Over the past two years, Brooksville City Hall remade itself with key personnel changes and a new attitude of collaborative governing that replaced cronyism, waste and missing accountability.
There is a new city manager and police chief and the City Council is riding herd on extravagant spending like the recreational vehicle/emergency command center (BERT) the department liked to roll out to emergencies in other Florida and Southeast locations. The city trimmed 16 positions in the past two budget cycles and is saving money by combing emergency dispatch and information technology services with the Hernando County.
The differences are welcome and as voters head to the polls Nov. 4 to fill two City Council seats they should support the incumbents who helped to reshape the city government.
Mayor David Pugh Jr. is being challenged by businessman Cecil D. Davis and Yvette Taylor.
Pugh, 36, a first-year teacher and former project manager for a civil engineering firm, is intelligent and articulate. He is seeking to continue the new attitude and now wants to try to reduce the city's utility tax, while recruiting manufacturing jobs to the area and increasing code enforcement.
"We want to make it a better place to live,'' he says succinctly.
It's a simple and noble vision, but one that his opponents are unable to articulate.
Davis, 28, offers fanatical conspiracy theories and no solutions to the city's problems that he says are too numerous to even delineate. He would be better served if he brushed up on the challenges facing municipal government before offering himself for public service. Taylor did not respond to a request for information about her candidacy.
The Times strongly recommends David Pugh Jr. for re-election.
This race is much more competitive and features incumbent Frankie Burnett, former council member Joe Johnston and newcomer Jason Sharp.
Burnett, 53, a self-employed project manager, said he is most proud of the relationship the city has developed with neighboring governments and the move to try to avoid duplication of services. It's a valid point as shared resources couldn't have occurred amid parochial turf wars.
Burnett's extensive community service including Habitat for Humanity, the United Way, the NAACP, and simply cooking and feeding holiday meals to the hungry allows him to connect to the city's needy residents who often are overlooked amid government decisionmaking. His homestead in south Brooksville, he points out, allows him to best represent the area, which he said needs better housing, infrastructure, jobs and health care opportunities.
Sharp, 32, owns his own property maintenance company and said he is running to become involved. His youthful exuberance is a positive attribute and he said the city has to be open to other opportunities for service consolidation. Otherwise, he has no real platform or complaints about how the city is run.
"They have done a fine job,'' he said. "I'm not running to put anyone out of a job.''
Johnston, 56, a paralegal, served on the council for a dozen years before term limits forced him out in 2006. He has the intellect and experience to be a sound public servant and he said he wants to focus on long-range planning.
Johnston's term on the council, however, also included the overly generous package offered to the developers of Southern Hills to entice the project to annex into the city. Putting out the welcome mat for growth is one thing, but getting steamrolled is another.
We prefer Burnett.