BROOKSVILLE — Paul Douglas says he's ready to attack a long "to do" list as head of the county's leading civil rights organization.
Douglas, a 66-year-old retired environmental consultant from Brooksville, ran unopposed in a bid for president of the Hernando County NAACP branch. He and other executive committee members were elected Monday night at Silverthorn Country Club.
The new officers will be sworn in next month.
"After that, I take the gavel and run with it," Douglas said Tuesday.
Douglas replaces Wayman Boggs, who served for six years and led the charge to reinvigorate the branch after the loss of its charter for inactivity. Boggs, 68, recently married and still works a full-time job as a mental health counselor, so he sought to scale back his involvement with the NAACP.
Boggs told the Times last week that when he made the decision to step down, he was confident Douglas could do the job. And Boggs will be there to help; he ran unopposed for first vice president.
That will be key as the group works to attract new members to help the NAACP take a prominent role in local issues, Douglas said.
"We've got a lot of external work to do. We've got a lot of internal work to do," he said.
Douglas has said he wants to inject new energy into the chapter's efforts to stand up for civil rights and social and economic justice, regardless of the skin color of those the group would defend. The branch will have to balance working whenever possible in partnership with governments and other agencies and holding those same entities accountable when necessary, he said.
For example, Douglas said the branch likely will ask a judge to rule on whether the city of Brooksville has met the terms of a nearly three-decades-old federal court order to cease discriminatory practices in hiring and provide quality infrastructure to all parts of the city.
The branch also wants to work with the county and city to bring in grant money for economic development, said Douglas, who currently serves as a liaison for the NAACP on the south Brooksville Community Initiatives Team. The team is working with the county and city to redevelop the predominately African-American community on Brooksville's south side.
"It's going to be surprising to a lot of people that I'm going to try as hard as I can to get the NAACP to be a viable force in rebuilding the economy of the city and this county," Douglas said.
Douglas also wants to find a space for the branch to call home. It has been several years since the group closed its office in south Brooksville.
Paul Boston, a Brooksville community activist, sought to make a bid for president but was declared ineligible after his membership lapsed.
Boston, who has been critical of Douglas because of his connections with the county, passed out fliers at the branch meeting Monday charging that Douglas is hijacking the NAACP for his own interests. Boston, 53, contends that Douglas will use his influence to steer lucrative contracts to himself and the firms of friends and associates.
"HERBERT PAUL DOUGLAS IS NO FRIEND TO THE NAACP OR ANY AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY," Boston wrote on the flier. "MONEY FOR THE POOR AND AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY WILL GO TO THE GOOD OLE BOYS."
Boston said Tuesday he will be keeping an eye on Douglas.
"I'm going to be an active member, and I'm going to be vigilant in my activities," he said.
In interviews with the Times last week, Douglas dismissed Boston's claims as uninformed, and Boggs said Douglas' connections in the community will only help the NAACP branch.
On Tuesday, Douglas said he is still retired and, even if he does decide to work again, he would not seek contracts that could be a conflict of interest with his duties as president.
"I don't consider myself an activist," he said. "I consider myself a concerned citizen who has an opportunity to attack issues I see from the platform of the NAACP."
Suzanne Touchton, who has been an active member of the local branch for about eight years, said she has faith in Douglas.
"I think he'll be an excellent president," Touchton said. "He's very accomplished, and he fits in with the membership well."
Tony Marrero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org (352) 848-1431.