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Waters advocates more involvement
Mayor says chamber needs to get proactive with elected officials
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Photo by BOB McCLURE
Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters addresses members of the Seminole Chamber of Commerce at the group’s luncheon Feb. 21.
SEMINOLE – Mayor Leslie Waters challenged members of the Seminole Chamber of Commerce Feb. 21 to become more active with elected leaders as part of an overall business strategy.

Speaking at the chamber’s bi-monthly luncheon, Waters said residents need to become aware of who their government leaders are and stay in touch with them.

“When was the last time you spoke to a city official?” she asked. “Have you talked to a city councilor on an issue pertinent to your job or your business here in Seminole? We have the Waterfront Park project going in at the former Jesse’s Landing site. We have the new mall we’re looking forward to. Give your opinion to me or anyone else on the council.”

Waters said it’s all about giving government leaders input from the electorate.

“Because if you thought all elected officials were born smart. If you think we all have big heads and know everything … guess what. Look at me. I don’t have a big head. We have to be educated,” Waters said.

On the state level she pointed to contact with State Sen. Jeff Brandeis, along with State Reps. Kathleen Peterson and Larry Ahern.

“Let them know what you think about red light cameras and proposals to change daylight savings time to a year-round system,” Waters said. “Or for that matter, any issue. All of these issues impact your business at one time or another.

To help educate those in attendance, Waters passed out copies of the Pinellas County Citizen’s Guide, which is produced annually by the Supervisor of Elections of office and includes a rundown of elected officials from the federal to local levels of government.

“That, ladies and gentlemen, is your (tool for) political action business strategy,” Waters said. “Give (elected officials) your input. Some people say they don’t want to bother elected officials. Let me tell you here and now that elected officials are on this earth to be bothered. They represent you and serve you. They should be receptive to your opinions and needs.”

She said the second part of the equation is to let elected officials know who you are.

“When was the last time you invited an elected official over to see your shop, to see your business in action?” Waters asked. “They need to see what you’re doing.”

She said the best business networking that can go on in a community is with elected officials.

“We shake more hands and kiss more babies than you all do,” Waters said. “So introduce yourself to elected officials and let them know about your business.”

She also suggested getting on elected officials’ mailing lists, going to any open house events they might host. Just have regular contact, Waters said.

“Contact them at least on a yearly basis,” she said. “Give them a call or send them a card. Send them a birthday card so they’ll ask ‘who is this person?’ Offer to be a key contact in your field of expertise.”

Waters, who previously served as vice mayor on the Seminole City Council, took over as interim mayor in November when former Mayor Jimmy Johnson who stepped down due to health reasons.

Waters was unopposed on the ballot this year for mayor and will begin a 3-year, 8-month term in mid-March.

Waters, 65, also serves as an adjunct political science professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and runs her own government relations consulting business.

She served eight years in the Florida House of Representatives, including her final year as House Speaker Pro-Tempore.

She also has served as chairman of the House Insurance Committee, and chairman of the Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Committee.
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