Two government officials honored as Home Rule Heroes

Posted

CLAY COUNTY – Local municipalities and state legislators contest home rule-related issues on numerous fronts whether it’s gardening, vacation rentals or how taxes can be collected.

Two local officials – Orange Park Town Manager Sarah Campbell and Green Cove Springs City Manager Steve Kennedy – were honored as Home Rule Heroes by the Florida League of Cities. There were more than 150 elected or non-elected honorees statewide.

Campbell was hired as town clerk in 2009 before being elevated to assistant town manager in 2015. Two years later, she was appointed to the town’s top job. She said she was honored by the League's designation. Regarding the independence of cities, Campbell said historically governments had to protect their citizens with walls and defenses, and there are parallels to today.

“ … I like to think that we offer the same protections. Each community is different,” Campbell said. “We need flexibility to build a community that is reflective of the people who chose to live here.”

She said Home Rule should make towns and cities able to make laws without interference.

Home Rule is a difficult proposition, however, because some cities abuse their power and that forces the Legislature to act.

“To me, Home Rule means that Orange Park has wide latitude to create laws and policies for the benefit of our citizens, without interference from the state,” she said.

Campbell said city and town managers must be apolitical, though they often have partnerships with their state counterparts.

“We are proud to have built great relationships with our legislators and their staff,” she added. “I feel comfortable reaching out to any legislator in order to communicate the council’s position on proposed legislation.”

Kennedy was appointed by Green Cove Springs council members in 2018 after a lengthy administrative and city manager career based in Georgia.

Kennedy said his recognition for being engaged with state and federal representatives are part of his regular job. He cautioned against “broad brush” governing, saying that what works for one community might not work for another.

“If we do not have the issues that Miami is dealing with, why should the state get involved with a solution and apply it statewide? Let Miami, through the Home Rule process, legislate the remedy for the issues they are facing,” Kennedy remarked. “Broad brush legislation at the state level that impacts cities, towns and counties is dangerous and could have financial consequences that adversely impact the local governments.”

Local issues should be handled at the local level through locally-applied legislation, Kennedy said. He said all government issues were inherently political.

It is critical, Kennedy said, that municipalities establish their needs, observe events at the state level and advocate for those needs.

“While engaging in the legislative process and trying to influence the decisions of legislators, it is more important that we, as a city, identify our goals, priorities and direction for Green Cove Springs and then we can all monitor legislative activities to make sure that legislation does not get approved that will impact our goals, priorities and direction,” he said.

The Florida League of Cities asked its members to contact the Legislature and provide local perspectives on an issue. Casey Cook, the organization’s Director of Legislative Affairs, said the crop of honorees this year were deserving.

“We had a record number of Home Rule Heroes this year, which shows the dedication and impact of local officials on behalf of their residents and businesses in protecting local decision-making,” Cook said. “These local officials were constantly engaged and actively advocating for their communities throughout the 2022 Legislative Session. They’re heroes for Home Rule and we thank them for their efforts.”

According to the Florida League of Cities, the winners will be presented their awards at a future date.

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