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Hernando County Commissioner Stabins won't seek re-election next year

BROOKSVILLE — County Commissioner Jeff Stabins announced Thursday that he will not seek a third term on the board next year.

Stabins, who has recently tangled with high-ranking officials including County Administrator David Hamilton, U.S. Rep. Richard Nugent when he was sheriff, Chief Judge Daniel Merritt and Clerk of the Circuit Court Karen Nicolai, said he was quitting the fight.

"I'm tired of tilting at windmills,'' he said in a written statement.

"The people deserve an effective representative who can garner support from his colleagues to make necessary and positive changes in local government. I regret that I have failed to be that man,'' he wrote.

"I will continue to try to improve my performance over the time I have left. But, it is clearly time for new people with new ideas to come forward and run for the seat in District One.''

Stabins, who had already been collecting signature cards for next year's election, filed the paperwork to withdraw from the race at the Supervisor of Elections office Thursday afternoon. His four-year term expires in November 2012.

Most recently Hamilton has been the target of Stabins' pointed criticism. Last week Stabins submitted an eight-page "open letter'' to the administrator citing a variety of concerns and complaints. Much of the contest dealt with concerns Stabins has about some of Hamilton's recommendations and how much information he shares with commissioners.

Stabins said that he thought Hamilton's leadership style was "cavalier, conniving and cold-hearted'' and he has been especially critical of Hamilton's manner of downsizing, which has meant the departure of many long-time employees. Those decisions have destroyed the morale and character of county government, Stabins has said.

During Tuesday's regular commission meeting, Stabins was scheduled to talk about his letter and had planned to do a presentation about Hamilton's tenure in the county over the last three years. But with all the business on the agenda running later than expected, Stabins decided to pull the item until April 26.

It is unclear whether that will happen now.

"For the next 19 months I will do the very best I can with David Hamilton. If that means working with him, so be it. If that means working around him, so be it. If that means working without him, so be it,'' Stabins said.

He declined to say anything further about his decision to end his tenure on the commission or any future plans political or otherwise.

Stabins was also in the center of controversy questioning Hamilton's involvement in pushing for then-sheriff Nugent to take the jail over from Corrections Corporation of America last year.

More recently he questioned Nicolai's use of consultant Lisa Hammond for purchasing and contract work and Nicolai's efforts to undermine Hamilton's performance with commissioners.

He also has questioned Judge Merritt's insistence that new courtrooms are needed in the courthouse or a free-standing judicial center. The millions of dollars set aside for that purpose should be used to help balance the budget, Stabins has argued.

Stabins, 51, is a resident of Spring Hill and has lived in the county since 1987. He taught history and government at Hernando High School and served three terms in the State House from 1992 to 1998. He retired from teaching two years ago.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando County Commissioner Stabins won't seek re-election next year 04/14/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 14, 2011 8:00pm]

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