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Congressman Bill Young was an innovator and visionary leader. We often fail to understand the footprint he left in Pinellas County and across our beautiful Sunshine State. We forget that when he came into politics he was there alone. There were no other Republicans in the state senate when he first took office.
It speaks volumes to his leadership that he was able to work across party lines and support his community. Congressman Young left a true legacy of community engagement. Upon the 10th anniversary of his passing, we remember him as a servant leader and humble statesman. Whenever you run into his peers, or community members or people who did not agree with his policy, they generally state that Congressman Young had a quiet quality of excellence.
At the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions (ISPS), we honor his legacy and are grateful for him symbolizing the concept of being a community of care. He created ISPS and envisioned a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization designed for citizens to explore local, state, national, and international issues.
For example, we produced an economic program on Florida’s minimum wage at a local distillery in Tarpon Springs as well as a workforce development program with then state Representative – now Pinellas County Commissioner – Chris Latvala and Pinellas County economic development director Dr. Cynthia Johnson at the St. Petersburg College Clearwater campus.
Congressman Young also emphasized civility. He explained, “Our Forefathers understood that there was a need for government (but not too much) — to maintain civility, to maintain stability, to have an organized way of doing the people’s business.”
Thus, ISPS hosts the Grand Debate, a multi-college competition that offers students an opportunity to engage in debate about crucial topical issues. This debate and experience champions civil discourse.
Our board of directors embodies Congressman Young’s vision and represents the best of our community in Pinellas County and across the state. We have a mix of business and community leaders who represent a myriad of interests in our state. The board doesn’t always agree but they provide important perspectives that help us shape the direction of programs.
As we reflect upon the 10-year anniversary of Congressman Bill Young’s passing, it is important to remember that bipartisanship and civility are emblematic of his legacy. Congressman Bill Young was able to bring tremendous funding and provide support to the people of his district throughout the Tampa Bay region. He did so by working across the aisle and engaging in civil discourse with his colleagues. That legacy is still well alive today in the efforts of ISPS, which continues to engage the public with nonpartisan, educational programming intended to educate on the role of government. As well as a convener where all sides of public policy issues can be civilly and respectfully discussed.
ISPS has done exactly that and will continue to do so. By providing programming that enhances the public’s understanding of public policy issues, ISPS actively contributes to the betterment of society. It is crucial we continue to be able to have these discussions, increase people’s understanding of their government and public policy, and in doing so bring us all closer to the solutions to solve those issues. ISPS is the anchor that Congressman Bill Young left behind to ensure his legacy of bipartisanship and civility continues to live on. Thankfully, 10 years later, we can say that it absolutely does.
Kimberly Jackson is Executive Director at the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions (ISPS).