By Fred Arnold
Speed Date Your Local Leaders, an extraordinary program that allows the common people insight into the lives of their officials and businessmen in a speed date setting, visited SPC this December.
Imagine a normal day: children crying, dishes piled in the sink, the honey-do list hanging on the fringe; an invite from a neighbor for dinner, an empty pantry; and the kids needing to make it to school and back again. Through all the junk a person needs to get done in a day, it is hard to be fully aware of the leaders and influential people within a community. George Cretekos, mayor of Clearwater; Bob Clifford, President and CEO of the Regional Chamber; and John Morroni, Board of County Commissioners all have a job that the inhabitants of Pinellas County may be unaware of. Speed Date Your Local Leaders is a fun and inventive way to get into contact with local leaders on any topic that might need to be addressed as well as to just get to know them.
When one thinks speed date a restaurant setting might come to mind. Candles flicker from corner to corner, a soft Italian melody brings the ambiance home. People are lined up with a number in hand that designates a table; one person takes their seat followed by the next. Soon chairs from every foot of the room scrape against the terracotta flooring and people find themselves face to face with a complete stranger. This is, in fact, how Speed Date Your Local Leaders is done. The tables, however, are set up for multiple people who make up the group who will associate with one city official every seven minutes.
“This was one of the most exciting and fun events I’ve ever been to,” said Darlene Westberg, a computer programming professor for the SPC Gibbs Campus. A student, who asked to remain anonymous, further commented, “I didn’t have much to say, but it is interesting learning what the people in our city governments do.”
Bill Horn, City Manager of Clearwater, remarked that it was a privilege to see the faces of the people he manages. “I discovered eleven different ways to tell a person what I do,” he said through a rolling growl of a laugh. Horn had an ability to get those around him involved in the discussion. “Everywhere I go, I find work that I have to do and tonight was no different,” Horn said, ready and rearing to accomplish some of the ideas he pulled from his many seven-minute interactions.
Speed Date Your Local Officials provides a perfect atmosphere to generate an acquaintance-type relationship with leaders in your community. Do not miss out on the opportunity! The next Speed Date is scheduled in April at the Museum of Fine Arts.