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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. Out in the woods, Hernando couple distills award-winning whiskey

    Business

    WEEKI WACHEE

    Not only is Wild Buck American Rye Whiskey handmade; so is its distillery.

    Husband-and-wife owners Kevin and Natalie Goff built the horse barn that houses the cooking pots and stills on their 80 acres surrounded by the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area, west of U.S. 19.

    The chilling system is a hose coiled in an ice machine and then routed to the cookers. The paddles that agitate the mash were taken from a mortar mixer. To control the winch that opens the lid on his cooking pots, Kevin uses the remote from a garage door opener....

    A hand-hammered copper still, center, is at the heart of the Goffs’ distillery operation. Kevin Goff has fabricated much of his equipment, including a cooling system surrounding the still.
  2. Commissioner Jim Adkins holds the key vote on proposed new mine

    Local Government

    The slim hope of avoiding the worst local land-use decision in years rests with county Commissioner Jim Adkins.

    All it would take is a "no" vote on Tuesday, when the commission will be asked whether to approve a 573-acre rock mine just west of Brooksville.

    Permission to mine this land requires a change to the county's comprehensive plan, which needs a super-majority — four votes to approve and, more to the point here, two votes to kill....

  3. Hernando School Board sets sales tax vote for November

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board on Tuesday picked both the time for its planned half-cent sales tax referendum — November — and the approach for the campaign.

    "We all preferred the low-cost option," school district spokesman Eric Williams said, speaking of a sales tax task force formed in February.

    The strategy includes soliciting in-kind donations from media organizations, speaking to community groups, holding town hall meetings and informally polling residents rather than paying for polling....

  4. Reorganization will leave five Hernando school administrators without jobs

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando school superintendent Lori Romano is proposing a sweeping reorganization of top staffers that will leave at least five of them looking for jobs before the start of the 2015-16 school year.

    Overall, the reorganization will result in only one less staffer at the district office and save a total of $114,000.

    Romano, who will seek the School Board's approval of the plan at a workshop today, declined a request for an interview. School spokesman Eric Williams said the reorganization is designed to cut costs, eliminate under-performing employees and improve efficiency....

    Hernando County school chief Lori Romano has been with the district two years.
  5. DeWitt: Petition for bike path through Brooksville might help

    Transportation

    The city of Brooksville is circulating a petition asking for the Coast to Coast Connector bike trail to come through Brooksville "as opposed to being routed around the city on the State Road 50 truck bypass."

    Seeing that this petition, with its pleading conclusion, "please don't bypass our city," will go to a state agency, the Department of Transportation, and given that our state's leaders seem so willing to ignore its people, this seems a quaint exercise. A little bit naive. Totally pointless....

  6. Agriculture and Wildlife Expo organizers say it's different than Hernando County Fair

    Agriculture

    BROOKSVILLE — It's receiving a charter from the state, just as a county fair would. It will showcase local agricultural products, which is what a fair does.

    But the new Florida Agriculture and Wildlife Expo is not a fair, or at least it's not designed to replace the Hernando County Fair, its organizers say.

    "People are going to try to tie it in with the fair, but we're not trying to compete, and that's why we made sure our dates are way away from the fair's," said Deanna Naugler, a longtime leader of 4-H and the Hernando County Junior Cattlemen's Association....

  7. Swiftmud, give us proof before selling conservation lands

    Environment

    Nearly 20 years ago, the state announced an ambitious plan to buy 32,000 acres of prized habitat called the Annutteliga Hammock.

    Turns out it was probably too ambitious.

    The Southwest Florida Water Management District now says it will unload — or "surplus," as the district euphemistically calls it — about 2,500 acres of conservation land throughout the district, more than 1,000 acres of it in the hammock....

  8. Packing house a sign of strength for Pasco, Hernando blueberry industry

    Agriculture

    BROOKSVILLE — A river of blueberries flowed off a conveyor belt at the Spiech Farms packing house and into plastic clamshells that suggest this area's agricultural future may be a little like its glorious past.

    In the pre-freeze heyday of the local citrus industry, the names of Dade City and Brooksville traveled the country on the lushly illustrated packing-crate labels of brands such as O-Mi-O, Blue Heron and Zeneda....

    Blueberries ripen in a field nearby the Spiech Farms packing house in Brooksville. Spiech Farms has contracts with 14 growers in Hernando, Pasco, Citrus and Sumter counties, and expects to pack 1 million pounds of fruit this season, Tim Spiech said.
  9. Buyers of Brooksville's Quarry Golf Course say they were cheated, ask for action

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Dan Leihgeber suspected he'd been had on his first day running the city of Brooksville's Quarry Golf Course.

    The man who sold him the business of operating the course had claimed in an advertisement that it "grossed between $85,000 and $135,000 annually."

    But on the "clear, beautiful October day" that Leihgeber took over the course, his total receipts were $55, he said....

    Bob Carson plays a round of golf in 2011, soon after he became manager of the Quarry Golf Course. Two potential buyers of the business that operates the course want him to face criminal charges and one has filed a lawsuit. The city has filed one as well.
  10. DeWitt: Vincent House would offer much-needed help for Hernando's mentally ill

    News

    Rita Tice sees the need for a refuge like Pinellas County's Vincent House almost every day.

    Parents come by the Spring Hill office of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and tell Tice about adult sons and daughters who are struggling with depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. These troubled, working-age people have nowhere to live but with their parents or on the street. They have no place welcoming to spend their days. Jobs and job training are just about nonexistent....

    Rita Tice, executive director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness Hernando, says she routinely encounters people who say a relative is out of control and needs help. “And there just isn’t any.”
  11. Arnett Doctor, driving force behind Rosewood reparations, dies at 72

    Legislature

    SPRING HILL — A lot of factors contributed to the passage of the historic Rosewood compensation law 21 years ago.

    Witnesses were still alive to share their harrowing accounts of the racially motivated 1923 massacre that left at least six black and two white residents dead. High-powered lawyers got behind the bill. They produced crucial evidence of the loss of property, as well as lives....

    Arnett Doctor, a descendent of people involved in the Rosewood attacks that left six black people and two white people dead, helped win $2.1 million for Rosewood survivors.
  12. Hernando school shows FSA tests not all bad

    K12

    The orange sheet of paper taped to the door of a classroom at Westside Elementary School warned that the dreaded time of year had finally arrived.

    "TESTING," it said in bold, capital letters, followed by the test's actual name in much smaller type so as not to spread too much anxiety: "Florida Standards Assessment."

    One measure of how people feel about FSA was the reaction to last week's address to the Hernando County School Board from anti-testing's child crusader, 9-year-old Sydney Smoot....

    Sydney Smoot, 9, a fourth-grader at Brooksville Elementary School, addresses the Hernando County School Board meeting on March 17.
  13. Nine-year-old testing critic gets big hand from Hernando School Board

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Teachers have been complaining about the new Florida Standards Assessment. Parents have weighed in. So has the Legislature.

    But on Tuesday, the Hernando County School Board heard from someone who has actually sat at a computer to take the test — Brooksville Elementary School fourth-grader, Sydney Smoot.

    Her passionate and articulate address, which in 2 minutes hit most of the anti-FSA talking points, was punctuated by ad-libbed hand gestures and capped with a standing ovation from the audience and the board....

  14. DeWitt: School Board obligated to get word out about financial woes

    K12

    I checked, and they are allowed to do it. Hernando County School Board members can, in fact, advocate for their district.

    They can spread the word that it's flat broke or, more accurately, deep in the hole. Last year at this time, when its representatives were actually trying to get this message out, they said the school system faced $223 million in unfunded "critical needs."

    Now that it's lost more than $8 million in annual tax revenue due to the expiration of a decadelong sales tax, we can safely assume that figure has grown. This shortage doesn't just mean that our kids are using old computers or attending schools with leaky roofs, though you'd think that would be alarming enough. It means fewer music teachers, reading coaches and curriculum planners. It's one reason we used to have an A school district and now have a consistent C....

  15. New blood brings new hope at struggling Brooksville Country Club

    Real Estate

    BROOKSVILLE

    Dave McIntee sent his tee shot soaring toward the 13th green, deep into a former mining pit at Brooksville Country Club.

    It is one of McIntee's favorite holes on the course and one of the reasons he and two friends decided to return to the club Monday after discovering it the day before.

    "We booked our tee time as soon as we finished our round (Sunday)," said McIntee, a visitor from Ontario, Canada. "And we'll probably play here later in the week, too."...

    Min Kang is leasing the Brooksville Country Club with an option to buy. Kang has owned two courses previously.