How long have you lived in Hernando County, and where do you live? Where did you live previously?
I moved here in November 2003 from New Jersey with my son, Ken Alligier. My then-fiance, Joseph Latawiec, had moved here in September, and we followed during the Thanksgiving break.
There is a story behind the reason why we moved to Hernando County. My parents had moved here in 1990 from the East Coast. Mom had planted a tree in their yard when she began her fight against cancer. When she passed away in 1997, she asked that her ashes be sprinkled on the tree's roots. Dad passed away in April 2003, and he too wanted his ashes on the roots of that tree.
I couldn't bear the thought of selling that house and leaving that tree, so I bought out my brother and sister, moved here and made the home ours.
Who are the members of your family?
Joseph and I were married at the courthouse in Brooksville on Dec. 24, 2003. My son Ken is currently attending Pasco-Hernando Community College and works part time at Best Buy.
My oldest son, Luis Lopez, and his wife, Maria, and my grandchildren Sofia, 4, and Gavin, 18 months, live in Deerfield Estates near Brooksville. My daughter, Stephanie Chevalier, lives in New Jersey and is a dispatcher for the Middlesex County Sheriff's Office.
Tell us about your career.
I am truly a "neighbor" in Hernando — I'm a local Realtor. I'm a Neighbor Works certified housing counselor, and I am well on my way to being a Florida Housing Coalition catalyst. On behalf of the Florida Association of Realtors, I serve on the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, and I also serve on the Hernando County Housing Authority board. And for the Hernando Association of Realtors, I serve on the smart growth subcommittee.
I support the Mid Florida Homeless Coalition and the Hernando Continuum. Among my advocacy is the advancement of children through the Hernando Youth Initiative and the wellbeing committee.
I serve on the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce education committee as well.
What kinds of activities are you involved in now?
There is a 60-unit complex known as Brook Villas that I am advocating for Neighborhood Stabilization Program dollars to be used as a match for rehabilitation. I am advocating for the Realtors to get involved with a housing resource expo in conjunction with the Hernando County Housing Authority and The Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The Housing Authority has contacted a firm about advancing a 3-acre tract in Brooksville for senior housing. I have been asked to advocate for another senior housing complex off County Line Road, which according to our local housing market study, is the area of greatest need.
Do you have any special hobbies?
I recently purchased hydroponic pots. I began attending workshops at Green World Path in Brooksville, and I'm growing green, organic vegetables and herbs with minimal water usage and no chemicals. This is something I enjoy with my grandchildren — they can get their hands dirty and eat right off the plant with no worries.
What are your favorite things to do in Hernando County?
Coming from New Jersey, I find I love what my mom and dad loved. The sunsets, the fresh air, the blue sky, the relaxed pace and the great weather. My favorite thing to do is be at home. As you know, when you move here, everyone comes to visit, and I love that. Hernando is greatness, from the gulf shores to the majestic oak canopies. Weeki Wachee is a favorite, as is Rogers Park.
What do you think would make Hernando County a better place to live?
Some place for my son and grandchildren to work, providing them an above-median standard of living.
Because we are in the Tampa Bay Metropolitan Planning Organization, the perceived median income is $56,500. Hernando is rural and should stay that way, but where we have land set aside for development, we should be responsible in its use. I know Mike McHugh and many others in the community are aggressively brainstorming and implementing action plans to get us where we need to be. My hat's off to them.
Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.
I was the fourth woman pledged into the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in New Jersey, and the seventh woman who passed the insurance licensing test in New Jersey.
One of my part-time jobs as a single mom was to (unload pallets of) Playboy magazines for recycling into toilet paper. I love that one.
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.