Wayne Dukes is about to join the Hernando County Commission under the same circumstances as John Druzbick and Jim Adkins in 2008 — professed cost-cutters who found much of their platform already being tackled at the staff level.
Dukes, a Republican making his third attempt at the commission, walloped incumbent Democrat Rose Rocco Tuesday amid the national GOP landslide fueled by tea party activism and anger over a prolonged sour economy.
Dukes spent much of the past two years campaigning for the commission, becoming a regular fixture and commentator at board meetings. He headed to the podium to talk about even the most pedestrian spending like a $13,000 repair at the jail, and eventually expanded his concerns to the city of Brooksville where he opposed red-light cameras. During the campaign, few of Dukes' stated positions differed from Rocco's voting record, but it mattered little to an electorate anxious for change.
Dukes now must move from running against government spending to standing for something — serving the public. It's easy to be a penny-pincher, but leadership requires a broader approach that includes thoughtful consideration of making an investment against potential returns. Dukes likely will have a full plate of those issues to digest as the commission works toward jump-starting the multimillion dredge of the Hernando Beach channel, redeveloping south Brooksville, repairing the county jail and deciding the fate of a new courthouse while writing a budget that currently is projecting a $7 million shortfall next October.
To their credit, Adkins and particularly Druzbick have been measured in their considerations of county budgeting. For the most part they refrained from slash-and-burn tactics though Adkins unsuccessfully attempted to kill mass transit and sought a 2009 tax reduction without offering a corresponding spending cut. Dukes, like Adkins, is a retired public servant, having been a civilian employee of the U.S. Air Force. So, the benefits of government spending should not be foreign to him.
More troublesome has been the commission's failed job-creation schemes, and Dukes' statements that impact fees are too high and that he heard nothing at a July public hearing to dissuade him from supporting the proposed Quarry Preserve. That proposed development, 6 miles north of Brooksville, has been correctly labeled urban sprawl by state planners.
To be an effective county commissioner, Dukes will need to consider the implications of such policy positions on all tax-paying residents of Hernando County, not simply the special interests.