BROOKSVILLE — Longtime Clerk of the Circuit Court Karen Nicolai announced Friday that she will not seek another term next year.
"It's with regret because I love my job,'' the 24-year veteran official said. "I just have other things that I want to do.''
Nicolai said she will endorse as her successor Don Barbee, a former prosecutor who now serves as director of court services and general counsel.
Several hours after Nicolai's announcement, Barbee publicly stated he will run for the job.
"It is with great excitement that I announce my intention to seek the office of Clerk of the Circuit Court for Hernando County,'' he said in a prepared release. "I am confident that my background and experience makes me the right person for this important position.''
Before coming to the clerk's office in May, Barbee spent eight years as a criminal prosecutor under State Attorney Brad King.
He said he was honored to have Nicolai's endorsement.
"In our new reality of ever-tightening budgets, we must be innovative and always looking to provide uncompromised service to our customers at the lowest cost to the taxpayers. Mrs. Nicolai has always demanded efficiency from her staff and looked for new ways to stretch the taxpayer dollar,'' Barbee wrote.
Nicolai said Barbee shared those traits.
"I would not have made the decision to retire if I did not have complete confidence that there was a candidate with the right amount of experience, ethics and energy to keep this office running strong,'' she said.
Friday was the date that Nicolai completed the service she needed in the state's DROP or deferred retirement program. She said it didn't make financial sense for her to stay longer than the end of her current term.
"I have truly enjoyed my job and the opportunities given to me by the people of Hernando County,'' said Nicolai, 58, who has worked in the clerk's office for 35 years. Her annual salary as of the new fiscal year which begins today is $122,587.
"It is now time for me to retire, enjoy time with my family, and continue to give back to the community in other ways,'' she said.
Nicolai also had other plans.
"I love to travel and I plan to do as much of that as I can,'' she said.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.