BROOKSVILLE — A call for change swept Sen. Barack Obama into the White House and now a similar appeal has led to a clean slate of leaders for the Hernando County Democratic Party.
In a Tuesday night election, executive committee members cleaned house, electing political novice Clarence "Cy" Wingrove as the new party chairman.
The 73-year-old Brooksville resident lists volunteer positions in various state and local political campaigns dating back years, but he joined the executive committee just a few years ago.
Wingrove, who said he doesn't own a cell phone, spent 34 years as a teacher, retiring in 2003 as the principal of Powell Middle School after 15 years at the helm. In the early 1980s, he served as president of the state teachers union for two years.
His election mirrored picks for the remaining five leadership positions, all of which went to non-incumbent officers.
The fresh-faced corps now takes responsibility for a beleaguered party.
Democrats closed the gap between Republicans in terms of voter registration and built a solid early voting campaign, but the party failed to deliver on Election Day.
Republicans swept all but one countywide race behind the leadership of Chairwoman Ana Trinque, who will serve another four-year term.
Wingrove said the party needs to increase its visibility, become more active at the precinct level and keep the new Obama voters engaged.
"I think we have a lot of work ahead of us before the next election and we need to get started," he said.
The party's election served as a quasi-referendum on outgoing party chairman Jay Rowden. Rowden is credited with making large gains in the last four years but also bore the brunt of some frustrated party members after the election.
Rowden planned to step down long before November and sought a position as the state committeeman. But he lost, by a wide margin.
Rowden doesn't see the results in a bad light but said "there's basically a new group … if that new direction works, that's great."
The other officers are as follows: Miranda Griffin, vice chairwoman; Donna Depinet-Dasher, secretary; Ray Dolman, treasurer; Kathy Lambert, state committeewoman; and Michael Sullivan, state committeeman.
John Frank can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 754-6114.