BROOKSVILLE — Better than most incumbents, Brooksville Mayor David Pugh understands the danger of underestimating your opponents.
As a political newcomer in 2004, Pugh toppled a much more experienced politician, former two-term council member Pat Brayton, with 64 percent of the vote in the race for City Council Seat 2. The improbable victory taught Pugh a lesson that has guided him through his second run for the council.
"Nothing is ever guaranteed," Pugh said.
Pugh will try to fend off bids from Cecil D. Davis IV, who unsuccessfully ran against Lara Bradburn for the Group 4 seat in 2006, and Brooksville Housing Authority board member Yvette Taylor.
Pugh, 36, is the only person in the race to have been elected to public office. But he said he's taking both challengers seriously, especially in a town where a handful of votes could make all the difference.
"With the changing political environment, you never know what's going to happen," said Pugh, a first-year engineering teacher at Nature Coast Technical High School. "I'm just going to continue to work hard and hope for the best."
Hoping to make a dent against a candidate with more recognition and funding, Davis and Taylor have promised to bring a fresh perspective to city government.
Davis, 28, who runs a metal fabrication company in south Brooksville, said he wants to bring accountability and fiscal responsibility to the council.
"There's so much that needs to be changed," Davis said. "It's important to spend the money that we receive from the taxpayers wisely."
Taylor, 38, who's the only Housing Authority resident on the city board, said she would encourage the city reach out more often to under-served areas of Brooksville. She also wants to explore ways to bring more businesses into town to position Brooksville for more growth after the economic slowdown.
"I want what's best and good for the city of Brooksville," Taylor said. "I think I bring something new and different."
Pugh, son of the city's former parks and recreation director, touted his four-year record of pushing for reduced taxes, bringing more professionalism to City Hall and encouraging more cooperation with county government.
He spoke specifically of a recently signed mutual-aid agreement between the city and county fire departments that essentially ends jurisdictional boundaries and allows for immediate response by the closest agency.
"The dispatch deal was a no-brainer," Pugh said. "I think that's really helped us. Things like that are what we've been doing for the past two years. And I think it's vital that we keep moving in that direction."
However, Davis has been a critic of consolidating city and county services. Davis said he wants to make sure that city residents don't suffer from a drop in the quality of services.
"I don't have a problem with saving money," Davis said. "But at the same time, I don't want to lose any services. In America, it's good to have options for everyone."
Davis also said that he was disappointed with some of the recent changes at City Hall, which included some job cuts and a reorganization of the administration. Some changes, Davis said, have come at the expense of embarrassing some of the city employees.
He declined to get into any specifics.
"The trend at City Hall is to get rid of everybody," Davis said. "And I don't think the city should run our dirty laundry up the flag pole. We need to limit the amount of embarrassment the city experiences."
Meanwhile, Taylor said she's most interested in having the city provide more programs for children and figuring out ways to revitalize older, more blighted parts of town.
"We're supposed to take care of the people in our communities," Taylor said. "I want what's best and good for the people of our city. 'How can we revitalize Brooksville?' is the question we should be asking ourselves."
Taylor believes that, despite the odds, she can rally the support needed to unseat Pugh and defeat Davis.
"Word of mouth is the biggest thing, it's been really positive," Taylor said. "People know David and they know Cecil. I truly don't have the money to compete in that way. But I think I have a very good chance of winning."
Pugh, of course, is taking nothing for granted.
"I think I'm doing things smarter in this campaign," he said. "And I think people will see all the changes the city has made in the past four years and the direction we're going in. We have a good city government that is operating today."
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 352-754-6120.