Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Nick DiCeglie Elected Chairman of the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee-What will Change?

Last night the Republican Party of Pinellas County Executive Committee elected Nick DiCeglie as its new Chairman. DiCeglie was nominated by Larry Ahern who said, "Nick is focused on one thing, putting Republicans in office, [but] he has his priorities right, he loves the Lord and his beautiful family."

To get a full view of how Nick will approach is new responsibility, here is my recent 5 Post interview in a single Post for quick reading. Here you will get a good idea of what's to come.

Our interview took place Nick's office in Clearwater.

"Tell me a little about your background, your family and your business." I asked

Nick started the conversation, "I grew up in Long Island New York. I grew up a third-generation in the family business which is garbage and recycling collection. My dad and his two cousins purchased the company here in Clearwater in 1980.

One of the original partners passed in 1992, and my parents moved here immediately after to essentially pull the business out of the dumps, no pun intended, and at that time I had just entered community college in Long Island.  The next few years my dad’s health worsened so my then girlfriend, now wife, Erica and I moved to Pinellas County in September 1996. Unfortunately my dad passed about seven months after I had moved here and I have helped run the family business ever since.

 I got married in 2002 to Erica and we have two beautiful children Livia our daughter who’s 10 and little Carlo, who is named after my dad,  is 6 1/2." Nick replied.

"How long have you been active in Pinellas Country Republican Politics? And what caused you to start?" I asked.

"Since 2009." Nick replied

"My business is regulated by the County Commission so at that time the County Commission was looking to, in my opinion, over regulate the industry which could’ve potentially put myself and a couple of other smaller, local haulers out of business.

 At that time I said to myself, either I’m going to sell the business to my billion-dollar competitors and not deal with County government, or find a solution.

Not dealing with trying to find a solution to the issue at the time was not an option. You know, at that point we were pushing on 30 years of business In Pinellas County and I just wasn’t going to not tell our great story. We have a great business with great employees and an incredible, loyal customer base and I just wasn’t about to quit on any of them.

So I got involved in Republican politics.

Ever since moving here I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to local politics but I started getting involved in politics so I could be better informed about the County Commission. One thing lead to another, and the great thing with all of it, I was able to lead the industry to help the County find a solution and improve the solid waste collection system in unincorporated Pinellas.

Once I accomplished that, I wanted to stay actively engaged in the business community, active in non-profits and active in politics and that's what I did.

I really turned what was a pretty nerve-racking process, which I didn't realize at the time I was lobbying for my own company for my own industry, and turned that into something extremely positive and I vowed to stay involved with the community and politics and here I am five years later."

"Many registered Republicans know very little about the Republican Party of Pinellas County.  Let me ask you a couple of questions about that.  How does the County organization relate to the State and National Republican organizations?" I asked.

"You have the Republican National Committee which primarily is responsible for Presidential campaigns; Presidential elections and obviously they get down to the Senate and Congressional level but primarily the objective is to get a Republican elected to the White House." Nick responded.

"At the State level, we have the Republican Party of Florida which is responsible for electing your State Senators and State Representatives, and we(Republican Party of Pinellas County)  are really underneath the RPOF (Republican Party of Florida) umbrella and then coming down to the local level, the Republican Executive Committees or the other local Republican GOP’s.

We are responsible for electing County Commissioners, constitutional officers and then there’re some circumstances that we get involved in municipal races even though those are non-partisan.

Basically the structure puts the local Republican Executive Committee underneath the RPF umbrella and of course we have the Republican National Committee at the very top." Nick replied.

"What is the primary focus of the Republican Party of Pinellas County?' I asked.

"To elect qualified Republicans to office." Nick responded.

"What offices have you held and what is your current role with the Republican Party of Pinellas County?" I asked.
"My current role is the Vice Chairman of the Republican Executive Committee in Pinellas County.

I am also a Governors' appointee to the Regional Planning Council and I have served five years on the Indian Rocks Beach Planning and Zoning Board. I was also chairman of the Ivory Club in 2012 which is our social, fundraising arm of the local Republican Executive Committee." Nick answered.

"Current Executive Committee Chairman Michael Guju is stepping down. You have announced your intention to run for the Chairmanship. Why?" I asked.

"I think we need a new fresh, youthful energy to our Republican Party in Pinellas County. These last 2 years I’ve really learned a lot about how the organization works and what we’re really responsible for; but also at the same time, I think that as we are looking toward 2016 we can't hang our hats on these recent midterm elections and say, okay, we had a huge amount of success in 2014 and we can take some time off and enjoy 2015.

Then try to get ready for 2016 in January of 2016. Those days are over. This is about the ability to hit the ground running in 2015 and begin preparing for the huge election cycle in 2016.

I think Republicans have a great opportunity particularly here in Pinellas County. You know things weren’t so rosy in 2014. We lost a county wide County Commission race and we were not able to improve our results from 2010 for Rick Scott here in Pinellas County despite having so many hard working grass root volunteers involved. So that being said, we need to hit the ground running in 2015 with a strategy that will help us improve our organization.

We need to be focused and to be organized. We need to train our volunteers; we need to be ready to deal with the huge heavy lifting of 2016 because that's what it is going to take."

If elected to the Chairmanship, where do you hope to take the Republican Party of Pinellas County as we lead up to the next election cycle in 2016?" I asked.

"I think number one we’ve got to provide our candidates with the resources that they need to be in a position to win," Nick responded.

"So what does that mean?

We’ve got hundreds of volunteers that have helped us win various races this election cycle but we need to make sure that they’re organized at Party headquarters, trained at Party headquarters and deployed to help the various candidates from Party headquarters.

Then once we get past the primary, we can provide telephone callers to a particular candidate who is running for County Commission and we need to be able to organize precinct walks for a particular candidate who is running for a Constitutional officer’s seat.

We need to be able to deploy these volunteers and the necessary resources to the candidates. The direction of the volunteers are not only decided by the Party, but in conjunction with our various candidates because they’re the ones that tell us they're doing a Precinct walk this Saturday in this specific precinct and this coordination is extremely important.

This last election our volunteers were scattered all over the County. We had some walking for various House candidates, some for County Commission and some for State Senate they were just really all over the place.

I think you have to prioritize what we do. We need to inform our volunteers, we need to train our volunteers, we need to get them ready to get hit the ground running as soon as the primaries are over.

Considering when the absentee ballots go out that’s really when these races start. It doesn’t start 10 days before election or on Election Day. This effort is going to start 30 or 40 days prior to the election."

"What do you see as the major issues that need to be addressed by the Republican Party of Pinellas County?" I asked.

"There’s a lot. Honestly like I just mentioned, we need to make sure we are organized to be effective for our candidates.

I think that we need to have an outreach program that that is going to get into the communities that Republicans haven’t done a very good job getting into.

We talk about minority outreach all the time and you know we got a Hispanic Outreach club and they do a great job; but we really, really need to rally around what they do and  how they do it. And provide resources so they can be effective.

I do think, looking at what’s going on at the national level, Republicans have a huge opportunity to pass legislation, pass conservative policies that are going to be able to show the American people the difference between the last six years under President Obama and what good, solid, smaller government and fiscally responsible policies can mean for the average middle class American.

We want government to get out of the way so middle class Americans have the opportunity to realize their dreams. Republicans finally have a platform to be able to get those policies passed and in place so that we can begin turning this Country around.

It is easier said than done with Barak Obama in the White House these next two years. He has the veto pen.

I get the sense that there’s going to be a different focus for Republicans. You are already hearing that they don’t want to talk about government shutdowns. That's not a positive message that Republicans need here in these next two years. It is vital that a negative message does not reflect down to the local level."

"The demographics are changing here in Pinellas County. The Hispanic and Asian populations are growing and overall the average age is dropping. What approaches will you take to reach these emerging voters, and have them represented in the Republican Party Pinellas County organization?"  I asked.

"What’s so important and we saw it in the Senate races, we need to have good, solid, qualified, viable candidates that can articulate our message and our platform," Nick replied.

"And take that a step further, we must have the ability to identify where they should go when they’re on the campaign trail to connect with various minority voters like Hispanic voters, African-American voters and Asian voters.  We must connect with them in their communities.  Senator Rand Paul is doing an outstanding job in this regard.

Let's look at what Rick Baker did. When he first got elected, and correct me if I am wrong, but I think he had very little African-American support the first time he ran.

But when he ran for reelection, because he went to those communities, his support wasn’t 51% it was well over the 75% level of support because he took the time and the energy to go into those communities and listened to find out what would be needed, what were their issues and he took action on their behalf to improve their communities. 

To me, that’s s an example we can certainly follow and try to replicate because it was sincere and it worked. It worked to perfection and that’s one reason why Rick Baker is such a great leader."

"What role or to what extent does the County organization or the Executive Committee play in selecting candidates or setting up who is going to run? I asked.

"Great question, in the last two years we haven’t had had a major role in identifying potential candidates, so I'm looking forward to that process.

I feel I’ve got a lot of community connections from the years of me being extremely involved, so for example, I have a very good friend who’s involved in St. Pete politics and knows the people involved.  He’s a great professional, really knowledgeable about who’s who and what’s what in St. Petersburg politics and will be a great asset to help us identify quality, viable conservative candidates to run for these important offices.

I would like to have representatives like that and a connection to each of the municipalities so that we can identify as a Party who are the leaders in these different communities. Who are the young people moving through the ranks? Who are the people that have been involved for a long time who understand the various ins and outs of the communities where they live.

That can equate to strong candidates for the County Commission, constitutional officers, State House and Senate races.

I think having those connections in the community is having a pulse of what's going on. It's going to help us, as a Party, find quality candidates that are going to be able to articulate our Republican platform.

It's about the quality of the candidate that really makes a difference.”

"With the voting population almost evenly divided in Pinellas County how will you go about reaching out to the undecided and non party affiliated voters?"  I asked.

"Face to face communication is vital," Nick replied.

"Certainly I am going to encourage not only our Executive Board but the Executive Committee as a whole to get involved. Get into Rotary Clubs, get into the various community service clubs, speak with your neighbors and fellow church parishioners and send the positive Republican message.

Doing that over time, doing that sincerely and doing it consistently, having a consistent message is the key. I think that approach begins to evolve to the point where people say I know John Doe or Sue Ann and they're involved in the Republican Party and I want to get involved too.  They are making a difference.

It is not what we see on TV. I think Republicans have a perception issue due to the media painting a negative picture of our party.  If we want to change this perception, taking whole bunch of money and throwing it at the problem will never get to the root or the core of the problem.

It is going to take one on one relationship building and cultivating those relationships over a long period of time.  The rest will take care of itself."

"Many people now believe that the 2014 Florida elections were essentially over before the polls opened on Election Day. With the extension of voting opportunities due to mail in ballots and ever expanding early voting how do you see election campaigns changing?" I asked.

"One of the first things we are going to focus on in 2016 when it comes to campaigning is voter registration. We need to have a major voter registration drive and at the same time encourage those who register to vote by an absentee ballot. Once they vote absentee then campaigns have a better picture of who voted when, who still has the absentee ballots and when we have all that information we see get out the vote programs perform at their best," Nick Replied.

It was incredible here, especially for Governor Scott and how they chased the absentee ballots. We will see an uptick in those kinds of programs going into 2016 because they work. There so many ways to squeeze that sponge and making sure all of these voters get out and vote.

It all starts with voter registration from there it's all about positioning the Party and the campaigns to be able to get out the vote and squeeze that sponge."

"Recent campaigns that have used social media both to organize and inform the voters seem to have fared well. If elected as Executive Committee chair, do you see an expanded use of social media by the Republican Party of Pinellas County?  ...and how?" I asked.

"It always seemed like we were reacting to issues that would come up during the 2014 election instead of staying ahead of various issues including the national side. We want to be in the position to make a statement; we want to be in the position of acting on things instead of reacting.

We will have a social media strategy, and we want to get our message out there. We want to get our conservative platform out there. We want to do that ahead of time and be proactive to things around us.  And I think social media really does help in that regard."

"Looking ahead, if the battle  between President Obama and the Congress continues with full fury up to the 2016 election and the result is gridlock with little being accomplished, how do you think that will affect local and state races, and what can the local Republican Party Organization do to make sure their candidates have the best chance?" I asked.

"When our candidates hit the campaign trail they are going to get questions just like that one.

Why aren't the Republicans doing anything? Why are the Republicans obstructing? You've had the House and Senate for the last two years and nothing is happening.

That's when we need to have a positive message. Inform the voters what Republicans have done and why it’s the better solution.

Ultimately if we pass legislation, the Keystone pipe Line is a good example, it goes through the House and goes through the Senate, something Republicans think is going to have a positive impact for the Country but then the President vetoes it, our candidates and volunteers need to be able to articulate to the voter why we have the better policies.

Don't get me wrong, easier said than done. But having that positive tone coming from anybody in a leadership role is going to help us do the best we can to counteract that problem.

I think we saw that in the Florida Governors race.  Both candidates were running extremely negative campaigns, people just wanted to turn it off. 

It was really, really difficult for a lot of our volunteers who had telephones slammed on them when they were making calls, doors slammed in their face when they were knocking doors at people's homes, it is not an easy situation to deal with, but given the opportunity and having them prepared with a positive message about what is going on is all we can do."

"Finally, this is a big County and the Chairmanship of the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee is a big job. You have growing family and a business to run. How does the family feel about your decision to jump deeper into politics and how will you make time for all of it?" I asked.

"Well, that's a good question; it's all about whom you surround yourself with. Here in my business, I have an operations manager who is just great. He understands what I am doing here business wise but he also understands what I am trying to do for our County and the big picture of things. So that's making my life a lot easier here.

At home, my wife and my kids they fully support what I do, my mom supports what I do, where there's a will there's away.  It's all about balance, I think moving forward the incoming Executive Board, whoever that may be, we are going to have solid, committed people to move our party forward and we will be operating as one united team.

We will make it happen," Nick said with a big grin.

Nick DeCeglie will bring a new and refreshing approach to the Republican Party Executive Committee. Look for some major changes and a fast start on the next election cycle.

The Chair of the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee is elected by a vote of the board membership. You can get more information at Republican Party of Pinellas County website.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Twitter@DOCONTHEBAY. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos

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