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Collins to lead Republican club

He was coy when asked if running the West Pasco Republican Club would mark his return to Pasco politics.

By BETH GLENN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 25, 2000


TRINITY -- A familiar Pasco political figure will soon steer the West Pasco Republican Club. Former County Commissioner Ed Collins will take the helm as the club's president next month.

Collins, who lost his commission seat to Steve Simon, has since put on his lobbyist's loafers and opened a consulting business. The two-term ex-commissioner was coy as to whether the club presidency would mark his return to Pasco politics. He said he plans to continue his work in Tallahassee, which is why the installation -- planned for Monday -- had to be postponed until the May 22 meeting.

"I've been around," Collins said by phone Monday, discounting the idea that he'd been on a political hiatus. "I've been a member of the club for 10 years. I've attended several meetings, and I've been vice president for three years. But right now I'm still in Tallahassee."

Collins said he plans to focus on membership and strengthening the club's organizational structure.

"The West Pasco Republican Club is the oldest and most financially secure Republican club in the county," he said. "Our appeal is primarily to the retiree community. Over the course of the years, we've been of tremendous help to candidates in getting things done and in financial support."

Collins and the county Republican executive committee helped to switch many Pasco residents' party affiliation two years ago. Now he said he sees the potential to swell the Republican ranks in growth areas such as Trinity, where the club will hold its meetings.

"It was one of the original pioneer clubs in converting people from Democrat to Republican," Collins noted. "I see us getting more formalized as far as events, and holding a membership drive, and for our September meeting we'll have a mail-out and encourage people to see candidates and come to our forums."

If Collins plans to attend those forums as a candidate, he's keeping it to himself.

"I want to keep everybody guessing on that," Collins said, laughing. "My pat answer is that I'm very happy doing what I'm doing now, but I've learned to never say never."

Collins served two four-year terms as a Pasco County commissioner before he lost to Simon in November 1998. Since December of that year, Collins has been a registered lobbyist. The friends he made and reputation he built on the commission and later prowling the halls of the Legislature likely will raise the club's profile in the county along with that of its chairman.

"Ed knows a ton of people and of course that will help," said outgoing president Jeff Lucas.

He added that he will still work closely with Collins on a range of projects.

Among Collins' closest political allies is state Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey. Collins also rubs elbows with Sen. Majority Leader Jack Latvala, R-Palm Harbor, and Collins knows Gov. Jeb Bush and House Speaker John Thrasher.

"We're known as the Club with Clout," Collins said of the group's motto. "We used to have annual trips to Tallahassee, but unfortunately the last few years there hasn't been a lot of enthusiasm for getting these activities up and running. So I'm anxious to work toward the rejuvenation of the West Pasco Republican Club.

"We're looking forward to an active year in the upcoming elections from the courthouse to the White House," he said.


-- Beth Glenn can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6229 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6229. Her e-mail address is glenn@sptimes.com.

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