Ballots are replacing bass in Bobby Kinzy's life.
After a 35-year career with Tampa Electric Co., Kinzy, 60, thinks of himself as semi-retired. He drove a tractor trailer for a few months, helped rebuild electrical grid systems after Katrina, fooled around with a friend's Corvette and practiced martial arts.
Mostly, though, he likes the outdoors. The hunting, fishing and camping is what attracted him from Tampa to Pasco County 38 years ago.
"Every mud puddle you can put a john boat in, I've fished in,'' he boasts. He chose a rural homestead in Moon Lake because he was 11 miles from the saltwater fishing in the Gulf of Mexico or a half mile from fishing for bass in a freshwater lake.
But life changed last November, and now Kinzy is trying to lure votes as an independent candidate for Pasco County sheriff. Mary, Kinzy's wife of 33 years, was the impetus.
Kinzy had been helping a friend restore a Corvette. Mary came out of their house and informed him she wanted to go Christmas shopping. Kinzy said he told her: Here's the keys, there's gas in the truck, help yourself. Her answer stunned him.
"I don't go anywhere in Pasco County after dark.''
Kinzy is an ex-Marine with a fourth-degree black belt in karate. He always tagged along on the shopping expeditions. Until that moment, he hadn't known of his wife's feeling of insecurity when the sun went down. He asked around and a few others shared similar sentiments.
Instead of buying his wife a can of Mace, Kinzy decided to run for sheriff.
He is the definitive underdog in the race among two-term Republican Bob White and Democrat Kim Bogart, a police consultant who spent 16 years as a high-ranking officer under two previous Pasco sheriffs. Kinzy said his lack of law enforcement experience shouldn't be a detriment. He is packaging himself as a trouble-shooter, facilitator, team-builder and leader.
"The problems they have, I can fix,'' he said.
He is running on the proverbial shoestring budget. Combined, White and Bogart reporting raising $283,000 through Sept. 12. Kinzy received five contributions totaling $1,035 and loaned himself $5,500, most of which he spent on a company to gather petitions signatures to qualify for the ballot.
"We didn't know anything about what we were doing,'' Kinzy volunteered, verifying his self-description that he is not a politician. A registered Democrat, he initially filed to run in that party's primary. Later, he figured he better switch to no-party affiliation if he intended to campaign as a candidate who will remove politics from the Sheriff's Office.
He has lived through the administrations of Sheriffs Basil Gaines, John Short, Buddy Phillips, Jim Gillum, Lee Cannon and now White. It's a roster that includes an indictment (Short), an interim (Phillips), a guy who put his girlfriend on the payroll in an unadvertised position (Gillum), an administrator who didn't know the department's capabilities (Cannon), and the incumbent who a year ago bickered simultaneously with unionized deputies and county commissioners.
That list, Kinzy said, is one reason why he should be attractive to voters.
"They're tired of making the same mistakes all over again.''
His platform isn't remarkably different from anybody else's and he said the vanquished primary election candidates had good ideas. Kinzy wants to hire more deputies, make criminals pay a greater share for law enforcement, and assess user fees for repetitive, non-emergency calls.
Getting his message out can be problematic with no money. There is a campaign Web site and some signs, but he hasn't gone door to door to meet voters and doesn't know if he'll be able to buy direct mail or other media advertising.
Still, he doesn't mind the underdog label and recalls filling the same role in past karate competitions.
"That was the best thing to be because they misjudge you,'' said Kinzy. "They take you with a grain of salt and, sometimes, they get surprised.''
C.T. Bowen can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6239.