TALLAHASSEE –Government officials from each major community joined members of the Clay County Chamber and County Commission to advocate for local needs to state lawmakers and inform those from …
TALLAHASSEE –Government officials from each major community joined members of the Clay County Chamber and County Commission to advocate for local needs to state lawmakers and inform those from outside Clay County what the area has to offer.
Only two days into the 2017 legislative session, Clay County residents from various organizations and businesses met with legislators who filed into a conference room before the start of the day’s voting at 1 that afternoon.
While meeting face-to-face with lawmakers Sen. Aaron Bean(R-Amelia Island) and Senate President Joe Negron(R-Palm City), Clay Day attendees expressed their interests regarding one issue likely to come up during this year’s session: continuation of the First Coast Expressway.
“We don’t have an interstate in Clay County,” said Clay County Commissioner Diane Hutchings, “and we are on board with the toll concept.”
Another subject on the minds of Clay County’s leaders was the continuation of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, both of which were recently killed and cut, respectively, by legislators.
Both Senators were quick to respond and explain their position on the issues, affirming that they would do their best to advocate in favor of Clay County residents and keep in mind the opinions of local chamber board members and city government officials.
After their orientation, the group moved outside to the Capitol’s courtyard area between the new and old capitol buildings.
In the courtyard, a variety of booths displayed information about all the major communities in Clay County, in addition to booths from Clay Electric Co-Op, Vac-Con Inc. (who brought one of their vacuum trucks into the courtyard), the Military Museum of North Florida and a musical performance by the Orange Park High School Jazz Band.
There were also sausages and barbecue provided, feeding about 1,200 people in total who were lucky enough to wander through the Clay Day setup.
Clay County District 1 Commissioner Mike Cella stood at the steps of the old capitol building looking around at all the booths and people in the courtyard before speakers Rep. Travis Cummings(R-Orange Park) and Florida CFO Jeff Atwater took the podium.
“This has been a great day,” Cella said, “There are a lot of people here to support their communities.”
While other counties have held events like this in the past, this was a first for Clay County. Before they had sent representatives from the chamber of commerce to advocate for their interests, but this year was a much bigger event.
“In the past it’s been a chamber-only event specifically to meet with legislators,” said Bill Garrison, president of the Clay County Economic Development Corp. “This year we had all five constitutional officers there, and over 100 people from Clay County.
Garrison said there is already a debriefing planned later this month to discuss what they could do to make next year’s event bigger and better, but he considers this year’s event to have been a major success.
“In general, it was a home run,” Garrison said. “Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties host events like this, but this was a first for us. I overheard somebody say that Clay County really knocked it out of the park.”