Governing Board Elects Officers

The District’s Governing Board voted Tuesday for the latest slate of officers for the 2024-2025 term.

Governing Board members are unpaid, citizen volunteers who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate. The Governing Board sets policy for the District, whose mission is to protect water resources, minimize flood risks and ensure the public’s water needs are met.

The new officers are:

Michelle Williamson was elected chair of the Governing Board. Williamson represents Hillsborough County and is operations manager of G&F Farms. She first served on the Governing Board from August 2016 to August 2020. She was reappointed in December 2020.

Williamson has served as a board member for the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, Florida Farm Bureau State Board of Directors  and Hillsborough County Citizens Environmental Advisory Committee. She currently serves on the Hillsborough County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, Hillsborough County Agriculture Economic Development Council and International Responsible Farming Council Board of Directors.

In addition, Williamson has served as the state chair of the Florida Farm Bureau Women's Leadership Committee and the chair of the Florida Farm Bureau Women's Leadership Committee for District 5.

John Mitten was elected vice chair of the Governing Board. Mitten represents Hernando and Marion counties and is the franchise owner of Chick-fil-A in Spring Hill. He was first appointed to the Governing Board in October 2020.

Mitten is a former Hernando County Commissioner and volunteers on numerous boards and committees, including Pasco-Hernando State College and the Greater Hernando Chamber of Commerce. Mitten also is a commissioned Kentucky Colonel, which is the highest title of honor bestowed by the Governor of Kentucky and recognizes individual’s noteworthy accomplishments and outstanding service to the community, state and nation.

Jack Bispham was elected secretary of the Governing Board. Bispham represents Manatee County and is the owner of Red Bluff Plantation in Lakeland, Georgia and Paul’s Parrish in Duette, Florida. He was first appointed to the Governing Board in November 2019. He was reappointed in May 2021. 

Bispham has previously served on the District’s Manasota Basin Board, the Sarasota County Planning Commission and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Policy Board. He currently serves on the boards of the Sarasota Sportsmen Association, The Field Club and the Argus Foundation. Bispham feels his agricultural education and experience as a farmer have taught him the importance of sustainable water policy and resource management.

Ashley headshot blue

Ashley Bell Barnett was elected treasurer of the Governing Board. Bell Barnett represents Polk County and is a former educator and community advocate. Bell Barnett was appointed to the Governing Board in December 2020 and reappointed in August 2023. 

A fifth-generation Floridian, Bell Barnett earned her bachelor’s degree from Florida Southern College and her Master of Public Administration from the University of South Florida.

Bell Barnett serves in a variety of capacities at organizations across the community, including vice chair of the Polk State College District Board of Trustees, Community Impact Chair of United Way of Central Florida, Talbot House, Lakeland Regional Hospital Foundation, GiveVisual Inc., Bonnet Springs Park, JDRF, and the Polk County School District.

The new officers will start 24 hours before the June Governing Board meeting and serve a one-year term.