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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. Shredded documents may cost Hernando schools as much as $3.7 million in state funding

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — A recent audit of state money paid to Hernando County schools last school year found several small problems — and a very big one that could cost the already cash-strapped district as much as $3.7 million.

    The shredding of attendance records at Suncoast Elementary School left the district without documentation for the funding it collected for nearly 900 students. Though the district is confident that it can produce other records to save most of the funding, the risk of significant losses is real, School Board member Matt Foreman said....

    “It’s a very serious concern. We’re waiting to see how the process plays out,” Hernando School Board member Matt Foreman said.
  2. Hernando County School District launches sales tax campaign

    K12

    SPRING HILL — Hernando County school superintendent Lori Romano launched the grass roots campaign for the upcoming vote on a half-cent sales tax by enlisting school administrators to spread the word of the district's financial crisis.

    "Principals and assistant principals, know your story," Romano told the administrators gathered in Central High School's auditorium Tuesday night.

    "Nothing in the way of data and facts and figures, nothing in the way of any of that compares with you telling the personal story of your school."...

    Hernando’s Lori Romano told school leaders to spread the word. “Educate, not advocate.” 
  3. DeWitt: Lack of community building has led to potential loss of Swiftmud headquarters

    Water

    Alfred McKethan, the onetime Brooksville banker and community kingpin, gave his hometown a great foundation to build on 54 years ago.

    In the aftermath of the disastrous floods of 1960, McKethan not only helped create the Southwest Florida Water Management District, but made sure its offices were near his bank, the forerunner of SunTrust Bank/Nature Coast.

    "He knew what he was doing every minute, and he wanted it to be in Brooksville," Dale Twachtmann, the recently deceased former executive director of the district, said in a 2004 interview....

    Onetime Brooksville banker and community kingpin Alfred McKethan helped create the Southwest Florida Water Management District, but the political and business leaders that followed him have not done enough to make Hernando a county that can justifiably stake a claim to an agency as large and sophisticated as Swiftmud.
  4. Hernando School Board seeks more information before deciding on budget cuts

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board was presented this week with a grim list of possible cuts to make up a projected budget shortfall of $12 million.

    To save nearly $10 million, the board was told, it could eliminate math and reading coaches, counselors, librarians and every other instructional staffer not directly responsible for a class.

    The board could end all high school and middle school sports at a savings of nearly $700,000....

  5. Swiftmud considers moving headquarters from Brooksville to Tampa

    Water

    BROOKSVILLE — The Southwest Florida Water Management District governing board today will consider moving its headquarters — located in Brooksville since the district's founding in 1961 — to its Tampa office.

    The move would put the agency in a better position to attract qualified workers needed to replace departing staffers over the next decade, executive director Robert Beltran said....

  6. Hernando School Board backs program for 'off track' students

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board has generally thrown its enthusiastic support behind the proposed Discovery Academy and its main goal — giving extra help to middle school students who have fallen far behind grade level.

    But board member Matt Foreman says he sees one potential obstacle: backlash from parents of students at Central High School, where the district plans to open the academy....

    Matt Foreman said Central High parents could object to the plan.
  7. DeWitt: Wilton Simpson shows you don't have to be a bully to be powerful in Tallahassee

    Legislature

    Hernando County has a legislative powerhouse on its side.

    No, not that guy. The other one — state Sen. Wilton Simpson.

    Simpson, a Republican whose district includes all of Hernando County and parts of Sumter and Pasco, apparently was one of the few people in Florida to get something good out of this year's disastrous, aborted legislative session.

    The mild-mannered egg farmer from Trilby, according to Politico's Marc Caputo, has lined up enough votes to become Senate president for the 2021 and 2022 sessions....

    Florida Senator Wilton Simpson, R- Trilby, answers questions from Senators on State pension reform, Wednesday, April 30, 2014.
  8. Critics question renovations at manor house on Chinsegut Hill

    Tourism

    BROOKSVILLE

    When Megan Blaer first saw the antebellum Chinsegut manor house — grand and white, surrounded by giant, moss-draped oaks — she started rattling off the names of famous films.

    The Notebook . . . Thirty Years a Slave . . . Forrest Gump — it's like so many movies," Blaer, a 20-year-old nanny and native of Denmark, said on a visit last month. "It's beautiful."...

    Sherry Pedonesi, president of Friends of Chinsegut Hill, right, and docent Peter Gay look over historic photographs in the recently restored historic Chinsegut Hill Manor House.
  9. Hernando School Board agrees on September for sales tax vote

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — Judging it the best of several bad options left available by Supervisor of Elections Shirley Anderson, the Hernando County School Board has agreed to hold its half-cent sales tax referendum in September, two months earlier than the preferred date.

    "There is no good decision here," School Board member Matt Foreman said at a workshop Tuesday. "Every option carries things in favor and things against."...

    Shirley Anderson also offered an all-mail election in November.
  10. Hernando school staffers, board member, stunned by job losses

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — On April 13, Cecilia Troutt said, she received a "perfect evaluation … as high as it could be" for her work as the Hernando County School District's manager of professional development.

    Four days later, superintendent Lori Romano told Troutt she would be one of five district-level staffers whose jobs would end with the current school year, Troutt said.

    "I was shocked," she said. "Shocked."...

  11. DeWitt: Ingoglia's focus is not on the job for which we elected him

    Legislature

    State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, is "laser focused" on his new job.

    He's "worked extremely hard," he wrote in a recent email, and has shown "unconditional commitment" to his cause.

    This would seem to be good news for the all Hernando County residents he represents.

    Except for one thing: The job consuming all this energy and concentration is not the one voters elected him to do....

    Blaise Ingoglia is a state representative and chairman of the state Republican Party.
  12. 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.
  13. 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....

  14. 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....

  15. 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.