TAMPA — Former County Commissioner Jan Platt, known as the mother of Hillsborough County’s charter form of government, now can claim another honorary title.
County Commissioners voted unanimously today to rename Hillsborough’s land preservation program the Jan K. Platt Environmental Acquisition and Protection Program, commonly known by its acronym ELAPP. First approved by voters in 1987, ELAPP has preserved 61,000 acres of environmentally significant land.
Platt, 77, has struggled with cancer in recent years and stood with the help of a walker to thank commissioners. She noted that the population of Hillsborough County was 159,000 when she was born. It now stands at 1.2 million.
“That’s what makes this program so important and why this program has meant so much to me,” said Platt, who served on the commission from 1978-2002. “The changes I, as a native Floridian, have seen over the years ... I just thank you so much for recognizing the importance of this program, because we’re leaders in this state because of this program and because of leaders like you who have stood up and made sure it was implemented properly.”
To many environmental activists, renaming the program for Platt seemed long overdue.
“She is the mother of ELAPP in my opinion,” said Sally Thompson, who started working on environmental issues with Platt in the 1980s.
But the renaming sparked some disagreement. Mariella Smith, a southshore Sierra Club member who sits on the ELAPP General Committee, protested in e-mails to committee members and the media that the program should not be named for a person.
Smith said naming the program for Platt, a Democratic politician, might overly politicize ELAPP.
Smith’s campaign gained no traction, however. Commissioner Les Miller, with a hint of derision, said today he read the e-mails and deleted them.
It was Commissioner Kevin Beckner who came up with the idea to honor Platt. He broached the idea at a previous meeting during a ceremony commemorating ELAPP’s 25th anniversary. Beckner’s motion caught other members by surprise but they readily agreed.
“We all know Jan’s tireless devotion to public service in this community and that’s the reason I brought it up at that time,” Beckner said this morning.
“Of all the things Jan has done for this community, this I believe, is a really a true part of her legacy. It was Jan’s tireless energy and her devotion and her commitment to making sure that this program is a success.”