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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: dewitt@tampabay.com

Twitter: @DDewittTimes

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  1. As Hernando schools contemplate failed sales tax, five counties offer lessons

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County school officials told voters this fall that they planned to devote about three-fourths of their share of the Penny for Projects sales tax revenue to technology, mostly new computerized tablets.

    The Brevard County School District also asked for a sales tax increase in November, but said it would spend less than 3 percent on technology and none on tablets....

  2. DeWitt: On a site in Hernando perfect for a subdivision, owners want a mine

    Growth

    It was kind of strange — representatives of a rich corporate client telling the Hernando County Commission that housing was a lousy idea for the land they had in mind.

    There's no development pressure, no demand, no need for more homes, more lots, more subdivisions. With our current rate of growth, they said to the commission, we have plenty.

    For years, of course, we heard just the opposite. Development was on its way. Growth was inevitable. We had to be ready....

  3. Transportation board backs two bike trails through city of Brooksville

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — A regional transportation planning board has agreed to support not one but two routes to fill a gap in the Hernando County portion of the proposed statewide Coast to Coast Connector bicycle trail.

    The gap is between the Suncoast Trail and the partly built Good Neighbor Trail, which eventually will run from downtown Brooksville to the Withlacoochee State Trail, about 9 miles to the east....

    The Transportation board is backing two bike trails through  Brooksville to fill the gap in the Hernando County portion of the proposed statewide Coast to Coast Connector bicycle trail.
  4. DeWitt: Time has come to dissolve city of Weeki Wachee

    Local Government

    Weeki Wachee, one of the smallest cities in Florida, also has to be one of the least democratic.

    The city includes several commercial properties at the intersection of State Road 50 and U.S. 19. The owners of these parcels pay almost all of the taxes but, because they are not residents, have no vote in City Council elections, no say in how this money is spent.

    Another assumption about democracy — that elected officials live in the place they serve — has also been tossed aside in Weeki Wachee. A long-ago exception in its charter says Weeki Wachee council members don't have to live in the city, and two of the three current ones do not....

  5. Hernando School Board chairman wants to revisit sales-tax issue

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County School Board Chairman Gus Guadagnino placed the idea of renewing the district's half-cent sales tax on the table Tuesday, asking that the board discuss it at a workshop next month.

    "We lost $8.5 million over 10 years because of the half-cent tax that didn't pass," Guadagnino said, referring to the Penny for Projects joint school district/county referendum that voters defeated in the November election by 12 percentage points....

    “We lost $8.5 million over 10 years because of the half-cent tax that didn’t pass.”
Gus Guadagnino, 
board chairman
  6. Hernando County Commission set to vote on plan for controversial rock mine

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Yellow signs on the north side of State Road 50 announce a public hearing for a land-use change that would allow a rock mine on 573 acres of pasture and forest land west of Brooksville.

    Signs on the south side say "No more mining" or "Just say no to mining."

    In a way, however, these signs all say the same thing: Hernando County is in the midst of its biggest land-use battle in several years....

    "Why would anyone vote in favor of this?" Commissioner Diane Rowden asked.
  7. DeWitt: Report sheds light on why Hernando continues to struggle

    Local Government

    Times are still tough in Florida.

    They're even tougher in Hernando County.

    Those are the findings of a new study commissioned by the United Way of Florida that, as this paper has reported previously, shows a shocking 45 percent of the state's 7.2 million households can barely make ends meet — even if the adults in these households are employed.

    In Hernando, not unexpectedly, the results are especially grim....

  8. DeWitt: For former School Board member, it truly is all about kids

    Local Government

    Cynthia Moore may be the closest thing to a saint you can find in the Hernando County school system.

    She works at least eight hours every school day for no pay, arriving at Eastside Elementary School before the first bell and never leaving her post at the front desk until she is sure every student has safe transportation home.

    She is fiercely protective of the children, questioning each visitor to make sure they have a legitimate reason to come on campus....

    Cynthia Moore spent much of her School Board salary on kids.
  9. On Thanksgiving, quiet not the custom for tireless foster parents (w/video)

    Human Interest

    BROOKSVILLE

    Thanksgivings were supposed to be getting quieter for Pat and Linda Hoins.

    They decided last spring to be "selfish" and stop taking in foster kids nearly every time they were asked, Pat Hoins said. They stuck a "For Sale" sign in front of their big house south of Brooksville and sold their 12-piece Broyhill dining room set on Craigslist.

    "Like fools," Linda said, because since then almost nothing has worked out as planned....

    Standing behind Pat, left, and Linda Hoins are, from left, Bella Hoins, 11, Anakin Piccirilli, 12, Colton Hoins, 17, Mikalah Bryant, 9, Anastasia Piccirilli, 15, and her brother Tony Piccirilli, 14.
  10. DeWitt: Time can't blot out Hernando's racial history, lynchings

    Local Government

    When it comes to seeking racial justice in Hernando County, Jerry Bell Jr. is ambitious enough to aim high, practical enough to accept a modest victory.

    Bell, 37, a 1995 Hernando High School graduate, has written to the federal Department of Justice asking for an investigation into the racial violence in his home county, which had the highest per-capita rate of lynchings of any county in the country between 1900 and 1931, according to the most reliable statistics available....

    Jerry Ball Jr. says that if Hernando County can have a monument honoring Confederate soldiers outside its courthouse, then "the same can be done for the countless African-American lives that were lost in Hernando County" to the violence of racism.
  11. DeWitt: If Hernando is to thrive, it must invest in itself

    K12

    Hernando County is the mean old man on the block.

    His house is neglected, dank and dingy. You don't visit unless you have to, and you don't hang around long. If a ball is hit in his yard, nobody retrieves it because he's got a reputation for hating kids.

    We could have changed this last week, put a little money into our place to make it more welcoming to investors and home buyers with children. We could have made it a place that the most talented and ambitious of these children are not so eager to leave....

    The failed 1-cent sales tax increase in Hernando would have helped pay for state-mandated tablets in the schools.
  12. Former assistant fails to get mea culpa in ongoing battle with Hernando school superintendent

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — All former Hernando assistant school superintendent Ken Pritz asked for was an acknowledgment that his former boss was wrong when she sent out an email in his name last year — an email incorrectly saying he was "excited" to be taking on his new duties as district warehouse manager.

    Pritz got that acknowledgement on Monday from outgoing School Board member Dianne Bonfield, but not from a majority of the board....

    Former assistant school superinten­dent Ken Pritz is challenging his termination.
  13. Hernando leaders reflect after failure of penny sales tax for schools, government

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Barbara Kight, eating lunch at the Deli World restaurant in Brooksville last week, didn't buy the argument that one computerized tablet could replace an entire backpack of textbooks.

    She wasn't swayed when told that this new technology is required by the state. She didn't want to hear any other arguments in favor of the Penny for Projects sales tax that would have raised $170 million over 10 years for the tablets and a long list of infrastructure improvements....

  14. In 22 years on the Brooksville City Council, Joe Bernardini was voice of the people

    Human Interest

    When I arrived in Brooksville 25 years ago, a fellow reporter explained how easy it was to reach the city's mayor, Joe Bernardini.

    He works for the phone company, she said; if you page him, he'll climb to the top of the nearest telephone pole, hook into a wire and return your call.

    Sure enough, I ended up having many such conversations with Bernardini, his voice sometimes drowned out by whipping wind and whizzing traffic....

    In 22 years on the Brooksville City Council, Joe Bernardini was voice of the people.
  15. High school band programs in Hernando struggle to keep the music going

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE

    Nature Coast Technical High School football players sprinted onto the field from beneath a giant, inflatable light blue-and-black helmet to the sound of the University of Oklahoma's fight song, Boomer Sooner.

    Cheerleaders launched tumbling runs near the 50-yard line.

    Fans cheered.

    A typical high school football game on a clear, cool Friday night — except for one detail:...

    Hernando High marching band members Aubrey Stanley, 16, left, and Mathew Faber, 18, practice the tuba Monday.