How long have you lived in Hernando County, and where do you live? Where did you live previously?
My family moved to this area from St. Petersburg when I was 5. I graduated from Hernando High School in 1990. I did move to the Orlando area for a few years, but always seemed to migrate back to Brooksville. I even moved to Iowa for a year, but promptly came back to Hernando County.
Who are the members of your family?
My family is fairly small. My father and stepmom live right next door to me.
My dad, Richard Lewis, is involved in the city and county. He is on the Brooksville City Council. I think his actions inspired me to volunteer and help out where I can.
My stepmom, Maryellen Lewis, is one of the most wonderful people on earth. If I could have chosen a mom, I certainly would have picked her. I have an older brother who lives in Sumter County. I also have a dog, two kitties and two macaws that I consider my kids.
Tell us about your career.
My career is a peculiar one. I started working for a local doctor when I was 16. I worked there for seven years, and then moved to Orlando, where I worked for a hand surgeon, doing all of his billing and accounts receivable. He later started a medical services organization. I was assigned to spearhead that project. I was involved with everything from implementing and training the staff on new computer programs, to credentialing new physicians, to rate negotiation for medical practices.
The company was bought out and moved out of the area, so I started my own medical transcription service. I did that for a long time, but found I really missed human interaction. After moving back to Brooksville, I found work at a local apartment community, with absolutely no experience in that field. Within six months, my staff and I took the community from low occupancy to having a waiting list.
I really enjoyed my work there, and more than anything, I loved the residents. Unfortunately, with the sudden downturn in the economy, I was laid off in October after being there for five years. I have been on unemployment since then and it has broken my heart.
What kinds of activities are you involved in now?
Other than looking for work on a daily basis, I recently stumbled across an organization called the Florida Paddling Trails Association and noticed they needed some administrative help. I contacted the president, and he invited me to a board meeting last May. I was welcomed with open arms, and was appointed director of marketing. While it is a volunteer and unpaid position, I absolutely love it. I feel like I am doing something useful and productive again, plus it keeps my business skills sharp.
I have also been helping with a Web site called myfloridaclub.com. It's a free comprehensive listing of all clubs in the state of Florida, from boating clubs to hunting clubs, etc. It is associated with a company called Prosirius that creates software for club and business Web sites. This is also volunteer work, but I hope it turns into a paying career.
Do you have any special hobbies?
I've been involved in photography for as long as I can remember. I did freelance work, but with the economy, many are refraining from spending money on wants vs. needs, and photography falls into the wants category.
My one passion right now is kayaking, and more specifically, kayak fishing. With my income greatly reduced, I can no longer afford to do activities that cost money, which has opened a whole new world of recreation for me. I already owned a kayak, so the trip is basically free.
When I paddle down the Weeki Wachee River in the early morning, I actually find peace in watching the mullet jump and the deer drink from the river. I meander down quietly and peacefully, realizing we could all use a change in perspective once in a while.
What are your favorite things to do in Hernando County?
Without a doubt, my favorite things in Hernando County involve getting outdoors. I think sometimes we take this county for granted and do not appreciate all the beauty and adventure it holds for us.
If you really think about it, we have one of the coolest back yards in the world. With the economy being down, we have no excuse not to get out and enjoy all the free perks our area has to offer. From the awesome bike trails and hiking trails to the spring-fed rivers and the gulf, we are basically in the middle of paradise.
What do you think would make Hernando County a better place to live?
I think if we all took a good look around and started to volunteer and support those things we love, Hernando County could have a new awaking in a good direction. Folks spend so much time giving their opinions on the things they hate and all the bad in the world, and they forget there is a lot of good out there.
Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.
Most people see me as a nature-lover type of person that loves animals and works hard to respect the environment. So when they find out that I enjoy shooting guns, they are a little surprised.
I always get a kick out of the reaction of the "regulars" out at the gun range who give you a funny look when you take a pistol over to the longer-range rifle targets. Then when I shoot the bull's-eye with my .357 — their reaction is priceless.
Hernando Neighbors is an occasional feature of the Hernando Times. Do you know someone who would make a good profile? We'd like to hear from you. Contact Jean Hayes, community news coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1438.