Committee explores local government consolidation, community economic vision

From the Tallahassee Democrat

A nine-member committee will spend four months coming up with a community economic development vision and practical approaches to improving the function of local government, including consolidation.

The idea of consolidatingLeon County and city of Tallahassee governments gained momentum after the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce commissioned an independent study by Washington Economics Group.

The Coral Gables-based firm examined consolidation pros and cons in five major cities, including Nashville, Tennessee. In May 2017, the Chamber hosted a trip to Nashville where a delegation of power players learned how the “Music City” approached government, branding, growth and economic development.

“That’s what really sparked our conversation on whether we should consider (consolidation) in Tallahassee,” said Chamber Chairwoman Heidi Otway.

She said the Washington group’s work covered “why” consolidation should be considered and the new local committee will tackle the “how.”

“We as a chamber have been really diligent in understanding if a merged government is right for Tallahassee,” Otway added. “It’s been a yearlong process.”

Otway and Chamber Chairman-elect Mark O’Bryant appointed committee members “based on the merits of their careers as leaders in the respective fields in the community,” according to the Chamber.

Creation of the committee follows a Sachs Media Group survey that showed an erosion of the public’s trust in local government. That loss of confidence in government coincided with an ongoing FBI public corruption investigation of City Hall, which has focused on the several prominent business owners and City Commissioner Scott Maddox.

“It played a role and created a crisis that made us say, ‘Ok we have to do something,'” Otway said. “It definitely added fuel to the discussion.”

Between the early 1970s and early 1990s, voters repeatedly rejected consolidation initiatives. However, the Sachs survey responses showed two-thirds of voters expressed some support for consolidation.

Contact TaMaryn Waters at or follow @TaMarynWaters on Twitter. 

Committee members are:

Chief Justice Major Harding (Chairman) – Retired Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice and attorney at Ausley McMullen.

Martha Barnett – Retired senior partner at Holland & Knight.

Rear Admiral Rick Grant, JAGC, USN (Ret) – CEO of Municipal Code Corporation.

Lee Hinkle – Retired vice president at Florida State University.

Darrick McGhee – Vice president of government relations and Johnson + Blanton

Jerry Parrish – Chief economist and director of research and the Florida Chamber Foundation.

Larry Rivers – Author and history professor at Florida A&M University and former president at Fort Valley State University.

Glenda Thornton – Attorney and chamber chairman. 

Carol Weissert – Director of the LeRoy Collins Institute at FSU.