Thursday, November 23, 2017
News Roundup

Bowen: Pasco administrator sets out to do the impossible — for fun

RECOMMENDED READING


Dan Biles draws inspiration from Walt Disney.

''It's kind of fun to do the impossible.''

The quotation is on a placard sitting on a shelf in Biles' office. It was a gift from colleagues during his time as public works director in Corpus Christi, Texas.

"I love that quote,'' Biles said, "and it is fun to do something that nobody thinks you can do.''

Disney isn't his only motivation. Biles' Twitter account shows frequent posts about leadership and performance.

That's basically the reason for his new role. Being a leader and getting things done — whether impossible or not — are why he is now Pasco County administrator, managing a 2,300-employee, billion-dollar enterprise delivering services to the public.

Biles' background in building infrastructure, private development and his command positions with the Air Force led county commissioners to hire him away from Jefferson County, Ala., eight weeks ago. This is his third week on the job and his first going solo after the departure last week of retiring administrator Michele Baker.

Most of his time has been spent building a budget to present to commissioners in July. It means matching the demand for services with available resources, even when you don't yet know what those resources will be. The preliminary tax roll from Property Appraiser Gary Joiner isn't due until the end of the month.

After the number crunching come more numbers.

Biles wants to see every fire station. There are 26 of them, counting a few staffed by volunteers. Biles figures it will take 18 to 24 months to visit them all and chat with the rank and file. Then he'll start again.

He plans to tour every park. He's anxious to view the cool stuff going on inside the library branches. He looks forward to talking to the front-line employees and the residents who are the county's customers.

What he doesn't want to do is be handcuffed to the desk in his third-floor corner office of the West Pasco Government Center. Even if the office trappings include the Disney motivator; a 12th man commemorative from his alma mater, Texas A&M University and a coin collection that includes a bottle cap from a Texas-brewed black lager that isn't available outside the Lone Star State.

Biles said he was drawn to the administrator's job by Pasco County's current operations, the municipal services it provides to nearly half a million people, and — let's not kid ourselves here — the warm weather. (He had some familiarity with Florida because of his late father's roots in Fort Pierce.)

Departing isn't in the plans, as attested to by the message he tweeted after five days on the job.

"Week one of 1,040 down (God, family & BoCC willing); and a good week it was here in #pascocounty.''

Do the math and you figure Biles, 49, is planning a 20-year career here if current and future commissioners agree.

"I don't see myself retiring to the golf course and the house until, you know, 69 or 70 or longer,'' he said.

He commended Baker's leadership legacy — the people she put in key roles and the strategic plan developed by commissioners and administrators to set goals and measure the successes at achieving them.

"They've done a lot of innovative stuff that you generally don't see when you look at the majority of local governments out there,'' Biles said.

In other words, the county has set itself up for success, and that made Pasco County attractive to Biles.

Biles also has to pick some leaders of his own.

Two of the five assistant county administrators currently have "interim'' in their title. Strategic policy administrator Richard Gehring, the county's big picture guy, retires this summer, and Pasco again is searching for a tourism director after recently hired Doug Traub departed after just three months.

The biggest challenge ahead is handling growth, Biles said, particularly in an area that had an estimated 15,000 new residents move in during the past few years.

"How do you do that and accommodate them in our parks, in our libraries and in our other services?''

Indeed. It is a question that gets asked frequently, but rarely is answered adequately.

He is getting accustomed to the place. He mispronounced Lutz, rhyming it with "nuts" instead of "boots." No big deal, really. Gov. Rick Scott did the same thing during his fifth year in office.

Biles also is going to have to figure out what to do for fun, besides the impossible. He gave up golf, but he does own two kayaks. Camping, bicycling and hiking trips got pushed aside years ago because he and his wife, Mandy, spent more than a decade of weekends at soccer pitches, ball fields and track meets watching their four children compete. The youngest graduates high school next week and then will enroll at Auburn University.

So, Biles has to decide how to fill his spare time. If he has any. He spent his initial weekends at brush fires.

It's not the way he imagined getting to know the Starkey Wilderness Park.

Comments

Motorcyclist, 27, dies in crash with taxi cab in Largo

LARGO — A motorcyclist died after crashing into a taxi cab Thursday morning, police reported.Sydney Pender, 27, was riding a 2012 Yamaha motorcycle southbound on 66th Street about 10:30, according to a Largo Police Department release.At the same time...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Update: Mother, toddler hit by car in critical condition at TGH

TAMPA — A mother and one of her two small children who were hit by a car while trying to cross Dale Mabry Highway on Wednesday were still in the hospital on Thanksgiving, according to Tampa General Hospital.Cassandra Marie Spicola, 29, and 18-month-o...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Pasco County put under immediate tornado warning

The National Weather Service has put out a tornado warning for Pasco County. Thunderstorms capable of producing a tornado and strong winds are expected over Jasmine Estates, New Port Richey and Hudson until 1:15 p.m., according to the NWS warning. Ba...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

It’s going to be a wet Thanksgiving across Tampa Bay, but sunny skies are coming during the long weekend, according to WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Ric Kearbey. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Self-proclaimed Nazi banned from University of North Florida — but allowed to remain a student

Self-proclaimed Nazi banned from University of North Florida — but allowed to remain a student

A self-proclaimed Nazi is banned from the University of North Florida’s campus — but will remain a student, university officials said.Ken Parker, a 37-year-old Navy veteran who once served as the grand dragon, or highest-ranking leader, of the Ku Klu...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

CLEARWATER — On Tuesday, Jon Mott had a 103-degree fever. That was not enough to keep him from maintaining his dominance Thursday at the 39th Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot.The former Northeast standout added to his record with his fifth title in the ev...
Updated: 6 hours ago
President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump has a Thanksgiving Day message for the nation: Look at all I’ve done. Trump is telling followers in an early-morning holiday tweet that, "your Country is starting to do really well." He says: Jobs are "coming back,...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Lutz pedestrian dies in accident on U.S. 41

LUTZ — A man is dead after deputies said he walked into the path of a car on U.S. Route 41 Wednesday night.Charles Miller, 69 of Lutz, was walking east across the highway at 7:34 p.m., according to Florida Highway Patrol.Daniel Johnson, 35 and also o...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Tarpon Springs seeking to honor sponger George Billiris

Tarpon Springs seeking to honor sponger George Billiris

TARPON SPRINGS — The city is considering a way to honor the legacy of the late longtime sponge merchant George Billiris at a city building. "We know how he promoted Tarpon Springs," Commissioner David Banther said at a recent City Commission meeting....
Published: 11/23/17
New Weeki Wachee basketball coach transitions from years on college sidelines

New Weeki Wachee basketball coach transitions from years on college sidelines

WEEKI WACHEE — Mark Lee was looking for an accomplished coach to take over Weeki Wachee High’s boys basketball team. Not only did he find what he was searching for, but he may have gone above and beyond with the hiring of Rick Scruggs.The 30-year vet...
Published: 11/23/17