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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. Ernie Chatman, a legendary Hernando County coach and runner, dies

    Crosscountrypreps

    BROOKSVILLE — One of Hernando County's greatest institutions wasn't stationary. Unlike Weeki Wachee Springs, Brooksville's Coney Island Drive-Inn or Tom Varn Park, Ernie Chatman never was embedded in a singular spot.

    This local fixture — teacher, coach, mentor, umpire — got around, typically at a pace that belied his birth certificate.

    Every day, humidity or freeze warnings be darned, the married dad of three and grandfather of six churned out one mile after another, usually in preparation for an upcoming marathon. For 8,814 consecutive days — a stretch of more than 24 years — Mr. Chatman ran at least one mile (and typically several more)....

    Ernie Chatman
  2. Hernando commission candidate's texts detail liaison

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Justin Williams, whose then-wife Lacie had a sexual relationship with Springstead High School wrestling coach and Hernando County Commission candidate Michael LaRocca, said he has been asked by district officials to meet with them Monday.

    Though Hernando County School District spokeswoman Karen Jordan said the district is not investigating LaRocca's actions, Williams said he was told to bring to the meeting his phone with text messages from LaRocca....

    Hernando Commission candidate Michael LaRocca said he was told there was no investigation.
  3. DeWitt: Community policing can inspire unity

    Human Interest

    Deputy Jason Deso encouraged the teenaged girl, who a few weeks earlier had been so distraught that she was taken to a mental health hospital for her own protection, to continue with her therapy and medications.

    He handed her his card. He told her that if she ever needs help finding follow-up care or even wants to talk, "you can just give me a shout."

    The girl's mother, Beatrice Hamilton, listened approvingly and said afterwards she was pleasantly surprised that a deputy had bothered to follow up....

  4. DeWitt: Give residents a voice in deciding Hernando's future growth

    Growth

    It was shaping up as a lonely Wednesday for DeeVon Quirolo.

    It's not that Quirolo, president of Nature Coast Conservation Inc. and one of the most effective environmental activists in the county, is incapable of speaking up for herself.

    It's just that she would have been seriously outnumbered at the first meeting of community stakeholders for the update of the county's comprehensive plan on July 20....

  5. For Spring Hill family, an unconventional trail to recovery

    Health

    SPRING HILL

    Heidi Jorg finally tracked down her daughter, Elly Jorg-Weyde, as Elly wandered down an empty street in Spring Hill on an afternoon in late April.

    "She was totally not lucid. She thought people were following her," Heidi said.

    Elly, 18, who had once spent hours in front of a makeup mirror, "was filthy," her mother said. "Her teeth were disgusting, and she probably weighed 105 pounds."...

    Heidi Jorg, left, listens to her daughter Elly Jorg-Weyde, 18, talk about her struggles with drugs at their Spring Hill home. As an alternative to costly rehab, Heidi took Elly on a long Appalachian Trail hike.
  6. Explanations aside, some board members express concern over lower school grades

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District said after school grades were released last week that the drop in marks at 11 of its schools could be blamed on a change in the rating system.

    But some School Board members, while accepting that explanation, saw cause for concern.

    "There are too many schools that dropped a grade for my taste," said board chairman Matt Foreman.

    "I'm very disappointed," said board member Susan Duval....

  7. DeWitt: South Brooksville center should live up to revered teacher's legacy

    Crime

    Princess McCalop stepped outside her mobile home on St. Francis Street in south Brooksville and briefly closed the door on the unmistakable sound of small children racing around a small, enclosed space.

    It was her two nieces and nephew, McCalop said, on the sweltering afternoon of July 4, and there wasn't a lot for them to do but hang out and watch television — and certainly nothing at the South Brooksville Community Center....

  8. Hogan steps down from party post in Hernando, opposes Ingoglia as his replacement

    News

    BROOKSVILLE — For the first time in at least 55 years, a new Republican state committeeman will represent Hernando County.

    Tom Hogan Sr., who has held the job since 1961 — seven years before Hernando elected its first Republican county commissioner — has announced he will step down in August.

    Hogan also had strong words about who he wants to replace him — or, more to the point, who he does not want: state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia of Spring Hill, who also serves as chairman of the local and state parties and who qualified to run for committeeman last week....

    Tom Hogan Sr.  says Blaise Ingoglia wears too many hats.
  9. As season starts, Hernando promotes sustainable scallop harvest

    Wildlife

    BAYPORT — The parking lot at Bayport Park on Monday was crowded with trucks and trailers that had recently deposited the boats of scallop-seeking divers. According to local marina workers, the waters were even more mobbed over the weekend — the first days of the annual scallop season, which runs through Sept. 24.

    Though this has always been a busy time of year in the waters of Hernando County, there are plans to make it even busier — but more sustainable, said Brittany Hall-Scharf, a Florida Sea Grant agent with the Hernando County Cooperative Extension Service office in Brooksville....

    Find the Hernando scallop brochure at flseagrant.org. Click on “scalloping” then scroll down to “brochures by county.”
  10. DeWitt: Details of bank failure add to concerns about Hogan's character

    Local Government

    Brooksville City Council member Betty Erhard is worried about Tom Hogan Jr.'s $10 million debt to the Internal Revenue Service.

    Not only the debt, which he is contesting in U.S. Tax Court, but the way the IRS says he accumulated it, according to recent story in the Times: running a tax haven in the U.S. Virgin Islands more than a decade ago.

    Erhard raised this issue to her considerably less-bothered colleagues at a Brooksville City Council meeting last week and in an interview afterward:...

  11. DeWitt: Hospital should have ponied up for road from which it will benefit

    Growth

    No business benefited more from Hernando County's post-boom impact fee generosity than Oak Hill Hospital.

    It completed two major expansions in the past five years, with a full impact on roads estimated by county consultants at more than $800,000.

    The amount it paid in transportation impact fees? Zero.

    The way I see it, that's a big public debt built up by Oak Hill's deep-pocketed owner, Hospital Corporation of America....

  12. In surprise move, Hernando deputy school superintendent resigns

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — In a move that shocked some Hernando County School District officials, Eric Williams has resigned as deputy superintendent after one year on the job.

    Williams, 44, who has served as a district staffer since 2008, according to a biography he provided to the Times last year, was promoted to his $96,200-a-year job last year during a shake-up of district-level administrators....

    Eric Williams resigned as Hernando’s deputy superinten-dent Tuesday after one year on the job.
  13. Hernando flooring store owner charged with taking more than $186,000 from customers

    Crime

    BROOKSVILLE — Two weeks ago, David Chodzko drove to Georgie's Flooring Outlet to find out when owner George Carr would finally get around to installing the new flooring and countertops that had already cost Chodzko $6,000.

    Probably never, Chodzko realized that day.

    The store on Cortez Boulevard west of Brooksville was closed, and in the few minutes Chodzko was in the parking lot, he was joined by four other customers who complained that they had been stiffed....

    George Carr was arrested on a charge of aggravated grand theft.
  14. Candidate pulls out of crowded Hernando School Board race

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Willis Reese III has created elbow room in the crowded District 2 Hernando County School Board race, announcing his withdrawal from the contest last week after accepting a teaching job in Pinellas County.

    Reese taught seventh-grade math at Winding Waters K-8 School this year, but learned last month that his contract would not be renewed. That action and his inability to find another job in the Hernando district for next school year, he claimed, was at least partly due to his political activity....

  15. DeWitt: Claims of viable waste-to-energy process ring hollow

    Local Government

    It's a seductive idea.

    A company takes all or most of Hernando County's garbage, mechanically sorts out recyclables and converts whatever remains to gas or fuel pellets that can be burned to produce clean energy.

    No sorting of cans or newspapers. The end of wasteful landfilling. Ultimately, big savings for the county.

    Problem is, at this point it's a fantasy. With just a few calls it becomes clear the county has spent two years chasing a mirage....