Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Politics

Views differ for mosquito control board candidates

Don't expect to see campaign signs for Vincent Buscetta. He's one of the five people running for two seats on the Pasco County Mosquito Control Board, but he isn't campaigning. He promised.

When Buscetta, 67, registered to run, he heard he'd be running against a Joiner, but he thought that was the son of longtime friend Gary Joiner. Later he discovered that his opponent was in fact his friend, Buscetta said.

He respects Joiner, who is seeking a third term on the board that oversees $5.1 million of taxpayer dollars each year to tamp down the mosquito population and the diseases they carry. Buscetta didn't intend to run against the elder Joiner — but he didn't want to get off the ballot, either.

So, they made a gentleman's agreement, Buscetta said.

"I made a promise to (Joiner) that I wasn't going to campaign, and that's what I'm going to do," he said. "If the people want me, they'll vote for me."

Policy-wise, Buscetta says he's fine with the board's current budget. If he were in the seat, he said, he would start an alert system to warn residents when mosquito spray trucks will be in their neighborhoods, so they can close windows and protect themselves from insecticide.

Buscetta's professional experience includes time as assistant vice president at Florida State Bank and community resource coordinator for the Pasco County Parks and Recreation Department. He is retired now and lives in New Port Richey with his wife of 38 years. He has two grown children.

Joiner, the incumbent in seat 3, says he's the more experienced man for the job.

He spent 27 years as an environmental specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and says he brings that knowledge to the seat.

Joiner said he'd like at least one more term to see through ongoing projects such as building repairs and the construction of the new chemical building.

Joiner, 71, said he has held a conservative stance in his past terms, voting to cut the board's budget by $740,000 last year and lower property tax rates.

He's retired, has two sons and four grandchildren and says he's family oriented. He lives in New Port Richey.

In the Seat 1 race, Sandra Applefield has drawn two challengers in her quest for a fourth term.

She said she'd like to remain in her seat to keep an eye on projects she approved in previous terms, including construction of a chemical building and a new program called Leading Edge that allows residents to request mosquito control coverage.

"I'm a watchdog," said Applefield, 71, who has spent the past 30 years in Pasco. "I'm very comfortable with this position."

Outside of her elected seat, she manages real estate. Originally from New York, she's married and has four children. She lives in Port Richey.

Her opponents for the nonpartisan seat are Shanon "Randy" Holm and Randy Bethencourt.

Holm, 29, says he's running for mosquito control to give the board a discerning look over.

The self-described fiscal conservative says the budget could use pruning, and, if necessary, he's willing to nix the entire mosquito control board and put the program under control of the county commissioners.

He says he'd bring a new pair of eyes to meetings.

"It's more of a budget position. And I feel that the money that the taxpayers pay isn't being used wisely," he said. "And I think that we need conservatives in all levels of the government."

Holm said he thinks the board could cut costs and lower tax rates if it worked with competing private contractors.

Holm is a Pinellas County native and now works as a teen court coordinator in Pasco. He lives in Land O'Lakes.

Randy Bethencourt said he has always wanted to run for political office. He said he figured he had some good ideas, so he'd give it a try.

You likely won't see his campaign signs. He says he won't be buying any this year. Instead, he's relying on word-of-mouth campaigning from people he meets.

"I don't want to spend more money than the job pays," he said. "You can't afford to run for political office anymore."

He said he believes in saving the board's resources, like gas for mosquito sprayer trucks. People should be able to do their own mosquito control when they need it, he said — a do-it-yourself approach.

So, he proposes that the board offer 3-gallon sprayers that residents can check out and use in their own neighborhoods.

"Instead of having a truck and using the taxpayers dollars, we could have citizens help," he said. "There's no reason for a truck to drive 30 miles to spray for 20 minutes."

Bethencourt, 55, has lived in Pasco for 26 years. He works at Winn-Dixie in Land O'Lakes and used to play in a country band, Busch Country. He lives in Hudson.

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