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Dade City Commission candidate offers new challenge

Mike Agnello, 47

Married 16 years with three sons, ages 5, 11, and 14, and an infant daughter

A 2003 graduate of Almeda University, an online program

Assets: property

Liabilities: mortgage, Florida Department of Revenue

Source of income:

business

Eunice Penix, 67

Widow with two daughters, ages 39 and 47

A 1962 graduate of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach

Assets: property and investments

Liabilities: personal loan and mortgage

Source of income: Social Security, pension and investments



DADE CITY — One of the candidates for the Group 5 commission seat has served 15 years, but never run a campaign. The other hopes his second campaign will finally land him a spot on the commission.

The election is April 8.

Mike Agnello

Agnello, owner of the Osceola Tavern, attends most City Commission meetings and isn't afraid to address the group when he has a problem.

"I get up there and speak about more issues on the dais than any other participating commissioners do," he said.

He took a stab at the commission in 2006, but lost the race to Commissioner Scott Black.

Agnello's experience addressing the big guys plays a part in his 2008 campaign. He said he wants to encourage dialogue during the public comment time of meetings and make sure speakers feel they're heard.

"The whole reason for having a City Commission is to take care of constituents," he said.

The budget is a big issue in the 2008 election as Dade City wrestles with the consequences of Amendment 1. Agnello, 47, said his experience as a small business owner will help with pinching pennies.

"I can bring the ability to stretch a dime," he said.

Agnello has faced some financial problems.

In 2007, he was charged with stealing state funds. Authorities said that for several months in 2006, he collected sales tax revenue at his bar, but never sent the money to the state. Agnello said he needed the money to stay in business.

He applied for a pretrial intervention, a more lenient path for first-time offenders.

Agnello also failed to pay his 2006 property taxes, according to the Pasco County Tax Collector's Web page.

He said the financial hardships came during a "tough run" in which he had lost several family members and suffered a heart attack.

"I am a good person," he said. "I am not a criminal."

In his campaign, Agnello said he wants to bring more county attention — and hopefully more county tourism development money — to Dade City. He said he'd like to see the city become a "weekend destination."

He also wants to expand and develop upon the city's downtown business district, a popular tourist spot.

But visitors need a place to park. Agnello said he would explore more parking options for downtown, including a parking garage.

Eunice Penix

Incumbent Eunice Penix, 67, joined the commission in 1993. This is the first time she has had an opponent.

Penix said in the past that she would not run if someone stepped up against her, but Agnello didn't get so lucky.

"I decided I'm not going to let him have my seat just like that. He's going to have to compete with me," she said.

Asked about the accomplishments of her political tenure, Penix said she was proud to have voted for the Howard Avenue drainage project and the upgrade of the city's sewer plant.

Under her watch, Penix said the city has restored its relationship with the county, mainly due to former City Manager Harold Sample.

Before the city hired him, the county "wouldn't give us anything," she said.

Penix said she has also voiced the concerns of the city's African-American residents and brought paved streets to the poorer areas of town.

Penix taught elementary school for 39 years, the majority of the time she worked in Pasco county. She still substitutes.

"I've helped my community in a lot of ways," she said.

Looking ahead, Penix wants to focus on providing more activities for the city's youth. Dade City needs a theater, a skating rink and a youth center.

Paying for such centers won't be easy. Penix said she hopes grants or the private sector could help out the city.

"A lot of people have money in Dade City. I know that," she said.

In 2003, Penix and others voted to eliminate the city's fire department as a cost-cutting measure.

She said she does not want the city to do the same with the police department, even though Dade City is looking at another lean budget year.

"We'll just have to cut somewhere else, " she said.

She also doesn't want city employees to feel the brunt of any municipal belt-tightening measures.

Penix said her stability and experience will give her the edge in the election.

Her mother encouraged her to get into politics. Penix said she enjoys serving her community.

"Life is about others," she said.

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at htravis@sptimes.com or (352)

521-6518.

Dade City Commission candidate offers new challenge 03/15/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 17, 2008 3:05pm]
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