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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


Twitter: @DDewittTimes

  1. Hernano teachers, district close to new contract agreement


    Times Staff Writer
    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District and its teachers are close to an greement that would give most of them performance-based raises of about 3 percent, the highest in several years.
    Teachers rated “highly effective” by the district would receive raises of $1,200 for the current school year, according to the a contract tentatively approved by the Hernando County Classroom Teachers’ Association, while those rated “effective” will receive raises of $900, said Kathy Marcucci, the chairman of the union’s negotiating team.
    Of about 1,600 teachers in the district, 1,467 have returned from last year, said Heather Martin, the district’s executive director of business services.
    About 1,000 of those have rated as highly effective, based partly on the results of their students’ tests scores, while about 400 are rated effective. The final agreement is expected at the end of next month....

  2. DeWitt: Commissioners help obscure questions about waste-to-energy


    Jake Varn's performance at last week's Hernando County Commission meeting was masterful — could have even been entertaining, if not for some serious concerns:

    Varn, a Tallahassee development lawyer, was asking the county to commit $69 million over 20 years to a private company with limited resources and a suspect business model.

    And two commissioners, Diane Rowden and Nick Nicholson, seemed less concerned with doing their job — standing up for taxpayers — than helping Varn stage his show....

  3. UF research shows promise in finding cure for citrus greening



    The researchers' tools were chemistry class standards — glass flasks, test tubes and pipettes — but the task performed may be part of a revolutionary cure for the scourge of the state's orange industry: citrus greening.

    The test tube in a tiny lab at the Lake Alfred Citrus Research and Education Center held dissolved citrus tissue. The fluid dripping into it from a pipette carried an enzyme that can snip genes like scissors, along with strands of RNA to guide the enzyme to precise genetic targets....

    A rotten piece of fruit hangs from a tree infested with greening on Oct. 6 at the Lake Alfred Citrus Research and Education Center.
  4. Hernando Supervisor of Elections


    The race for Hernando County supervisor of elections features an incumbent Republican, Shirley Anderson, who is completing her first four-year term in office, and challenger Debra Myers, a Spring Hill Realtor.

    About the job: The elections supervisor administers elections and voter registration for Hernando County. The supervisor serves a four-year term and is paid $126,191 a year.


    Debra Myers
  5. U.S. House | District 11


    The race for the District 11 seat — opened up when incumbent Rep. Richard Nugent decided not to seek re-election — features veteran lawmaker, Rep. Daniel Webster, a Republican from Clermont, and Democrat David Koller, a business owner from Ocala. Webster, who served 28 years in the Florida Legislature before being elected to Congress, announced his candidacy for the seat after the boundaries of his current Orlando-area district were redrawn to include more Democrats. Koller, whose business serves developmentally disabled adults, is running against entrenched politicians who he says are beholden to special interests. The race also includes no-party candidate Bruce Ray Riggs. ...

    Daniel Webster
  6. Hernando County Property Appraiser


    The race for Hernando property appraiser features incumbent John Emerson, who was elected to the job in 2012 and has worked in the office since 1988, and an opponent from the private sector. Jeff Huffman is a licensed appraiser who previously worked for a nationwide company and since 2014 has run his own Brooksville appraisal company.

    About the job: The property appraiser is responsible for determining the value of property in the county for taxing purposes and processing and reviewing applications for exemptions. Funding for the Property Appraiser's Office is based on a formula of ad valorem property taxes assessed by the county and other taxing agencies. The budget for the Property Appraiser's Office is approved by the Florida Department of Revenue. The property appraiser serves a four-year term. The annual salary is $126,191....

    Jeff Huffman
  7. Hernando | School Board, District 4


    The District 4 race pits incumbent Gus Guadagnino, a strong supporter of superintendent Lori Romano and of the successful 2015 campaign for a half-cent sales tax increase, against challenger Bill Vonada, a longtime teacher and coach in the school district, who vows to improve sagging morale in the district.

    About the job: School Board members must live in the districts they represent but are elected at large and serve four-year terms. They set policy for the district and are paid an annual salary of $34,624....

    William J. "Bill" Vonada
  8. School Board candidates offer differing views on state of district


    The two remaining candidates for the District 4 seat on the Hernando County School Board have similar records of service, but sharply different views about the state of the schools.

    Business owner Gus Guadagnino has served on the boards of more than a dozen organizations promoting either commerce or children's causes, including 25 years with the Hernando County Education Foundation.

    The incumbent, Guadagnino points to improving school grades, graduation rates and the restoration of the district's financial well-being and says the schools are good and getting better....

  9. In appeal to state, Hernando sheriff says county provided inadequate 2016-17 budget


    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis has taken a rare step to resolve his ongoing budget dispute with the County Commission, filing an appeal of his allocation with Gov. Rick Scott and the state Cabinet.

    The commission's decision last month to deny his request for an additional $1.7 million — which Nienhuis called a "cut" to his proposed budget — has left his office without the resources needed to do its job, he said during a news conference Monday afternoon....

    Commission Chairman Jim Adkins claimed last week that the sheriff refused to negotiate.
  10. New principal named at Moton Elementary School


    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District has hired an administrator from Lake County to take over as the principal at troubled Moton Elementary School.

    Joe Frana, who has 25 years of experience as an educator, including as a principal at an elementary school in Lake County, was selected partly at the recommendation of a school-based interview committee.

    Frana has experience improving the performance of schools and "an irrepressible spirit of positivity," according to an announcement released by Hernando School District spokeswoman Karen Jordan....

  11. New principal for Moton Elementary


    Hernando County School has hired an veteran administrator from Lake County, Joe Frana, to take over as principal of troubled Moton Elementary School.
    Frana has experience improving the performance of schools and “an irrepressible spirit of positivity,” according to an announcement released by Hernando district spokeswoman Karen Jordan.
    A previous principal, Mark Griffith, and assistant principal, Anna Jensen, were removed from the school during a district investigation last spring. Griffith's replacement, Jame Young, left the job abruptly at the beginning of the school year, saying the district has not provided adequate resources for the school -- an accusation the district denied. The school’s grade also slipped to a D and it is the only Hernando elementary school on the list of the 300 lowest-performing schools in the state....

  12. In property appraiser race, it's public experience versus private


    The race for Hernando County property appraiser features incumbent and longtime office employee John Emerson and an opponent, Jeff Huffman, who touts his experience in the private sector.

    Emerson, a 67-year-old Republican who was first elected four years ago, started working in the office in 1988 and owned an appraisal company before that. He said he has built a long record of efficiently delivering good service....

  13. Elections chief touts experience, improvements in re-election bid


    Debra Myers says she has an unusual advantage in taking on the big challenge of running against an incumbent constitutional officer, in this case Hernando Supervisor of Elections Shirley Anderson:

    She used to work for her.

    Myers, 43, served as a part-time poll worker for eight years, including during the 2014 primary election, which was marred by extensive staff and computer glitches....

  14. Outsider casts himself as alternative to longtime politician in 11th Congressional District race


    The 11th Congressional District features two candidates divided by the politics of their parties, and by the question of whether extensive political experience is good or bad for constituents.

    Though the seat is open — U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent announced last year that he would not seek re-election — Republican Daniel Webster, 67, of Clermont, is a current House member.

    He represented Central Florida for 28 years in the Florida Legislature and for nearly six years has been in the U.S. House of Representatives. He announced his candidacy in the 11th District after his current district was redrawn to include more Democrats....

    Daniel Webster’s House district was recently redrawn.
  15. DeWitt: Time to break with tradition, and the Brooksville Fire Department

    Local Government

    Even more than most small towns, Brooksville loves its Fire Department.

    The city was plagued by arsonists in its early years, and the volunteers who formed the Brooksville Fire Department in 1912 were local heroes.

    How big of a deal was it when the truck rolled out, sirens blaring? Go to the site of the old station on S Brooksville Avenue and you'll find a mural commemorating the scene....

    Brooksville, 1/9/2005.  This fire quickly spread through a free standing double car garage located at 16340 Wiscon Rd. Sunday afternoon about 3:15 p.m.  The Hernando County Fire Department responded to the blaze which was quickly extinguished.  No one was injured, but the building and it's contents were heavily damaged.  The fire department is investigating the cause.