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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

  1. DeWitt: Need for additional dollars continues for Hernando County schools


    You voters out there who passed the half-cent school sales tax last year might have figured you were done.

    You were willing to dig into your pockets for kids and classrooms. You did your part to ensure Hernando County has an adequately funded, well-functioning school system.

    Well, sorry, it wasn't enough. The time will soon come to do more, to dig deeper.

    That was the basic message during an informal School Board meeting last week, the time when, as Chairman Matt Foreman said, the board has some of its most "spirited discussions."...

    Jo Ann Hartge, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association, left, and teacher Lucy Tucker wave signs in support of the half-cent sales tax for schools referendum, which voters passed. Still, the county schools’ financial woes continue.
  2. Hernando teachers, school district reach agreement on contract


    BROOKSVILLE — More than halfway through the school year, Hernando County teachers have a contract agreement that will give them performance-based raises of, at most, less than 2 percent.

    But the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association got a verbal promise of a larger raise next year — and a concession that its members will not pick up the entire cost of any premium increase for medical insurance in 2016-17....

  3. DeWitt: Manuel's approach to transportation is, for a change, not just about roads


    Transportation projects are to the history of commerce in Hernando County what wars are to the history of nations.

    They are the landmarks, and their advocates — going way back to the guy who brought Brooksville its first 19th century rail spur — are its heroes.

    Road maps of the 1950s made Brooksville look like a booming hub of enterprise because, as chairman of the State Road Board, Alfred McKethan was able to direct large chunks of highway funding to then-tiny Hernando....

    Cliff Manuel was elected last month as the vice chairman of TBARTA.
  4. Hernando School Board locks in superintendent Lori Romano for four more years


    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board put the district on a path to having its longest-serving leader in 27 years, voting Tuesday to approve a new four-year contract with superintendent Lori Romano.

    The contract includes a $20,000 pay increase in Romano's base salary the first year — bumping it from $120,000 to $140,000 — with $5,000 annual raises in each of the following three years....

    “I’m very excited to be able to continue to move the district forward,” Lori Romano said.
  5. Hernando Sheriff's Office says it is taking a second look at actions of road builder

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — For the second time in a little more than a year, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office has opened a criminal investigation into the actions of troubled road builder B.R.W. Contracting Inc.

    "There are a lot of things on the surface that are concerning, and we want to review the facts and review them with the State Attorney's Office," Sheriff's Office Col. Michael Maurer said Monday....

  6. DeWitt: Withholding of information about arrest of public official's daughter raises questions


    Sadly, a promising young woman started making stupid, dishonest decisions a few weeks ago.

    While working as a clerk at a Target store in Hernando County, she stole from the cash register, according to an arrest report. Small amounts at first, but then in chunks of more than $200 and even $300, for a total of $2,283 — all of it caught on a security video.

    Jenna Barbee was arrested at the store on Jan. 11 on a felony charge of organized fraud and taken to the Hernando County Detention Center, where she was released on $1,000 bail....

  7. Hernando school superintendent doesn't get job in Osceola


    The Osceola County School Board on Tuesday passed over Hernando County school superintendent Lori Romano for its top job — a decision Hernando board members said would likely lead to renewed negotiations to keep her in her current position.

    "I can understand (Romano's) frustration or disappointment, if she has any," said Hernando County School Board member Mark Johnson, a vocal supporter of Romano's. "But now maybe we can get serious and move forward and get this thing done."...

    The Hernando County School Board contemplates renewed negotiations with chief Lori Romano.
  8. DeWitt: Twenty years later, the pain of random killings lingers


    Brent Gaustad, the principal at Parrott Middle School and a close friend of former Hernando High teachers Michael Imhoff and Mike Bristol, said that enough time had passed since their murders that the people who loved them could gather without mourning.

    "It's been 20 years," Gaustad told a crowd packed into the atrium of the performing arts center at Hernando High School on Monday evening for an anniversary remembrance of the teachers. "Let's celebrate their lives."...

    Mike Bristol was recalled as a talented math teacher.
  9. Hernando School Board holds tense, unproductive meeting regarding superintendent's contract


    BROOKSVILLE — A special meeting called this week to settle the contract of Hernando County school superintendent Lori Romano got the School Board no closer to its goal — but did reveal new levels of rancor among members.

    Chairman Matt Foreman, who called the meeting and who is representing the board in negotiations, said he hadn't heard back from Romano about his last offer.

    That meant, School Board attorney Dennis Alfonso said near the start of Tuesday's two-hour meeting, that there weren't any specific terms, or even a range of terms, to talk about....

    School chief Lori Romano hasn’t replied to the latest contract offer.
  10. DeWitt: Sales figures indicate growth in Hernando, for good and bad, is on the horizon

    Real Estate

    A decade after the peak of the boom, the Hernando County real estate industry appears to be fully and finally over the bust.

    We haven't yet returned to the land of rapid growth. But it's close enough that we can see it from here, close enough that we can start thinking about how to grow smarter this time around — which really shouldn't be that difficult.

    The median sale price of a house in Hernando climbed a robust 9.1 percent in November compared to the same month a year ago. Also up during that period were the volume of home sales and the number of listings in the pipeline....

    New home construction appears to be on the rebound in Hernando County.
  11. Hernando board split on superintendent negotiations


    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board is divided along predictable lines over the question of how much money to offer in contract negotiations with superintendent Lori Romano and how likely she is to stay in her current job.

    Romano is a finalist for the same job in the much larger Osceola County School District. Its board is scheduled to meet Jan. 19 to choose a new superintendent — a job that is advertised as paying between $185,000 and $225,000 a year....

  12. Spring Hill pastor will run for Congress


    SPRING HILL — Jack Martin, a minister who lives in Spring Hill, has announced his candidacy for the District 11 congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Richard Nugent.

    Martin, 64, is senior pastor at the Praise Family Worship Center in Hudson, according to his announcement, and was the longtime chaplain for the former Spring Hill Fire Rescue District.

    In the statement, Martin identifies himself as a “constitutional conservative” and a member of the “religious right.” He criticizes current lawmakers for being too willing to compromise on conservative principles....

  13. Hernando School Board divided over negotiations with superintendent


    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board is divided along predictable lines over the question of how much money to offer in contract negotiations with superintendent Lori Romano and how likely she is to stay in her current job.

    Romano is a finalist for the same job in the much larger Osceola County School District. Its board is scheduled to meet Jan. 19 to choose a new superintendent — a job that is advertised as paying between $185,000 and $225,000 a year....

  14. 2015 in Review: Nugent decides not to seek re-election; and endorses staffer to replace him


    In a move that revived memories of his own rise to national office, U.S. Rep. Richard Nugent, R-Spring Hill, announced in November that he would not run again for his District 11 seat — and that he would throw his support behind longtime chief of staff Justin Grabelle.

    Critics, including the Democratic candidate for the seat, Dave Koller, said it was a little too much like former Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite's announcement that she would not seek re-election in 2010. That she did it immediately before the qualifying deadline — and had alerted only Nugent — gave Nugent an open primary for the seat....

  15. Epilogue: Derrill S. McAteer, a pioneering board chairman of Swiftmud


    BROOKSVILLE — Derrill S. McAteer, one of the earliest and most influential board members of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, was a Republican and staunch believer in property rights but nevertheless fought for the right to regulate groundwater pumping.

    Mr. McAteer, 83, who died early Monday of heart disease, also was an early advocate of the detailed mapping of floodplains to control flood-prone construction. And though he was the child of farmers, he used eminent domain to acquire crucial sections of the Green Swamp....

    Derrill S. McAteer, shown in the late 1960s, died at age 83. His work helped set state models.