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Dan DeWitt, Hernando Times Columnist

Dan DeWitt

Dan DeWitt has worked as a reporter or columnist for the Times in Hernando County since 1989. He and his wife, Laura, live with their two sons south of Brooksville.

DeWitt previously worked for the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press. A Cincinnati native, he attended Kenyon College in Ohio and received a master's degree in journalism from the University of Michigan.

Phone: (352) 754-6116

Email: ddewitt@tampabay.com

Twitter: @DDewittTimes

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  1. Hernando School Board chairman: Backing sales tax is board's duty

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando School Board Chairman Gus Guadagnino raised the question about a possible special election for a half-cent sales tax — "Is this something we should do?" he asked Tuesday — then delivered the most definite "yes."

    "One way or another, we have to take care of our school system," said Guadagnino, who at last week's board workshop framed the passage of the tax as a moral imperative — and as a measure with a good chance of passing....

    Hernando School Board Chairman Gus Guadagnino thinks the measure’s prospects are favorable.
  2. Like him or not, Hernando's Blaise Ingoglia a major GOP force

    Local Government

    It seemed unlikely that a former tournament poker player who made his name bashing government and his fortune in speculative housing could be elected statewide leader of the Republican Party.

    But then again, his opponent was a stand-in for a governor who has an even more questionable business history, and who recently has seemed intent on irritating loyal Republicans and undermining his own credibility....

    Blaise Ingoglia is the new chairman of the state GOP.
  3. City of Weeki Wachee approves senior housing development

    Growth

    WEEKI WACHEE — The three-member Weeki Wachee City Council has approved an 86-unit apartment complex on one of the city's few remaining vacant lots — a 9-acre parcel on U.S. 19 across from the entrance to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.

    The apartments will be available only to renters 55 and older, and the land is owned by Greystone LLP of Clearwater, which also owned the site of the nearby Dollar General store....

  4. Hernando County schools may lose small-district funding

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Last spring, when state law was changed to give Hernando County schools the extra state funding granted to small districts, it was hailed as a great victory.

    "It's huge for us, a huge win for the district," superintendent Lori Romano said at time.

    Now it appears the district might not be quite small enough — and that the law might not have changed enough — for cash-strapped Hernando schools to receive this small-district bonus....

  5. DeWitt: Nugent's challenge of House speaker is all about job security

    National

    It looks like a bold move, but is actually a play for safety.

    It looks as if U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent, R-Spring Hill, is willing to take on the very model of an entrenched politician, when the idea is to become more entrenched himself.

    Nugent, as you've no doubt heard by now, voted for Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden, instead of incumbent John Boehner for House speaker earlier this month. On Saturday, he doubled down, releasing a statement that blasted Boehner's leadership....

  6. Parade highlights several days of Dr. M.L. King activities in Hernando

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Brooksville's Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade on Monday will be part of celebration lasting several days, drawing participants and spectators from around the region and, organizers hope, all sections of the community.

    "This is not just a black holiday for black residents," said Billy Healis, a local Walmart executive who has helped organize the parade the past two years. "It is national holiday for all members of the community."...

    The Hernando High School marching band walks along Fort Dade Avenue in Brooksville during the 2014 Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.
  7. Former Hernando detention deputy sentenced to 15 years for burning child with a hair dryer

    Criminal

    BROOKSVILLE — After coming home from a shift as a Hernando County Sheriff's Office detention deputy, Cody Marrone used a hair dryer to burn the buttocks and genitals of his girlfriend's 3-year-old son.

    Marrone first waited for the metal grill of the dryer to heat up, Circuit Judge Stephen E. Toner said at a sentencing hearing on Thursday. He then pressed hard enough for the grill, which was recessed from the end of the dryer, to touch the boy's skin, and held it there long enough to inflict several permanent scars....

  8. For Pasco, but not Hernando, location is boosting the housing market

    Real Estate

    Hernando County's housing market, though much improved at the end of 2014, is still is far from recovery.

    In Pasco County, on the other hand, houses are selling fast enough that some people have dared to call it a boom.

    The difference?

    "Jobs, jobs — everything is jobs," said Vladimir Hucko, a veteran Spring Hill Realtor.

    That may be true. But the employment that has boosted Pasco's housing market is not necessarily in Pasco....

  9. DeWitt: Gay marriage, and tolerance, come to Brooksville

    Human Interest

    Gary Sechen and Wynn Miller, like a lot of gay men their age, have tended to move to places where they felt accepted:

    New York City in the 1980s, Key West in the 1990s and, three years ago, Brooksville.

    Of course, Sechen, 60, and Miller, 70, didn't know for sure whether Brooksville would fit in so well with those famously tolerant cities.

    But it's Brooksville — or, actually their home in the country a few miles to the east — where they've developed a close friendship with one neighbor and have been left in peace by others, even the ones who fly Confederate flags....

    Wynn Miller, left, and Gary Sechen of Brooksville exchange wedding vows before Clerk Don Barbee.
  10. Same-sex couples around Tampa Bay line up to get married and make history

    Courts

    TAMPA — Before she presided over a mass wedding ceremony Tuesday, Hillsborough Clerk of Court Pat Frank asked the dozens of gay couples how many years they had waited for the moment.

    "Ten!'

    "Twenty-six!''

    "Forty-three!''

    "Forty three!" said Frank. "Well, you have waited a long time."

    No longer. At that park in Tampa and across Florida, wedding bells rang for same-sex couples, the result of a successful court challenge to the state's 2008 ban on gay marriages....

    Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court Pat Frank, right, marries Brenda Cuevas, left, and Shirley Winslow at the circuit court office, Tuesday in Tampa. [SKIP O'ROURKE | Times]
  11. Red-cockaded woodpeckers better off at forest in Hernando and across the country

    Human Interest

    BROOKSVILLE

    The fire-groomed forest — the tall, well-spaced longleaf pines, the floor of ferns and wire grass speckled with the last of the fall wildflowers — was proof that nature can thrive with a little help.

    So was the particular pine that Vince Morris approached on an overcast afternoon in mid November. The artificial cavity he'd placed in the trunk nearly a decade ago had gone native. Its residents had drilled into the surrounding bark, striking resin that had hardened like wax on a candle and formed an ancient form of protection against snakes....

    The red-cockaded woodpecker, a federally endangered species, is a target of preservation efforts in the Withlacoochee State Forest near Brooksville.
  12. DeWitt: Revisiting some of the past year's stories — good and bad

    Human Interest

    My annual update on selected stories and columns from the past year.

    •••

    It was nearly a year ago that Walmart, the Hernando County chapter of the NAACP and the city of Brooksville hosted the county's most stirring Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in years: marching bands, floats and the appearance of a distinguished parade marshal, former professional football player Maulty Moore....

    Brooksville natives and Tampa residents Matt Sufficool, right, and his brother Andrew are 9,400 miles into their 17,000-mile cycling trip from Deadhorse, Alaska, to Ushuaia, Argentina.
  13. With help of grant, historic Chinsegut manor house is restored

    Tourism

    At one point, the state was prepared to sell the historic Chinsegut Hill Manor House and its surrounding property to the highest bidder.

    And for many years, the organization devoted to saving the house, Friends of Chinsegut Hill, struggled to raise enough money to keep it from further decay.

    But in 2014, thanks to a $1.5 million state grant, the group was able to restore most of the structure's former glory. The money allowed the group to shore up the sagging foundation, replace rotting window frames, install heart-pine floors and, of course, repair the house, the first part of which was built in 1849....

    March: Contractors work on the extensive restoration.
  14. After fire, Papa Joe's in Brooksville prepares to reopen March 3

    Fire

    First came the fire at Papa Joe's Italian Restaurant. Then the rallying of a grateful community. Now the rebuilding.

    The fire, which started in building's wiring after midnight on Jan. 24, quickly consumed the 5,000-square-foot restaurant east of Brooksville.

    Owners Joe and Donna Giarratana, who had a long tradition of fundraising and providing food for worthy causes, were on the receiving end for a change — or at least their employees were....

    Florinda Benitez, right, a former employee, consoles Papa Joe’s Italian Restaurant co-owner Donna Giarratana on Jan. 24.
  15. Annual count of birds and bird species in Brooksville area is mostly a success

    Wildlife

    BROOKSVILLE — Sometimes the reasons for a shortage of a particular species of bird on a particular day are obscure and might include shifts in weather patterns or changing agricultural practices in distant countries.

    And sometimes the causes are as obvious as the hunter's shotgun blast that rang out over Bystre Lake on Saturday morning.

    "I'm going to guess that's going to hurt our chances for a whole lot of ducks," said Mike Liberton, the leader of a crew of birders that had met for Brooksville's contribution to the National Audubon Society's 115th annual Christmas Bird Count....

    Birders, from left, Vince Morris, Caitlin Gille, Mike Liberton and Becky LaRoche discuss birding strategy at the shore of Bystre Lake, east of Brooksville, on Saturday for the Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count.