Judge was a hero and a fine friend
My friend Bob Huffstetler was indeed colorful. He was also irreverent and daring. He was a man of such talent and diversity as to astonish most who knew him. Most importantly, he possessed a courage that most of us did not have and envied. His love for the law and the courage to protect his fellow citizens against the bad guys was legend.
Few knew how many times his life was threatened by career criminals and the cavalier way he dismissed them. Sure he carried a gun or two, but those were times when the only way to deter crime was a brave man on the bench, and Bob was certainly that.
A judge today would request a detail from the Sheriff's Office to protect him, should he receive the kind of threats that Bob received. Not Bob. He thought justice reposed with the courts and the man in black.
Did he drink? Oh my, yes. And to my shame, I often drank along with him and wondered at his capacity, which was greater than mine, an old soldier and commercial fisherman.
He could navigate the Hernando Beach channel on a 70-foot sailboat that drew twice the draft of my fishing vessel. I was recognized as a master mariner by the National Maritime Center, and I could not match him.
He was all the things that Dan DeWitt described. Those were indeed different times. I look back through time and I remember giants. That is how I remember Bob. A giant of his time. Colorful, outrageous and very human. However, as a veteran of two wars, I cannot boast that I possessed more courage or humanity than Bob. As for a sense of humor, he beat me there, too.
Bob deserves a lot more than what was described in your stories. He deserves a biography, not an article or two. He was bigger than life. To many, he was a hero.
Perhaps we are too sophisticated now for heroes. Too correct and cautious. I thank God I remember better times and men who threw such conduct to the wind and took responsibility in their hands. That was Bob.
John G. Saittis, Brooksville
Allow the park's peacocks to stay
The Weeki Wachee State Park wants to get rid of the peacocks. What? That's right.
Every time I've been there I've looked for them and people always gather around them, taking pictures of these amazing birds. They attract customers. The state thinks that because they are not indigenous, they are not welcome. There is a hippo in the Homosassa State Park.
I think the United States is a melting pot. We have plants and animals from around the world. It makes us more interesting. Soon, they will be checking our identification at the gate to see if we are Floridians. Sounds prejudicial or short-sighted to me. Let's keep the beautiful peacocks.
William Gilbert, Weeki Wachee
Veteran services should be priority
I live in the Wellington at Seven Hills community and I'm a member of the Wellington Veterans' Club. I'm also a volunteer driver for Hernando County Veterans to James A. Haley VA Medical Center.
The veteran population in our county is more than 26,000 or about 17 percent of the registered voters. It's also known that veterans and their families, have a very high turnout for voting. Based on the 2000 U.S. census, Hernando County ranks 23rd out of 65 counties in Florida for veteran population.
There is only one department in the county that helps us with information and benefit explanation, the Hernando County Veteran Services Department. This department has suffered staff and work hour reductions for the last two years, while veterans, veterans' families and veterans' widows have been requesting more information and services from the department. In 2008 the department had 7,400 veteran assists. For the first six months of this year they had more than 5,700 veteran assists, projecting these numbers for the entire year, the Veteran Services Department will have close to 12,000 assists for veterans, veterans' families and veterans' widows this year.
The numbers are growing while staffing is decreasing. In addition, last year Veteran Services coordinated the transportation for more than 3,600 veteran trips to and from James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa using volunteer drivers.
Reducing staff hours from 40 to 35 a week is not acceptable as more of our veterans, veterans' families and veterans' widows are seeking information, services and benefit help.
The veterans served our country to defend our freedoms, and now this county, in a small way, has been turning its back on these very people.
Please consider increasing the staffing and hours for this valuable and important service department in Hernando County.
Rich LaBelle, Spring Hill
Ellzey navigated political world
I've had the opportunity to work with Lee Ellzey over the years as Health Department director. I served on the board when it went by another name. My official tenure ended with my retirement. I had at that time been relatively inactive. That local agency evolved into the Pasco Hernando Jobs and Education Partnership or Career Central.
Lee's environment is a highly political one. It is an AWI (Agency for Workforce Innovation) that also took the reins of the Early Learning Coalitions a number of years ago. Although highly critical of the coalition in the past, I would now suggest it has been in good hands with its new executive director but the lead agency, AWI, is by its very nature highly political. That is not unusual among any state agencies, some worse than others.
I am reminded of what the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley said when accused by reporters of giving contracts to his friends. His response: "Who am I going to help, my enemies?"
I would suspect Lee is a player trying to appease his masters while overseeing a productive and helpful local agency for years. In my multiple board activities, on occasion, we would thwart an obvious conflict of interest on the part of a board member. I left boards over what I felt were inappropriate influences on the part of board members or overseeing agencies.
I would suspect Lee would be an asset in another position. He ran an agency with skill and did what he had to do to survive — until now. My best to you, Lee and staff, for all your good work over the years.
Marc J. Yacht, Hudson