NEW PORT RICHEY — Jed Pittman seemed almost to disappear from public life after retiring two years ago after 32 years as Pasco clerk of the court.
But on Tuesday, he showed up at a Pasco commission meeting and spared few words in his opposition to a 499-unit recreational vehicle park near his home in the rural Hudson neighborhood of the Highlands.
"The property behind me is beautiful. I haven't seen an RV park that's beautiful. To me, they're repugnant," he told commissioners.
That wasn't all he said: He brought up recent political contributions made by the Miller family, the owners of Ja-Mar Travel Parks, and made an unexplained reference to "gypsies" who once inhabited one of the family's parks.
He added that he wasn't saying the Millers were "gypsies" but then said, "There's an awful lot of Millers in Miami, too."
He did not explain that comment, either, and confused audience members chuckled.
Commissioners ended up approving Ja-Mar's request to rezone for the RV park. The 43 acres was already zoned for high density multifamily housing but rules required the project to be deemed a "master planned unit development" to become an RV park.
Officials are requiring a 25-foot buffer, an inconspicuous fence and lighting that won't spill over into the Highlands. The vote was 4 to 1, with Commissioner Ted Schrader opposing the request. He said the county should hold out for such uses as work force housing on that particular property, which is near U.S. 19.
A number of Highlands residents spoke against the project, and residents of Ja-Mar's other parks spoke in favor, saying the company runs clean facilities that attract seniors with higher incomes.
Pittman and his wife, Jill, helped lead the campaign against the project, meeting with commissioners individually before the meeting.
Pittman told commissioners he had heard a good bit about the Miller family's philanthropy.
He said he hoped they did not make their decision based on that.
"I've heard enough about how good somebody is," Pittman said. "It kind of implies the rest of us are bad."
He also questioned the timing of a $300 donation from the Miller family to the political campaign of Michael Cox, the Democrat who lost his bid for re-election last month. Henry Wilson Jr., the Republican who defeated Cox, was the one sitting at the dais to rule on the issue.
Pittman walked back to his seat, passing Ja-Mar attorney Jerry Figurski, a longtime supporter of his own re-election bids.
"My, oh my," said Figurski, shaking his head as he arrived at the microphone. "I even gave money to Mr. Pittman, and it had little influence on him today."
Jodie Tillman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.