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Barbara Behrendt, Times Staff Writer

Barbara Behrendt

Barbara Behrendt is based in Brooksville and covers Hernando County government, growth, development and the environment for the Tampa Bay Times. She joined the Times in 1983. Born in Chicago, she grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and earned her degree from the Ohio State University.

Phone: (352) 848-1434


  1. Despite legal stances, efforts continue to end city-county annexation squabble

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — In public meetings and legal briefs, the fight between the city of Brooksville and Hernando County over growth and allegations of racism seems headed to a formal ruling by a judge or some form of conflict resolution.

    But months after the filing of a lawsuit pitting the two governments against each other, creating rancor within city and county government, an effort is under way to attack the issue sideways to limit any negative long-term impact on either side....

  2. Many Hernando voters not waiting till Tuesday to cast primary ballots


    Hernando County voters have not been waiting for Tuesday's formal primary election day to make their voting choices known.

    By midweek, more than 14,400 voters already had cast their ballots by mail, out of the 28,000 ballots Supervisor of Elections Shirley Anderson sent out, and another 1,200 residents had visited one of the four early voting sites to make their selections. In the Wellington community, which had the highest pre-election vote percentage earlier this week, nearly 23 percent of the registered voters already had done their civic duty....

    Poll deputy James Willis, right, greets voters Monday at the Supervisor of Elections’ Forest Oaks location in Spring Hill. By midweek, more than 1,200 residents had visited one of the four early voting sites to make their selections.
  3. For county administrator, much rides on outcome of commission races

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — As the clock ticks down toward the Aug. 30 primary election, Hernando County Administrator Len Sossamon has had time to think about the future — his future.

    Sossamon has as much at stake as the candidates running for County Commission.

    What might have been planned as a secret plot to oust Sossamon from the job he has held since May 2012 by replacing the commissioners who support him has been anything but secret. One commission candidate after another has picked apart his economic development record and hinted at his ultimate demise....

    Len Soss-amon defends his economic development record.
  4. In process shrouded in secrecy, county tax increase proposed; sheriff blamed

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Administrator Len Sossamon likens the tentative 2016-17 county budget to Walmart because in many cases it rolls back spending to 2014 levels.

    But when taxpayers get their Truth in Millage notices in the mail in the next couple of days, they will see that the proposed property tax rate for the county's general fund is 4 percent higher than last year.

    How is that possible?...

  5. Republicans to elect new committeeman for first time since 1961


    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando Republicans will elect a new state committeeman on Aug. 30 for the first time in many years as Tom Hogan Sr., who has held the job since 1961, has decided to step down.

    Two candidates have come forward.

    Blaise Ingoglia, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, chairman of the Hernando County Republican Executive Committee and a member of the state House, is vying for the job against Roy Martin, longtime chairman of the Wellington Republican Club....

    Roy Martin, chairman of the Wellington Republican Club, has the backing of Tom Hogan.
  6. Brooksville gets designation it sought for Florida Main Street Program

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The city of Brooksville already has the building blocks of what many communities long for when they want to revitalize and build the economic integrity of their downtowns.

    Majestic old trees, a picturesque historic courthouse and brick streets brimming with history beg for a tourism brochure that includes signs for shops and cafes and invitations for out-of-town visitors and locals to participate in a myriad of events....

    Cliff Manuel, head of the Brooksville Vision Foundation,  says the community has  been supportive.
  7. Hernando County Commission District 5, Dave Russell v. Steve Champion


    Hernando County Commission District 5, Republicans

    There are two Republican candidates in the Aug. 30 primary vying for the chance to take on Democrat Paul Douglas for the District 5 seat on the County Commission. The winner in the general election will replace two-term Commissioner Jim Adkins, who chose to not seek re-election. The Republican candidates are Steve Champion, a political newcomer, and Dave Russell, a former county commissioner and former member of the state House of Representatives. ...

    Hernando County Commissioner Chairman Dave Russell who is not seeking reelection is serving his last term on the board. Russell has served 8 years in the legislature at the State House prior to becoming a County Commissioner.
  8. Hernando County Commission District 1, Michael LaRocca v. Nick Nicholson v. Joseph Swilley Sr.


    Hernando County Commission District 1, Republicans

    Three Republicans are vying in the Aug. 30 primary election for a chance to take on Democrat Jimmy Lodato in the November general election. They are incumbent Nick Nicholson and challengers Michael LaRocca and Joseph Swilley Sr.

    About the job: County commissioners are elected countywide but must live in the district for the seat they are seeking. Commissioners set policy and the budget for government operations. District 5 is comprised of most of the eastern half of Hernando County. Commissioners serve four-year terms, and the annual salary is $65,515....

    ht_345424_vrag_swilley of  (10/18/11 Brooksville) Portrait of Joseph Swilley, who is running for the District 1 seat on the Hernando County Commission as an independent. [WILL VRAGOVIC, Times]
  9. Former commissioner faces challenge as he attempts comeback in District 5


    For 16 years, Dave Russell served in government, from the statehouse in Tallahassee to the County Commission in Brooksville. Then, in 2014, he decided it was time to hang up the mantle of public service and return to his business and family.

    He didn't stay away long.

    Russell is seeking another term on the County Commission this year, this time in District 5. But another local businessman also has his eyes on the job — gun and pawnshop owner Steve Champion. The two will meet in the Republican primary election on Aug. 30. The winner will take on Democrat Paul Douglas in the November general election....

  10. Controversial incumbent draws two challengers in Hernando District 1 commission race


    The Republican primary election for the District 1 seat on the Hernando County Commission pits a one-term commissioner who points to his accomplishments and experience against two challengers who have not held public office, but who believe the time has come for a change in the way the county operates.

    Incumbent Nick Nicholson faces salesman Michael LaRocca and air-conditioning technician Joseph Swilley Sr. in the Aug. 30 primary, with the winner taking on Democrat Jimmy Lodato in November's general election....

  11. Race to replace longtime committeeman draws two well-known Republicans


    The decision by Tom Hogan Sr. to step down from the job of Republican state committeeman, a job he has held since 1961, means that one of two locally active Republican candidates will soon take the job.

    Hogan has tapped the longtime chairman of the Wellington Republican Club, Roy Martin, to fill the position. But another prominent Republican is also running for the job in the Aug. 30 primary election — Blaise Ingoglia, who currently is a member of the state House of Representatives, the head of the Florida Republican Party and the leader of the Hernando County Republican Executive Committee....

    Blaise Ingoglia holds a number of GOP roles and is running for the position.
  12. Debate over county administrator's future grows testy after proposed contract extension is withdrawn

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The political battle over the future of Hernando County Administrator Len Sossamon has spilled over into public insults, launched by currently absent Commissioner Jeff Holcomb on social media and countered during this week's County Commission meeting by, among others, commission Chairman Jim Adkins, who called Holcomb a "lamebrain."

    Commissioners had placed an item on Tuesday's agenda to consider a five-year extension of Sossamon's contract, currently set to expire next spring, but then pulled it Tuesday morning. The announcement of the proposal late last week sparked a heated diatribe on a news blog in which Holcomb said, "While I'm targeting terrorists overseas, the (County Commission) is targeting Hernando taxpayers and future commissioners with what appears to be a sleazy political game.''...

    Administrator Len Sossamon’s contract ends next spring.
  13. Lee Gordon named 2016 Great Brooksvillian

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Lee Slayden Gordon, a lifelong Brooksville resident who brought music into the lives of residents for decades, was named by the City Council this week as this year's Great Brooksvillian.

    Gordon, who died in 2009 at the age of 62, was selected for the honor over two other finalists and was praised in numerous nominations considered by the city's selection committee.

    Born in Brooksville, Gordon graduated from Hernando High School and returned to work as choral director there after completing her degree in music at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. ...

    Lee Slayden Gordon is receiving the award posthumously for the musical life she gave the community.
  14. Man says county mosquito sprayers ended his fish farm operation

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — When Mark Hartley and his mother, Julie Anne Hartley, started Bountiful Harvest Farms in October 2011, Mark was excited about the fish farming operation he had spent months researching and building.

    He had worked with the University of Florida, virtually visited dozens of fish farms around the country and arranged to keep his facility safe by getting placed on the county's "no-spray zone'' list for mosquito control....

    Mark Hartley feeds the few tilapia in a pond on his property Tuesday. In 2012, county employees mistakenly sprayed for mosquitoes on his farm, which was in a no-spray zone.
  15. Online election season attacks focus on county administrator

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — During election season, incumbent candidates for public office expect to get blasted for their voting records and for pet issues. But in this year's Hernando County Commission races, some of the harshest attacks have been focused on County Administrator Len Sossamon, who doubles as the county's economic development director.

    The latest attack raised the hackles of commission Chairman Jim Adkins, who during this week's commission meeting complained about incorrect information circulating on social media....

    Len Sossamon