BROOKSVILLE — Since the start of the new year, interest in local elections has grown, with three more candidates jumping into races on the 2018 ballot.
Two are running as Democrats against incumbent Republicans in separate county commission races. The third is challenging a sitting member of the School Board, which is a non-partisan position.
In County Commission District 2, incumbent Republican Wayne Dukes already has a healthy field of challengers. On the Republican side, Beth Narverud, a member of the School Board, is seeking the seat. Previously, Democrat Christopher Toohey prefiled to run.
Now Democrat Deborah Salvesen has entered the race.
A native of New Jersey, she came to Hernando County in 2013, attracted by the affordable housing. She is a business relations executive for the Better Business Bureau and president of the Hernando County Democratic Club.
Salvesen, 58, said the club has been growing, and members are working to find qualified candidates who are Democrats to run for office. No Democrats hold partisan elected positions in Hernando County.
"Democrats feel like they are not even part of the dialog,’’ Salvesen said.
She supports the Democratic platform and can relate to such national topics as immigration, since she is a daughter of immigrants. But she said she didn’t want to see the local race defined by partisan agendas.
Her areas of interest include the environment, health care, public transportation, disabled and low-income residents, and public education.
"How is that particular to either party?’’ Salvesen asked.
She also wants to take a hard look at the county’s spending priorities.
In the District 4 race for County Commission, incumbent Republican Jeff Holcomb already faced a challenge from fellow Republican Natalie Kahler, who sits on the Brooksville City Council. Now Democrat Nancy Makar has entered the race.
A Louisiana native, Makar came to the area in the late 1970s, helping to run several businesses and teaching for several years. She has worked as a school social worker, and founded the Pathways Counseling Center, which she still owns.
Makar, 67, said she has been asked several times if she was interested in running for public office, but in recent months began to give it more thought. She decided she had the skills for the public service job in that she had been a professional listener for decades.
"It’s just another way of giving back,’’ Makar said. "I want to educate people on what’s going on, and I want to listen to people.’’
Several issues before the County Commission have caught her attention.
Makar said she was not comfortable with the commission’s handling of the budget fight last year over federal inmate money collected by the sheriff. And she has questions about the county’s discretionary funding decisions, including why neither the Bayport Pier nor the observation tower at Linda Pedersen Park have been repaired.
"I have a lot of research to do. I have a lot of learning to do,’’ she said. "I think it’s important having people willing to listen.’’
On the Hernando County School Board, Catherine "Kay" Hatch is a new candidate for the District 1 seat held by Mark Johnson. Johnson has announced plans to seek reelection.
Hatch, 68, moved to Hernando County from Ohio three years ago after buying a house in Spring Hill in 2012. Now retired from a career in nursing and teaching about pediatric nursing, she hopes to join the School Board to advocate for children and families from every background.
"My hospital served families from the suburban areas, the urban areas and the rural areas, and all of them came with difference experiences and understandings," she said. "This is the same type of thing."
Hatch called her run for School Board "a new venture." In recent months, she has begun attending School Board meetings "to see how it all fits together."
She also started volunteering at Spring Hill Elementary to help students improve their reading skills.
If elected, Hatch hopes to do more to support teachers. She will look into scheduling more presentations by school personnel at School Board meetings. She also will push for more partnerships between schools and governmental agencies in the area.