Mostly Cloudy70° FULL FORECASTMostly Cloudy70° FULL FORECAST
Make us your home page

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. The end of a running streak brings appreciation, not regret

    Human Interest

    Nothing in particular was wrong with Ernie Chatman on Sept. 10. He just didn't feel great, didn't have his usual energy.

    And when 9:30 p.m. rolled around, and the temperature had dropped enough that he could have gone out the door, could have squeezed in at least a short evening jog, he thought, "You know, I'm not going to run," Chatman said.

    "I told Linda (his wife), and she said, 'C'mon. You've got to run.' I said, 'No, I'm not doing it. I'm not going to run.' "...

    Chatman, who ran in marathons in every state, has a collection of medals.
  2. Hernando school rezoning plan avoids controversy


    BROOKSVILLE — The often contentious process of redrawing school zones ended quietly Tuesday, with the approval of boundaries that will ease crowding at some Hernando County schools and fill three others that had been nearly half-empty in recent years.

    Previous rezoning efforts had ended with the School Board meeting room packed with angry parents. But before the board unanimously approved a new rezoning plan at a special meeting on Tuesday, only three residents spoke....

    School Board member Beth Narverud liked that the community was involved in the process.
  3. Hernando School Board chairman pushes to open contract negotiations with superintendent


    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County School Board Chairman Gus Guadagnino strongly advocated negotiating a new contract for superintendent Lori Romano on Tuesday and criticized fellow board members for not backing his position.

    "We have a superintendent who has brought us to a level we have not been at in three years," Guadagnino said at the start of a special board meeting.

    "I think it's kind of disrespectful to me as your chairman of the board, and her as your superintendent, to drag this out. ... I don't understand why we can't give that vote of confidence to our superintendent."...

  4. Hernando schools face future with slim financial reserves


    BROOKSVILLE — The "scary" financial situation Hernando County School Board Chairman Gus Guadagnino spoke about at last week's final budget hearing can clearly be seen in the decline of district's fund balance.

    At the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year on June 30, 2013, the balance — essentially the money left over from the previous year — was $16.3 million. A year later, it had fallen to $14.4 million. By this year, it had plummeted to $6.5 million....

    “In case anybody doesn’t understand, we have put ourselves in jeopardy as far as our reputation and our careers.”
Gus Guadagnino,  School Board chairman at last week’s budget hearing
  5. DeWitt: Shocking case of bank fraud shows need for reforms


    If a sports team held a fundraising carwash, Dave Donato was sure to stop by with his car and might even grab a rag and help out.

    If a Hernando High School football player needed cleats, Donato would find a pair or buy them himself.

    When helmets were dirty, he cleaned them. When ice buckets were empty, he filled them, said Blair Hensley, co-owner of Florida Cracker Kitchen in Brooksville....

    David Donato, 58, accused of bank fraud, was a longtime treasurer of the Hernando Youth League.
  6. Hernando school budget passed, but with the slimmest of reserves


    BROOKSVILLE — At a public hearing Tuesday that focused on a stubborn $1.5 million budget gap and the reserve funds used to help close it, the Hernando County School Board approved a $250 million budget for the current fiscal year.

    Just a day before the meeting — the district's second and final budget hearing — the plan to bridge the gap by imposing three furlough days for district employees led to an emergency negotiating session....

  7. DeWitt: Tainted Commissioner Nick Nicholson should step down


    Nick Nicholson needs to go, and the sooner the better.

    Ideally, our County Commission chairman would resign immediately. The other, less desirable option is for him to promise not to seek re-election next year and quietly serve out his term.

    Really, you have to wonder what's stopping him. It's not as if he has a chance to win.

    Nicholson disagrees, of course. He and his political career will be just fine, he told the Times' Barbara Behrendt. Yes, he used bad judgment, which he's sorry about. But he's been a great commissioner, he said, who is the victim of a politically motivated attack....

  8. Former students honor Lorenzo Hamilton for his help during early years of school integration


    BROOKSVILLE — Last year, after the funeral of an old friend from south Brooksville, Doris Inmon and a few of her contemporaries noticed that Lorenzo Hamilton had been there, as he almost always is at events honoring former students.

    And it would be a shame, they said to one another, if they waited until Hamilton's own funeral to tell him how much they appreciated his support, especially during those sometimes-frightening years of school integration....

    The deeds of longtime Hernando educator and coach Lorenzo Hamilton were recognized at a series of events last weekend.
  9. Hernando sales tax vote taught political lessons, supporters say


    BROOKSVILLE — Joanne Lyon, exiting a Brooksville polling place Tuesday afternoon, was happy to say she had voted for the Hernando County School District's half-cent sales tax and happy to say why.

    "I just feel the schools really need the help," said Lyon, 63, who once worked as school bus driver in South Florida. "And a half cent is not going to hurt me."

    That sentiment overwhelmingly carried the day Tuesday, as voters approved renewal of the tax by a 21 percentage-point margin. The convincing victory, supporters said, proved that voters will support a tax increase if they receive clear evidence it is reasonable and necessary....

  10. Sales tax for Hernando schools appears headed for passage


    BROOKSVILLE — A half-cent school sales tax in Hernando County was headed for a comfortable victory in a special election on Tuesday.

    The measure was passing by a three-to-two margin with more than 90 percent of the votes counted. The approval of the tax, projected to raise more than $8 million annually, was billed as crucial to keep up with repairs of aging schools.

    "This means that all these projects that are necessary will be able to get done," said John Mitten, co-chairman of the Save Our Students Hernando political action committee that supported the tax....

  11. Hernando commission, sheriff appear headed for budget compromise

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission has avoided a potential showdown with Sheriff Al Nienhuis, putting the two sides on the path to a compromise before the county's final budget hearing on Sept. 22.

    Before the first hearing Thursday evening, Nienhuis asked for a $1.6 million increase to his office's current budget of $41.3 million.

    He argued before the meeting — and at a half-hour presentation during the hearing — that the county could expect to collect an additional $2.5 million in revenue during the coming fiscal year, mostly because of an increase in the taxable value of county property....

    Sheriff Al Nienhuis sought a $1.6 million increase from the current $41.3 million budget.
  12. DeWitt: A tribute to Logan Neill, Tampa Bay's own music man

    Human Interest

    Logan Neill caught what was maybe Bill Monroe's last performance 19 years ago and, while he was at it, caught the great bluegrass musician himself.

    Hearing that Monroe might make one of his impromptu appearances at a bar in Tarpon Springs, Logan, who was then this paper's pop music critic, and Dave Scheiber, his editor, raced to the club and took front-row seats shortly before the 84-year-old Monroe began to mount the stage....

    Logan Neill leads a bluegrass picking session in the living room of his home in Crystal River.  For many years, parties at the eight-acre property brought journalists and great musicians together.
  13. As vote approaches Tuesday, supporters optimistic for passage of Hernando schools sales tax


    The poll results, though preliminary and completely unscientific, were nevertheless encouraging to supporters of renewing the Hernando County School District's half-cent sales tax.

    "We're getting a lot of honks," said Melinda Barrett, who stood at Spring Hill Drive and Mariner Boulevard in Spring Hill last week, holding a sign imploring drivers to honk if they supported the tax.

    "Once you explain to people exactly what it's for, they seem to be supporting it more," said Barrett, an instructional coach at Explorer K-8 School and first vice chairwoman of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association....

    Jo Ann Hartge, left, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association, instructional coach Melinda Barrett and teacher Lucy Tucker try to drum up support last month in Spring Hill for the half-cent sales tax for schools.
  14. DeWitt: Richard Nugent would seek to undermine the noble 14th Amendment


    U.S. Rep. Richard Nugent is modest in manner and appearance.

    No comb-over, no bombast, no "The" affixed to his first name as a running joke on his pomposity.

    Yet if Nugent's style has little in common with front-running Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, his position on Trump's trademark issue, immigration, is in some ways identical — meaning identically outrageous....

    Richard Nugent’s name is on an anti-birthright citizenship bill.
  15. Chairman of Hernando County Democratic Party resigns, cites dispute over finances


    BROOKSVILLE — After less than six months on the job, Jimmy Lodato has announced he will step down as chairman of the Democratic Party in Hernando County.

    Lodato, a retired businessman who has run unsuccessfully for County Commission as both a Republican and a Democrat, wrote in an email to party members Monday night that his main reason for leaving was the shortage of funds, combined with the expense of maintaining the party's office on Deltona Boulevard in Spring Hill....