Brooksville Council member challenges county commissioner in Republican primary

Published August 9 2018

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County’s Republican voters will choose between two candidates in the District 4 race for County Commission — incumbent Jeff Holcomb and challenger Natalie Kahler — in the August 28 primary election.

The winner will face the sole Democrat vying for the seat, Nancy Makar, who will be on the November general election ballot.

Holcomb, who is completing his first commission term, touts his record of not raising the general fund property tax rate and fighting off several attempts to establish a separate taxing authority to fund the Sheriff’s Office. Holcomb missed a year of his commission term when he was called up by the Navy Reserves.

At the recent Politics in the Park political forum, Holcomb noted he was the only commissioner to speak out in 2015 against commissioner Nick Nicholson, when it came to light that Nicholson was involved with a stripper and drug user. Nicholson was investigated and not charged with a crime, but Holcomb urged him to step down as commission chairman. Nicholson stayed on with support from the other commissioners.

Holcomb said he was not surprised earlier this year when the Sheriff’s Office arrested Nicholson on new prostitution charges. Holcomb supported the governor’s decision to suspend Nicholson.

Holcomb touts the county’s work on economic development and job creation. The commission in recent months approved job-creation credits for more than 100 jobs coming into Hernando County, he noted.

He also said that no one worked harder to support the county’s fire rescue services.

"I ask you to help me complete my mission,’’ Holcomb said.

Holcomb’s campaign contributions include funds from several companies that do business with the county, including $1,000 from Republic Services waste management, $300 from the Cemex mining company that recently won approval for an expansion, and $1,000 from Goodwin Brothers, the road building company that challenged B.R.W. Contracting for doing poor work in the county.

Holcomb voted to oust B.R.W. after the company failed to perform properly on several jobs, he said, noting that three county employees were disciplined for being too close to the company.

Holcomb also received contributions from: State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, head of the state Republican Party; influential attorney Tom Hogan, and a consulting company called Extreme Furiosity, headquartered at the same address as Hogan; and a political action committee called Jobs for Florida.

Kahler recently ended a term on the Brooksville City Council and said she learned from her family’s long pattern of service. Her experience working in nonprofit organizations makes her the best candidate for the job, she said.

"This requires creative budgeting and a continual understanding that you are merely the steward of resources others have entrusted to you,’’ she told the Tampa Bay Times. "As a member of the Brooksville City Council, I have earned a reputation for creative problem solving, a high level of involvement in my community, complete accessibility to my constituents and independent thinking that is not beholden to any group.’’

Kahler said her experiences on the council illustrate how she would handle the difficult balancing act commissioners face. She said she listens to the arguments on each side, looks for commonality and clearly explains her decisions.

"Even if residents, businesses or developers don’t like your vote, they generally respect it if they understood how you arrived there,’’ she said.

Kahler said the county commission’s failure last year to hold budget workshops helped lead to this year’s multi-million dollar shortfall. The City of Brooksville, in contrast, went through a painstaking line-by-line review of every expenditure, she said.

"As I did on City Council, I will study the budget and come up with suggestions for alternative ways to do things,’’ Kahler said.

She named economic development as one of the most important issues for the county and wants to create an environment for success.

"The biggest mistake we can make is to think government can (and should) do it all,’’ Kahler said. "The government’s role is to cut unnecessary red tape, create good policy, provide a healthy tax structure, offer the best public safety and allow our amazing community to do the rest.’’

Kahler’s campaign contributions are nearly all from individuals with a few from small businesses.

Hernando County commissioners serve four-year terms. They must live in the district they represent, but are elected by voters county wide. They earn an annual salary of $69,232. District 4 encompasses south central Hernando County.

Contact Barbara Behrendt at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.