Participating in Local Government

By Zachary W. Lombardo, Florida Government Relations Attorney

In addition to the various branches of state government, as of the date of this article, Florida has 67 counties, 67 school districts, 412 municipalities (cities, towns, villages) and 1,788 other special districts, including fire control districts and community development districts. These many local government entities are the primary agencies delivering local and regional government services in Florida.

There are 27 community development districts in Collier County alone.

Community development districts, by way of background, are independent special districts that focus on providing more localized infrastructure and services to individual discrete communities. They are established to manage and finance basic community development services, typically drainage systems, subdivision roads, access control on local/subdivision roads and landscaping of roads and buffers.

Direct Impact to Residents

Each of the above many different government bodies make important decisions that directly impact the day to day life of the residents of the state and its visitors, and, if you are reading this, most likely you too.

Each of these local and regional governments, by state law, must, with limited exceptions, have open meetings and allow public participation at those meetings. This requirement is referred to as the “Sunshine Law”. In these open meetings, local and regional governments, on a daily basis make decisions that impact your quality of life, including, for example, purchasing essential equipment, such as fire trucks; making planning decisions that permit development of an industrial park or deciding how tall any one building may be; or whether to approve tax or assessment increases or decreases.

Public Participation

It is important, then, to participate in the process, not just to comment on the amount of your tax bill, but to provide your input on ways to maintain or improve your community and quality of life. It is important your concerns are heard by your local and regional government officials.

In addition to holding office or serving on a local or regional government volunteer advisory board, it is important to take advantage of the ability to attend local and regional government meetings and address your elected or appointed officials on public business and communicate your thoughts and concerns. Florida local and regional governments go to great lengths to facilitate public participation.

I encourage you to figure out what local and regional governments impact your daily life and to actively participate.

Finding Local Governments that Affect You

One simple way for you, if you are a property owner, to obtain a general overview of the local and regional governments that affect you, is to check your tax bill. Most, local and regional governments obtain their funding by collecting taxes or assessments on your property. The names of those governments will appear on your tax bill.

Most local and regional governments have websites. In fact, special districts are mandated by law to have a website. So, once you figure out what local and regional governments impact you, you can check their websites and start participating.

Local and regional government works best when there is quality participation.

Should you have any questions about local or regional government, please feel free to contact any of the attorneys listed below:

Zachary W. Lombardo is a Naples native and an associate attorney at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A. His Juris Doctorate is from the Florida State University College of Law where he graduated cum laude. He focuses his land use, zoning, business, contract drafting, and litigation practice in the Southwest Florida community.

Lenore T. Brakefield is a partner at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A. and a Naples native. Her Juris Doctorate is from the University of Florida Levin College of Law where she graduated cum laude. Lenore focuses her law practice in civil and commercial litigation and is experienced in construction litigation matters, as well as local government law, code enforcement violations, community association law, real estate law and transactional matters. Lenore is a Certified Financial Litigator by The American Academy for Certified Financial Litigators.

Anthony P. Pires, Jr. is a partner at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A. and a Board Certified Specialist by The Florida Bar in City, County & Local Government Law. He represents numerous public and governmental entities, special districts, concerned citizens and private sector clients throughout Collier and Lee Counties in Local Government Law, Land Use and Zoning Law, and Government Relations.

Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A.

Naples Office:
3200 Tamiami Trail N, Ste 200
Naples, FL 34103

Marco Island Office:
606 Bald Eagle Dr, Ste 500
Marco Island, FL 34145

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