St. Johns Officials Include Economic Resiliency on Action Plan

Economic resiliency is one of the top legislative priorities for St. Johns County and commissioners made sure to include it on their latest Legislative Action Plan.

At the regular commission meeting on Dec. 6, commissioners heard from Adam Tecler, the county’s grants and legislative development manager, on the top issues to bring to the area’s legislative delegation in preparation for the 2023 legislative session in Tallahassee.

Tecler said the report details a list of priorities the county will request assistance with from state and federal officials and will coordinate the needs with state and federal lobbyists.

“A lot of the parts of the plan are new this year,” he said, adding the plan is more “strategically focused” than in the past and has been streamlined.

The plan includes seven specific categories of concern, down from 13 a year ago. In addition to economic resiliency, the list of priorities includes transportation infrastructure, coastal protection and flood mitigation, a resilient future for children, water quality, public safety and overall quality of life issues.

The economic resiliency section includes a state appropriations request of $325,000 to study the feasibility and procedural steps of establishing an institute of higher education in the county.

Other items in the economic resiliency plan include requests to revise the Florida statutes regarding public record and open meeting exemptions to allow county commissioners to discuss economic development proposals in private and to restore the state’s Qualified Targeted Industry tax refund program to allow for more attractive incentive packages.

The plan, which was approved unanimously by commissioners, also includes a policy request to develop a statewide economic security initiative to offer incentives for agricultural production, the preservation of farmland and to ensure food security.

Commissioner Krista Joseph was especially interested in the request focusing on agriculture, saying the commission’s goal “is to protect the people who live here” and to ensure St. Johns County is able to provide for its residents.

“If we put a wall around our county we could support our people here,” she said. “We have everything it takes to be our own little nation. The agriculture part can also help the state of Florida.”

Commissioner Harry Dean praised the streamlined action plan, saying it was the most organized and thought-out legislative plan in his six years on the commission.

“I now understand what I support,” he said with a chuckle.

The plan will be presented to the county’s legislative delegation on Dec. 19.