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Dade City government sees new faces, titles in 2008

DADE CITY — It was a year of change for Dade City.

In February, Billy Poe, a Zephyrhills assistant planner, wowed the City Commission with his enthusiasm, energy and local connections. Though he didn't have a fat resume, Poe became the commission's pick for city manager.

It was the city's fourth attempt to find a new manager since Harold Sample left the position in June 2007.

Poe came into the position as the city faced a $300,000 revenue loss after the passage of Amendment 1 to lower property taxes. The loss was bigger than some departments' entire budgets.

The next month brought in another new face: Raymond Velboom, a 27-year veteran of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, became the city's chief of police.

Velboom replaced Phillip Thompson, who retired in August 2007.

Political newbie Curtis Beebe, a local computer consultant who led the recall effort against Commissioner Camille Hernandez in 2007, was elected to the city commission in April.

Beebe beat former city employee and Hernandez supporter Jim Shive for the seat left open by outgoing mayor Hutch Brock, who announced in December 2007 that he wouldn't seek re-election.

Incumbent commissioners Steve Van Gorden and Eunice Penix held onto their seats against their respective opponents, Robert Avila and Mike Agnello.

This was the first year Penix, who has served on the commission since 1993, had an opponent.

At their first meeting, the new commission chose Scott Black as the city's next mayor.

In June, the commission approved developer Flanagan-Hillpot LLC's controversial request to annex 56 acres into the city and rezone it for the Terrace Park subdivision, which would include up to 286 homes and possibly office space.

Residents spoke out against the development, but in the end, the prospect of bringing more revenue to the city won the commissioners over and they voted 3-2 for the project. Construction is not expected to begin for several years.

In August, the Dade City Goodwill store closed its doors after a 15-year run in the area. Store officials blamed a lack of donations, low returns and a shift in the business plan.

The next month, the commission approved a $10.3-million budget, about $380,000 less than the previous year's.

Instead of cutting services or raising taxes, the city knocked down the commissioners' travel budget, eliminated five city positions (four of which were vacant), and did away with employee raises.

Another new face entered the Dade City scene in October.

Nita Beckwith, a former official with the Pasco Building Association, was selected as the new executive director of the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce.

Beckwith replaced former director Tony Lister, who left after a few months on the job for personal reasons. Before Lister, Phyllis Smith led the chamber for more than 20 years.

In November, Dade City got a shout-out from the Tampa Bay Super Bowl Host Committee. The city's annual Kumquat Festival was listed on the committee's Super Bowl XLIII calendar of events.

The celebration of the odd orange fruit is held every year on the last Saturday in January. The fact that the festival falls on the day before the Super Bowl was just a coincidence, organizers said.

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at htravis@sptimes.com or (813) 435-7312.

Fresh faces in 2008

Entering Dade City's landscape were, from left:

Billy Poe: Named city manager

Raymond Velboom: Named police chief

Curtis Beebe: Elected to City Council

Dade City government sees new faces, titles in 2008 12/26/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 29, 2008 11:44am]
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