The chairmanship of the Pasco County Commission does not confer the power once wielded by the likes of Alexander the Great or Napoleon. Other than handling the gavel at commission meetings and signing official documents, the chair is for the most part merely first among equals on the county commission and doesn’t have much more real power than the other four commissioners.
Nevertheless, the post has symbolic importance. That is why the current chairman, Jack Mariano, erred in writing a letter to Gov. Rick Scott asking Scott to try to get the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reverse its decision to deny the county a permit to dredge a canal from its planned SunWest Park, in the Aripeka area, to the Gulf. The letter suggested Corps of Engineers officials in Jacksonville would never give the permit an unbiased review.
In response, Commissioners Ted Schrader and Kathryn Starkey suggested Mariano’s letter had harmed the county’s relations with the corps and raised the odds the agency would also deny the county’s permit to build the long-delayed Ridge Road extension.
Mariano conceded he should have stressed in the letter he was acting on his own and was not speaking on behalf of the commission as a whole. He added, however, he has sent a dozen such letters during his time on the commission without controversy.
Whoever is commission chair should bring any letter regarding a matter of major importance before the commission for review in an open meeting before dropping it in the mail. Whose signature is on such a letter is important, even if that importance is only symbolic. Symbolism matters.