With the November elections right around the corner, Upper School English teacher Heather Ewing invited Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice to visit the members of the senior class to discuss the political process, namely the role of the county commission. While intended as a speech, the event turned into a question-and-answer session with several students asking upwards of 25 questions.
“Students don’t have the same filter as I normally would see, so it often leads to the best dialogue,” said Justice, who is up for re-election against Republican candidate Mike Mikurak. “It’s incredibly important for them to see politicians in the ‘real world’ setting so it will give them a layer of dimension that it’s not a cartoon character. Politics involves real people working hard to solve problems and keep the city and the county running smoothly.”
Before serving on the commission, Justice, a member of the Democratic Party, served 10 years in the state Legislature — in the House from 2000 to 2006 and in the Senate from 2006 to 2010. Before jumping into politics, Justice worked as an administrator at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg in several capacities.
Questions during Justice’s visit touched on issues surrounding the sewage dumping into Tampa Bay during the floods that resulted from Hurricane Hermine to whom he would vote for in the presidential election (Hillary Clinton) to stating the pros and cons of working as a commissioner.
The students received the most entertaining answer of the day when Roy Lewis wondered what Justice would be doing if he wasn’t working in politics.
“Probably a stand-up comedian,” said Justice, who received a few chuckles from this response. “I like being in front of crowds and I think I’m funnier than my wife does.”
Roy appreciated the visit from Justice because it allowed him to interact with politicians in a way many students don’t normally get to do.
“It’s not every day someone like him comes to talk to you on a personal basis like that,” said Roy, who has been at Farragut for four years. “I’m interested in pursuing either film or politics at the University of Central Florida, so it was good to listen to what he had to say.”