Officials represent Crestview on League of Cities committees

Brian Hughes | Special to the News Bulletin/USA TODAY NETWORK

CRESTVIEW — When the Florida League of Cities spring meeting convenes this weekend, Crestview will be represented on a two of the organization’s key committees.

Mayor JB Whitten, who is the Northwest Florida League of Cities’ new president, will take his seat on the FLC’s Transportation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, while Mayor Pro Tem Shannon Hayes has been reappointed to the Land Use and Economic Development Committee.

Crestview Mayor JB Whitten has been appointed to the Florida League of Cities’ Transportation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee.

Both are strategic committees as municipalities throughout the state struggle against the Florida Legislature’s actions that affect cities’ home-rule rights.

“All cities are different, but (state lawmakers) expect all cities should be run the same way,” Hayes said. “Some legislators want home rule to go away.”

Crestview Mayor Pro Tem Shannon Hayes has been reappointed to the state League of Cities’ Land Use and Economic Development Committee.

The mayor’s appointment to the committee that addresses transportation issues meshes well with his local efforts, he said.

“It’s such an appropriate committee for me because I sit on the Okaloosa-Walton Transportation Planning Organization, so it just kind of flows nicely into representing Crestview on the Transportation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee,” he said.

Whitten added that the committee’s intergovernmental relations component also complements his work as a former Crestview councilman, council president and now mayor.

“I’m all about building coalitions with our neighboring communities. There’s strength in numbers,” he said.

Hayes said the Florida League of Cities’ work is integral to informing the Florida Legislature about matters that affect the state’s municipalities. During his tenure on the Land Use and Economic Development Committee, the FLC has struggled to keep state lawmakers abreast of concerns local cities have with short-term rental regulation.

“We dealt with the vacation rental issue where (the Legislature) want to remove all restrictions on vacation rental houses, but they’ve turned into party houses,” Hayes said. “(The legislators) are fighting restrictions and cities are trying to control it. They’ll get 15 cars parked all around the house and there’s noise into the night.”

Sometimes new state representatives and senators simply don’t understand how municipal — and sometimes state — government works, Hayes said, and the FLC works to educate them.

“Sometimes you get people elected to office who have no experience in government, They’ve never been to a city council meeting and they don’t know how a city functions. Sometimes they represent some special interests that have their own agenda,” he said.

Mainly, however, the Florida League of Cities purpose is to “set policy and hope to get the Legislature to file actions and bills,” and “to help cities protect the welfare of their citizens,” Hayes said.