© 2024 WFSU Public Media
WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Tallahassee Chamber's Consolidation Group Convenes; Gillum Skeptical Of Motives

View of downtown Tallahassee (undated)
Leon County Tourism/Visit Tallahassee
Visit Tallahassee

The Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce is undeterred in its quest to explore consolidating city and county services.  Despite high-level opposition the Chamber has moved ahead with a study committee.

The Chamber’s Consolidation Study Group is a Tallahassee Who’s Who: Former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Major Harding, noted attorney Martha Barnett, FSU Political Scientist Carol Weissert and lobbyist Daerrick McGhee, along with others. The committee is looking into recommendations by a report paid for by the chamber that states the residents could save money and services provided more efficiently if Leon County and the City of Tallahassee merged some services. But Tallahassee Mayor and democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum believes the push for consolidation is politically-driven.

“Consolidation as a political tool is just not of interest to me," he said in a wide-ranging interview in March. "I’d love to give this more credit, but I’m not convinced there’s no other rationale for this discussion other than a political one.” 

Tallahassee remains a democratic stronghold while the unincorporated areas outside it are becoming increasingly Republican-leaning.   The Chamber’s workgroup held its first meeting Wednesday and will continue for the next four months. 

It’s been more than 20 years since Leon County voters rejected a city-county government consolidation. Weissert says local governments are facing long-term issues, like financing::

“The legislature is slowly but surely deleting local governments ability to raise taxes and to have that end--Taxpayers don’t want to pay more taxes so I think the fiscal issue is an important one.”

Weissert notes consolidations are difficult but the idea shouldn’t be immediately dismissed and that there could be alternatives. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is skeptical of the idea. The Tallahassee Chamber’s work group is expected to meet for the next four months.

The committee is comprised of nine members:

Chief Justice Major Harding (Chairman) – Retired Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice, Ausley McMullen

Martha Barnett – Retired Senior Partner, Holland & Knight

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

Lee Hinkle – Retired Vice President, Florida State University

Darrick McGhee – Vice President of Government Relations, Johnson + Blanton

Dr. Jerry Parrish – Chief Economist & Director of Research, Florida Chamber Foundation

Dr. Larry Rivers – Distinguished Professor of History, Florida A&M University, Former President, Fort Valley State University

Glenda Thornton – Attorney, Past Chair of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce

Dr. Carol Weissert – Director, Leroy Collins Institute, Florida State University

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

Find complete bio, contact info, and more stories here.