Dade City has attributes few other Pasco cities can match: A historic downtown filled with retail stores and eateries; a privately owned business center/commerce park poised for economic development; and even a surprising rise in the tax base attributed to a nonprofit nursing home being acquired by a for-profit venture.
Still, the bounty comes with an aging infrastructure, code enforcement issues, modest neighborhoods with disenfranchised residents, a dearth of youth-oriented activities (the city lost its movie theater and skate park over the past dozen years) and a dilapidated city hall.
Preserving the charm while confronting multiple challenges is the task awaiting the next city commission, which has two seats to be decided in the April 10 election. Here are the Times recommendations:
Seat 3, Jim Shive
Two candidates are seeking the seat held by Curtis Beebe who is not running for re-election. Jeanie Germain, 57, co-owner of a downtown business, Premiere Title Inc., and Jim Shive, 54, who is employed by the Hernando County Utilities Department. Shive was a longtime Dade City municipal employee and remains a fixture at commission meetings. He is making his second run for the commission, having lost to Beebe four years ago.
Germain, active in leadership roles in both the Rotary Club and Habitat for Humanity of East and Central Pasco, is new to city politics and the inexperience is apparent. She is not well-versed on the issues, but has already started her learning curve. For instance, in an interview, she suggested the city's Penny for Pasco sales tax proceeds go for a performing arts center similar to the school-based facilities at River Ridge and Wesley Chapel high schools. During a later public forum, she presented a more modest and realistic list of paving and utility projects and buying police department equipment.
Shive won't need a learning curve if the topic is utilities. But his career in government service — and the second-guessing he frequently espouses — gives us pause that Shive will usurp his role as commissioner and attempt to micromanage the utilities department from the dais. If elected, he must respect his job as policy-maker and leave day-to-day management to the professional staff.
That concern aside, Shive is simply more prepared to serve as commissioner at this time. Shive, also a long-time community volunteer, demonstrates a strong work ethic, a better understanding of a wide scope of issues and articulates a vision to beautify the northern downtown district, improve neighborhoods and someday grow Dade City southward toward Zephyrhills.
The Times recommends Jim Shive for City Commission Seat 3.
Seat 4, Bill Dennis
Incumbent Commissioner Bill Dennis, 80, a retired teacher, is a man of rare political courage. He is now serving his third stint on the commission having run unopposed to fill a two-year term in 2010. His initial tenure began in 1982 and the characteristics he demonstrated then — being thoughtful, honest and a fearless advocate for the underdog — remain today.
Case in point: Dennis provided the swing vote to move a planned water storage tower from the Mickens Harper neighborhood after learning the relocation would not endanger needed grant funding. The tank would have loomed as an unwanted eyesore to the largely African-American neighborhood that already must tolerate a 1950s-era sewage treatment plant abutting its community ball field.
Likewise, Dennis' stance that the city consider a property tax rate increase to stave off reduced government services is a progressive position from which other candidates run away.
Dennis is opposed by Clyde Carter, 54. He is an associate minister at St. John's Missionary Baptist Church and works in the call center of the state Department of Children and Families after retiring from the U.S. Army.
Carter is enthusiastic and advocates new programs for youths, job creation efforts, and even a water park at the revamped Mickens Harper park. It's a lengthy and aggressive to-do list to which Carter is unwilling to attach a specific funding source. That is unfortunate because unidentified and wished-for outside grants cannot fill every need within Dade City.
Carter does have positive skills and, against a different opponent, he might be the preferable candidate. But, Dennis is a straight-shooter who admits when he doesn't have a good idea, but will always do what he believes is best for Dade City. The Times strongly recommends voters retain Bill Dennis on the City Commission in the April 10 election.