St. Cloud civic leader and former newspaper publisher Paula Stark has filed to run as a Republican in House District 47 in Osceola and Orange counties.
Stark is the first Republican to declare in the new district, which will serve most of St. Cloud and eastern Kissimmee in north-central Osceola and the Meadow Woods area communities in south-central Orange.
For most of the past decade she has been executive director of St. Cloud Main Street, an economic development, historic preservation and revitalization organization. Prior to that she had worked 29 years at the Osceola News Gazette, rising to publisher before retiring in 2012. She’s also an Osceola High School graduate and a former Miss Osceola.
“I will promise you that no one will outwork me to understand the issues from every angle and to use the knowledge I have obtained from my community experience and information that I obtain to vote my conscience,” Stark said in a news release.
In this year’s redistricting process, HD 47 was carved out of two districts that had been represented by Republican Rep. Fred Hawkins and Democratic Rep. Kristen Arrington. Both are running for re-election in adjacent districts.
In HD 47, Democrats Horng “Andrew” Jeng and Anthony Nieves of Kissimmee and Daniel Paul Marquith of St. Cloud are running.
The district has a large Hispanic, primarily Puerto Rican, population. Based on results of the past couple of General Elections, it appears to have a significant Democratic lean.
In the release, Stark cited growth management, transportation, school funding and low-wage jobs as the top concerns in the district.
“Just by driving around Osceola County every day we can all see that our roads are overcrowded and every year they only get worse,” Stark said in the release. “I understand why so many people want to live in Florida with the great weather year around and no state income tax, but we have to do a better job of planning for the roads and other transportation infrastructure that we need to keep up with the growth we experience and to court new business to locate here.”
She also pledged to work toward modifying the state school funding formula so that it does not penalize high-growth counties, and to encourage funding for trades education. Stark also said she would work to help veterans and pursue efforts to improve transportation and wages in the region.
“Part of bringing better-paying jobs to the area is not just working to get businesses to locate here but providing incentives to the new ‘telecommuting’ workforce to locate here,” she said. “Increasing wages and transportation improvements are connected to each other and will be areas I focus on heavily.”