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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. 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.
  2. 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, made an impassioned plea to control standardized testing at last week’s Hernando County School Board meeting.
  3. 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....

  4. 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....

  5. 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."...

    Grace Kang and her husband are in charge of operations at the Brooksville Country Club.
  6. Hernando School Board decides to take a larger, later look at rezoning issues

    K12

    SPRING HILL — The Hernando County School Board this week scrapped additional redistricting options it had requested, pleasing parents who didn't want their children to move to new schools and frustrating staffers at crowded Winding Waters K-8.

    "At the very least, I'm disappointed," said principal Dave Dannemiller. "It's unfortunate that our staff is going to have to figure out how to accommodate this decision."...

  7. Operator of city of Brooksville golf course evicted, sued

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Knee-high thistles and clumps of low-lying weeds cover the greens. The flags are long gone, as are the course's trademark stone tee markers.

    Florida's prime golf season has just about passed without a single player using the city of Brooksville's Quarry Golf Course.

    The most recent attempt to keep the 19-year-old course open and profitable came to an end in early December, when leaseholder Bob Carson was evicted. Among other accusations, the city said Carson violated his lease agreement by selling the golf operation without notifying the city....

  8. DeWitt: Bill to restore value of sinkhole homes has pros and cons

    Legislature

    The winners of the Great Sinkhole Lottery could be in line to win again. And this round of payouts would be, at least in part, on you.

    Some of your tax money could also go to those bottom-feeding investors who picked up sinkhole homes for pennies on the dollar. And the repair companies, the ones that earned millions fixing holes that may not have really needed fixing? You might end up paying them, too....

    Senate Bill 404, sponsored by state Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, could benefit sinkhole companies as well as homeowners. The Hernando County Commission recently voted to support it.
  9. Tampa Bay legislator pushes overhaul of growth management laws

    Growth

    A Pasco County state senator is proposing the biggest changes to growth management since the Legislature eliminated most state oversight of development in 2011.

    One bill filed by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, would scrap the 45-year-old process that helped shape some of Florida's largest developments. Another bill would streamline newer guidelines for the conversion of vast ranches and timber lands into housing projects and industrial hubs. ...

    State Sen. Wilton Simpson says the old rules are outdated.
  10. Brooksville Blueberry Festival's leader doesn't need to fight questions

    Local Government

    Michael Heard doesn't understand.

    She created a fun event, the Florida Blueberry Festival. She has raised a lot of money to get the word out about her big annual party and about Brooksville.

    She has organized and schmoozed; she's navigated bureaucracies and fended off doubters.

    Still, they doubt. Or at least question.

    And this makes her feel "persecuted" and "picked on," she said after recently threatening to sue City Council member Betty Erhard for what Heard called "defamatory" statements....

    Michael Heard has threatened to sue a council member.
  11. With coming teacher shortage, Hernando will head to New York to recruit

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board agreed this week to fund the district's first teacher recruiting trip to New York state in recent memory.

    Though the expense is small — less than $1,000 for Springstead High School principal Carmine Rufa to attend a job fair in Cortland, N.Y. — it's a sign of a larger issue: a potential long-term shortage of qualified teachers....

    Hernando County is expected to need dozens of teachers, especially in math and science, over the next several years.
  12. With funds scarce in Hernando, schools look to raise their own money

    K12

    SPRING HILL — Springstead High School's 35-year-old, bright-blue gym floor is hard on the joints of athletes and maybe even harder on the eyes of spectators.

    "It's more dangerous and impactful than a wooden floor. … It's reached the end of its life expectancy," said basketball coach and sports marketing teacher Tim Plumadore.

    "And it's definitely ugly."

    Seeking to replace the cracked and pitted polyurethane floor in a cash-strapped district has led Plumadore to the same source as other ambitious efforts to improve Hernando County schools: private contributions....

  13. DeWitt: Time to mark Hernando's history of lynchings with a monument

    Public Safety

    Some of the darkest pages in one of the darkest chapters in American history were written right here in Hernando County.

    And now we need to own up to it.

    We need to give Hernando's ugly past as a hotbed of racial violence the prominence it deserves — right on the lawn of the county courthouse.

    I've previously written that Hernando had the highest per-capita rate of lynchings of any county in the country, based on the best information available. A new, more comprehensive analysis by the Atlanta-based Equal Justice Initiative, put Hernando's rate as second-highest....

  14. Blueberry festival organizer threatens Brooksville council member with lawsuit

    Tourism

    BROOKSVILLE — A lawyer for Florida Blueberry Festival organizer Michael Heard has sent a letter warning Brooksville City Council member Betty Erhard to stop making "defamatory" statements about Heard or face a possible libel suit.

    "Mrs. Heard has been provided two separate reports of communications you have made accusing Mrs. Heard of financial wrongdoing and/or crimes related to the Blueberry Festival," said the letter to Erhard, sent Feb. 11 from Brooksville lawyer Darryl Johnston....

    Michael Heard’s lawyer: “legal remedies” will be sought.
  15. DeWitt: Did an 84-year-old man need to spend a weekend in jail?

    Courts

    Sid Bitman had fallen asleep in front of the TV two Friday nights ago when he was awakened by Hernando County sheriff's deputies banging on the door of his stilt home in Hernando Beach.

    As soon as the 84-year-old Bitman opened the door, the two deputies cuffed his hands behind his back, Bitman said, and roughly led him down the steps to a patrol car.

    "I got a bad back. I just got an (artificial) hip put in, and they're pushing me around like I'm a degenerate," he said....

    Sid Bitman was arrested for violating a restraining order while in his home.