BROOKSVILLE — Incumbent County Commissioner Chris Kingsley believes Hernando County needs a leader, and his life experiences have molded him into one. James Adkins feels that what the county really needs is to cut taxes and regulation.
Kingsley, a Democrat, is battling Adkins for a third term in the District 5 seat. He is running, he said, for the same reason as always, "to maintain or improve our quality of life.''
He points to his career path as evidence of his leadership skills. Kingsley rose through the ranks both in the Coast Guard and with the Clearwater Fire Department.
He also has continued his education from seminars on various topics to college earning his master's of business administration earlier this summer. Kingsley said that constant growth of knowledge is critical in a leadership position.
His goal for the next four years is to maintain the current "stable leadership.'' The constant changeover of county administrators in recent years has made for uneven management of operations, Kingsley said. He wants to see administrator David Hamilton stay and provide needed focus.
As for his accomplishments, Kingsley pointed to several areas. "We raised the bar on development issues. We made the developers pay more … for the costs of development."
He voted for tax rate cuts that have led to $62-million in savings to the community's property owners during his tenure.
He also notes the county's biennial budget, which helped deal with the property tax revenue reductions as early as possible, and the adoption of a special prescription drug card program, which has saved residents $2.2-million in medical costs in recent years.
He also was involved with development of the enhanced standards for big box stores and the landscape ordinance.
"I don't just sit back and say I am what I am and that's good enough. I don't think that's good enough,'' he said. "That's a huge difference between my opponent and me.''
Republican James Adkins sums his campaign up very simply. He favors: "Less taxes, less government and a little more personal freedom.''
While he was unsuccessful when he ran for County Commission in 2004, he said he is still running on the same issues. He was inspired to run because he had seen his property taxes rising steeply in recent years.
Adkins blames Kingsley and the incumbents. They allowed tax revenues to rise, then spent the money on things the county didn't necessarily need, he said.
"I just want to put some accountability into expenditures,'' he said.
Commissioners should have scaled down the tax rate to save people from the big tax hits. As for the recent tax rate cuts, Adkins argued they have been done only because voters and lawmakers mandated them.
And even with those cuts, he noted, "I haven't seen a decrease in services.''
Adkins does not favor the current proposal for the county to use accumulated capital and a public-private partnership to build a new judicial center. He would instead favor running a night court, which would be more convenient for citizens and would better use the government building.
The commissioners also have not brought large projects to completion, Adkins said, citing the cleanup at the old Department of Public Works compound in Brooksville and the long-delayed project to dredge the Hernando Beach Channel as examples.
"These are not new problems. These are old problems,'' he said.
Adkins identified areas where he believes the county has spent too much money, ranging from the purchased equipment to the travel budget and money that has been spent on consultants. He said he would rather see the county use its own expertise.
Adkins said he would push to reduce the numbers of minor house projects that need county permits and never get a county inspection. He called that a "money grab.'' And he would want to see the landscape ordinance scaled back because of the impact it has on small business.
"Trees are expensive,'' he said.
Kingsley has raised more than $33,000 in campaign contributions, many small donations from area residents but also some larger sums from area businesses and business leaders. He has the endorsement of both firefighters unions, the Teamsters Union, Hernando County Association of Realtors and the AFL-CIO.
Adkins has the support of the Hernando County Taxpayers Alliance, the Hernando County Builders Association and the Florida Action Committee for Rural Electrification. His campaign account lists more than $24,000 including some large contributions from area business owners, hundreds of dollars in personal loans and numerous donations from individuals.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.