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Private task force to look into improving hurricane response

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

In the wake of Hurricane Hermine, an unofficial task force led by former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp plans to look into how Florida communities can better bounce back after a big storm.

The blue-ribbon panel is an initiative of Citizens for Responsible Spending, led by Tallahassee lobbyist Barney Bishop III, which came about last year to address Tallahassee’s city budget issues.

He plans a press conference 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Florida Press Center.

“This private-sector task force is not about reviewing what went right and wrong when Hurricane Hermine hit Tallahassee,” Bishop said in a press release. “It’s about how our community can be better prepared for the next hurricane or natural disaster, and how we can share these lessons with others across our state and nation.”

City officials were criticized as neighborhoods and businesses went days without power after the storm, while the city held off on accepting offers of help from other utilities.

Utilities director Rob McGarrah last week explained to city commissioners he had “reached a saturation point” of how much outside help he could manage safely. “…When I bring mutual aid crews in, I’ve got to have my people with them, to help do that coordination and (give) a situational awareness to where everybody else is working,” he said.

The task force also includes:

— Sam Bell, who was the city’s electric utility director and then an assistant city manager in the 1990s after having been a Florida Power & Light executive.

— Colleen Castille, secretary of the former Florida Department of Community Affairs, past head of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and a veteran of the state’s Emergency Operations Center.

— John McEachern, former city president of Georgia Federal Bank and a regional vice president for GE Capital.

— Tom Napier, a retired Leon County Clerk of Courts employee, former advisory board director for ProBank, and State Board of Administration Pension Advisory Board member.

— Victoria Zepp, chair of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet technology workgroup on interagency data and information sharing, and former executive director of Florida TaxWatch’s Center for Competitive Florida.

Barry Moline, longtime director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association, “will provide technical and operational information to the task force,” the press release said. The task force’s recommendations will be finalized by Oct. 7.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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