A new year is upon us, and there is so much to look forward to in Pinellas County. I’ll be sharing our progress with you in the coming months, touching on subjects ranging from our economy to our environment to our pressing transportation needs. But for now, I want to reflect on the remarkable year that’s in our rearview mirror.

In Pinellas County, we strive to deliver the highest level of local government excellence. And it’s my sincere belief that our accomplishments in 2019 met our aspirations. And you seem to agree that we’re doing a good job. In our latest Citizens Value survey, 97 percent of those who participated expressed trust and confidence in their local government. We’re proud of that. The national average is 72 percent.

Everything we do in Pinellas County is aligned to our strategic plan. As you may remember, the plan has five pillars. Those are 1.) to deliver first class services; 2.) keep our residents safe and healthy; 3.) strengthen our economy; 4.) protect our environment; and 5.) build a quality workforce to serve our residents and visitors. We had successes across the spectrum in 2019.

In 2019, we continued to deliver first class services by expanding our presence at the Lealman Exchange in unincorporated St. Petersburg. That has become a wonderful center for a community that was traditionally underserved. We brought community programs such as Farm Share closer to your neighborhood. And supporting our heroes, we held a Veterans’ Resource Expo and unveiled a Purple Heart monument at War Veterans’ Memorial Park in Bay Pines.

We also made great strides toward addressing our public health, safety and welfare challenges. Working with partners, we formed a collaborative behavioral health team to fill a gap in behavioral health service and continue to help the homeless. We helped secure new housing options for hundreds of residents looking for affordable homes. And while Hurricane Dorian fortunately veered away from us over Labor Day weekend, we showed we were ready to help pour communities had it chosen another path.

In our commitment to practice superior environmental stewardship, we started a major project to remove about 900,000 cubic yards of sediment form Lake Seminole, our second largest freshwater lake. And we continued to lead the way toward a more resilient future with new stormwater and wastewater projects and firming up plans to do more in the coming years.

To foster economic growth and vitality, we strengthened our community by improving vital infrastructure and investing in neighborhoods to help new businesses and draw visitors. We also created more opportunities for small businesses to compete for local government contracts by expanding our Small Business Enterprise Program. And we also travel faster and safer for everyone by supporting new transportation projects that will help connect everyone in our community.

Our tourism continues to boom. Fiscal Year 2019 brought our ninth consecutive year of tourism growth and a record $62.7 million in bed taxes collected from overnight stays. Going together, St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport enjoyed a fifth consecutive year of record-passengers, with 2.27 million travelers.

All of this has been made possible by not only our hard-working and dedicated workforce, but also through our partnerships, and importantly, our dedicated volunteers. Last year, 1,215 volunteers contributed more than 131,000 hours service hours.

Here are a few numbers I’d like to share:

  • 97 percent of requests submitted through the Pinellas County app were acknowledged within one business day. We also handled nearly 25,000 calls to assist citizens with matters such as potholes and clogged pipes, drains and ditches. Our average customer satisfaction rate on surveys was 90 percent.
  • Last year, we had more than 51 miles of roadways paved. We also repaired or replaced more than 108,000 feet of sidewalks. These improvements stretched from one end of the county to the other.
  • Through our Contractor Licensing Department, we protected our citizens from unsafe or unlawful contracting work by issuing 279 percent more citations this year compared to last.
  • In a partnership with FDOT, the University of Florida and Johns Hopkins All-Children’s Hospital, we distributed some 900 bike helmets to keep our kids safer.

I can’t cover everything in this space, but those are some of the high points. They give us a lot of optimism heading into 2020, and there’s no doubt we’ll have plenty to talk about going forward. As always, you can reach me at (727) 464-3363 or cjustice@pinellascounty.org.