Children's board charts new course
A year after answering the distress call, former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio has handed leadership of the Children's Board of Hillsborough County over to a new director. Kelley Parris, the former director of Alabama's Department of Child Abuse Protection, began work last week for a revamped agency that promises to make accountability a priority. That's essential for a taxpayer-funded agency that became bloated under its previous director, who resigned after a very public airing of the agency's troubles. Voters will be asked in three years whether to continue to support the agency, and Parris must now keep it on track or risk the future of an agency that helps some of our most vulnerable children. Iorio, as interim director, righted the ship. The full-time staff is down from 55 employees to 36, and operational costs account for only 13 percent of the total $33 million budget, down from 19 percent when Iorio came aboard last year. That means more money is available to support agencies that help children.In a meeting with The Tampa Tribune Editorial Board, Parris said she intends to build on the changes Iorio put in place. That includes an ethics code and a list of values to guide decisions. She also wants to raise the agency's profile, and plans to meet with business leaders and community groups to explore partnerships. It's a model she used in Alabama, where partnerships were formed with Realtors and other business interests to highlight children's issues. This holistic approach could be critical to ensuring continued public support for the agency here in Hillsborough. Voters supported a referendum in 1988 that created the Children's Board. They will be asked in 2016 to continue the property tax assessment that funds the Children's Board. Given the transparency measures Iorio has put in place, and given Parris' vow to raise the agency's profile, voters should be well-informed when they cast their ballots. If the agency stays on its current trajectory, it will be deserving of support.