Lynn Lindeman, a retired college dean who started the Heritage Pines Democratic Club, is the new chairman of the Pasco Democratic Party.
Lindeman was elected without opposition to the post last month after Ron Rice stepped down less than a year into his term. Rice, who was severely injured in a car accident in early 2011, decided in November that he could not continue as chairman.
Rice, 43, said the accident severely injured his back, forcing him to accept a new desk job that didn't have enough scheduling flexibility for the post. His doctor wouldn't clear him to return to his job as a land surveyor.
"Unfortunately, your family and career have to come first before a voluntary position," he said. "The last thing you want is to have somebody in the position that doesn't have the time or the ability to do what needs to be done."
Lindeman, 70, takes over a party in need of rebuilding. Pasco Republicans raised $85,000 in 2011, compared to just $5,000 by the Democrats. The party has only 40 precinct committeemen out of 154 precincts. The GOP has a 10,000-person edge in voter registration.
Republicans hold all but one of Pasco's elected offices.
Lindeman said he hopes to improve four areas: fundraising, candidate recruitment, party membership and voter turnout.
This fall, Lindeman expects President Barack Obama's re-election campaign to pump up local Democratic voters. He also said the party would be more aggressive in seeking like-minded donors.
The number of precinct representatives doubled during Lindeman's time as the party's volunteer development leader, he said. He hopes to have another 40 in place by the end of the year.
"It's really the basic nuts and bolts," he said. "We may never match the Republicans in terms of money. Personal contact with Democrats will make the difference."
Lindeman moved to Pasco eight years ago after a career as a dean at several colleges. His career took him to large institutions like the University of Oklahoma and smaller schools like a community college in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He founded the Heritage Pines Democratic Club three years ago, and said it has given the community's Democrats a venue to speak their mind.
When it comes to candidate recruitment, Lindeman is focused beyond this year's election.
"Recruiting candidates, it starts two years before they take office," he said. "I'm confident that we're going to offer a very viable field of Democratic candidates in 2014."
In 2010, Michael Cox lost his bid for a second term on the County Commission and said part of the reason was a lack of support from the party and then-chairwoman Alison Morano. She has since taken over as vice chairwoman of the state party.
Cox called Lindeman a "breath of fresh air we've been needing for quite a long time." He praised Lindeman's persistence and his effort to recruit precinct volunteers, who motivate Democrats to go to the polls.
"If the Democratic base had come out in 2010, I'd still be a county commissioner," Cox said. "That's fundamental, and he understands it."
The Democrats in this year's races include longtime Tax Collector Mike Olson, who is poised to run for re-election, and former sheriff's Capt. Kim Bogart, who is making a second run for sheriff. Matt Murphy, an activist and utility contractor, recently filed to run for the District 3 County Commission seat, which is being vacated by longtime Commissioner Ann Hildebrand.
On Monday, the executive committee will vote for a new vice chairman. Two candidates are vying for the job: former chairwoman LaVaunne Miller and Crissie Brown.
Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.