Pasco County Commissioner Ted Schrader is a progressive public official interested in bettering the quality of life in Pasco County. His political opponent is motivated by self interest and offers no palatable solutions to the issues of traffic congestion, community planning or the other concerns that confront a growing county amid shrinking revenues.
The District 1 County Commission race will be decided in the Aug. 26 Republican primary because only a token, write-in candidate awaits the winner in November. Commissioners are elected countywide, but must reside within their district. The Times strongly recommends Republican voters allow Schrader the opportunity to serve a third term.
Schrader joined the County Commission in 2000 and helped modernize its way of thinking. No longer were impact fees verboten. Instead, the board aggressively approved and raised fees on new homes to help cover the cost of increased demands from growth on schools, public safety, roads, parks and libraries. He was a leading advocate for the voter-approved Penny for Pasco sales tax increase that is building new schools, fixing dangerous intersections, widening roads, buying public safety equipment and preserving environmentally sensitive land.
In the meantime, he nudged his fellow board members to each year lower the property tax rates because of higher revenue coming from escalating property values. The result is a 40 percent cut in the general fund property tax rate since 2001.
Yet, look around the county and you will see evidence of Schrader's leadership — a widely popular regional park in Wesley Chapel; renovated libraries in Land O'Lakes and Regency Park; new fire stations; a move to accelerate construction of the east-west road network from Wesley Chapel to Zephyrhills; and community planning districts in northeast Pasco and in Pasadena Hills to better guide growth there in the decades to come.
He is opposed in the Republican primary by John Nicolette of Darby, a Tampa firefighter, east Pasco rancher and part-time developer who is running a campaign wrapped in a cloak of secrecy and deceit. He declined to be interviewed by the editorial board; gave evasive, rehearsed answers at a political forum in Dade City; and relied on a paid spokesman to explain why the candidate was tardy with property tax payments while reporting a personal annual income of almost $220,000.
Too bad, because the electorate should have been allowed to hear how Nicolette, if elected, would attempt to remain impartial on a controversial landfill in east Pasco proposed by a former business associate. Or why he attempted to manipulate the city of San Antonio into a rezoning by suggesting a future lawsuit could be forthcoming on a piece of land he supposedly wanted to donate to the municipality anyway.
But instead of answers to legitimate questions about how Nicolette will behave in office, Republican voters are treated to numerous campaign mailers that inaccurately portray Schrader's record of public service. And, unfortunately, it is Republican voters only who will decide this race.
Nicolette's campaign made sure of that. It recruited a pal who didn't live in the district and who has never voted in Pasco County to serve as a stooge write-in candidate. The maneuver closed the Aug. 26 election exclusively to registered Republicans even though there is no Democratic candidate.
It is a shoddy way to try to begin a career in elected office. Nicolette wants to duck accountability for his own actions and is willing to disenfranchise 60 percent of the Pasco County electorate for his own personal benefit. Republican voters should reject his candidacy.
The choice is clear. John Nicolette is an operator. Ted Schrader is a leader.