Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Editorials

Pasco voters opt for steady leadership

The message from Pasco's electorate is that things are running just fine, thank you. All incumbent constitutional officers, regardless of party affiliation, swept to significant election victories Tuesday night with pluralities ranging between 65 and 75 percent of the vote.

An open Distract 3 County Commission seat went to well-known Republican Kathryn Starkey, a former School Board member and community activist, and voters strongly supported the extension of the Penny for Pasco sales tax to finance schools, roads, environmental preservation, public safety and economic development.

Republican Sheriff Chris Nocco, facing his first general election contest after being appointed to his position 18 months ago, cruised past Democrat Kim Bogart, who collected 27,000 fewer votes than he did four years ago when he lost a tight race to then-Sheriff Bob White. The result Tuesday reflected Nocco's well-financed campaign and enormous popularity as well as Bogart's inability to generate substantive issues about the incumbent's performance.

That held true in all the constitutional races where voters rejected criticism of Republican Property Appraiser Mike Wells' work ethic; Democratic Tax Collector Mike Olson's longevity and building plans and Republican Clerk of the Circuit Court Paula O'Neil's management.

To the incumbents it means a four-year opportunity to complete promised enhancements like the tax collector's proposed regional centers to serve southeast Pasco and Land O'Lakes, and the court clerk's new criminal justice computers to replace the archaic information system dating to the mid-1970s.

Likewise, the Penny for Pasco will allow the school district to modernize aging schools and expand computer capabilities and gives Pasco County the money to make intersections safer, build bicycle trails, lure jobs, buy public safety equipment and preserve green space.

The most visible change attributed to the election will be Starkey's ascension to the commission, where she replaces Commissioner Ann Hildebrand who is retiring after 28 years on the board.

Starkey and the rest of the commissioners — Ted Schrader and Jack Mariano won re-election in the August primary — will be tasked over the next four years with, among other things, hiring a new county administrator, planning for the presumed resumption of growth, and retaining the quality of life attributes that have made the county an attractive place to newcomers.

It is a significant to-do list. The long campaign season is over. It is time for public service to begin.

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