A 28-year officeholder retired. A 16-year incumbent was beaten trying to replace him, and a 21-year-old college student is headed to Tallahassee as a new state legislator. Yes, it was a wild year in Pasco political circles.
Property Appraiser Mike Wells Jr. spent 2016 as a lame duck in the last of his nearly three decades in office. Wells was a Pasco commissioner from 1984 to 1992, and voters elected him property appraiser in 1996.
Four-term Pasco Commissioner Ted Schrader tried a similar career track, but voters opted for fellow Republican Gary Joiner in the GOP primary in August. Joiner, a 33-year employee of the Pasco Tax Collector's Office, won the bruising primary, then defeated Democrat Jon Sidney Larkin in November to become just the third property appraiser in Pasco County since 1968.
Commissioner Jack Mariano's daughter produced the biggest surprise of the election season. Amber Mariano, a third-year student at the University of Central Florida, originally filed to run for a state House seat in Orlando, but switched at the filing deadline in June to challenge popular Democratic incumbent Rep. Amanda Murphy of New Port Richey for the House District 36 seat in West Pasco. Mariano rode the Donald Trump tsunami to victory, edging Murphy by 691 votes out of more than 68,000 ballots cast.
The one new face on the County Commission is actually a familiar one. Businessman Ron Oakley, a former chairman of the Southwest Florida Water Management District governing board, won Schrader's District 1 seat based in east Pasco on his second attempt.
C.T. Bowen, Times staff