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

Email: ddewitt@tampabay.com

Twitter: @DDewittTimes

  1. With funds scarce in Hernando, schools look to raise their own money


    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....

  2. 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....

  3. Blueberry festival organizer threatens Brooksville council member with lawsuit


    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.
  4. DeWitt: Did an 84-year-old man need to spend a weekend in jail?


    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.
  5. Hernando School Board delays discussion of new school boundaries


    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board took up the always-controversial task of redrawing school zones on Tuesday and, after hearing from angry parents, decided to put it off for a while.

    "I don't think I like any of these options," School Board member Susan Duval said during the board's workshop. "I firmly believe we need to research this more."

    The board had been presented with a plan to relieve crowding at three schools — Winding Waters K-8, Weeki Wachee High and Suncoast Elementary, all of which are at 97 percent capacity or higher....

  6. Florida lab has one objective: Stop citrus greening (w/video)



    One of the best hopes to revive Florida's fast-fading citrus industry is a steam generator mounted on an old grove truck.

    In a test plot at the University of Florida's Lake Alfred Citrus Research and Education Center last month, the truck lowered a plastic hood over a barren, dying orange tree. Hissing jets filled the enclosure with steam for 30 seconds, long enough to kill the citrus greening bacteria beneath the tree's bark and, probably, restore the tree's health within six months....

    Roy Sweeb, an engineer technician at the University of Florida Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, performs a thermo­therapy treatment to an orange tree in a grove near the center. The process can control greening symptoms for about two years.
  7. Hernando superintendent says funding cuts hurt school performance


    BROOKSVILLE — Eastside Elementary School principal Mary LeDoux says turning a school around takes not just hard work from teachers and administrators, but money.

    The F grade the school received from the state two years ago entitled Eastside to funding for four new teaching coaches. They were a big reason the school's grade rose last year to just a few points short of a B, LeDoux said...

  8. DeWitt: Suncoast Parkway extension will not bring economic boon


    It's a big deal for people in Citrus County who drive south, big for people in Hernando County who drive north.

    What's not big, judging by traffic counts on existing roads, are these groups of drivers. Certainly, they're not big enough to justify spending $149 million on a 13-mile extension of the Suncoast Parkway to Lecanto.

    This project showed up in Gov. Rick Scott's proposed budget last week, restoring not only life but urgency into a plan that has been more or less on hold since the economy tanked in 2008....

  9. Hernando School Board moves toward November sales-tax referendum


    BROOKSVILLE — Not only is a solid majority of Hernando County School Board members behind the idea of holding a special election for a half-cent sales tax; they have informally agreed on a date.

    "This puts us on a pace for November," board member Matt Foreman said.

    That was after Supervisor of Elections Shirley Anderson appeared at the board's workshop Tuesday to present a menu of options for elections....

  10. Florida ethics panel drops complaint against former Hernando School Board member


    BROOKSVILLE — The Florida Commission on Ethics, acting against the recommendation of the assistant attorney general who presented the case, has decided not to proceed with a complaint against former Hernando County School Board member John Sweeney.

    "The commission rejects the recommendation of its Advocate and finds there is no probable cause to believe (Sweeney) violated Florida statute by using his position to the special benefit of his son," the commission said in report issued last week....

    John K. Sweeney says being on the board worked against him.
  11. What the Hernando commission really needs? More scrutiny

    Local Government

    I had a good chat recently with Bob Martinez, a former neighbor and onetime fellow member of a now rare species — newspaper people.

    Bob, a longtime advertising salesman for the Tampa Tribune in Hernando County, reminisced about the days when there were four — yes, four — newspapers in Hernando County.

    A good story in one would be reported by the others, and a public official who did wrong knew voters would read about it — if not in the paper they picked up at the end of their driveways then in one of the copies of the Hernando Tribune, Hernando Times, Hernando Today or Brooksville Sun-Journal that accumulated by the cash registers of every restaurant in the county....

  12. Hernando School Board chairman: Backing sales tax is board's duty


    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando School Board Chairman Gus Guadagnino raised the question about a possible special election for a half-cent sales tax — "Is this something we should do?" he asked Tuesday — then delivered the most definite "yes."

    "One way or another, we have to take care of our school system," said Guadagnino, who at last week's board workshop framed the passage of the tax as a moral imperative — and as a measure with a good chance of passing....

    Hernando School Board Chairman Gus Guadagnino thinks the measure’s prospects are favorable.
  13. Like him or not, Hernando's Blaise Ingoglia a major GOP force

    Local Government

    It seemed unlikely that a former tournament poker player who made his name bashing government and his fortune in speculative housing could be elected statewide leader of the Republican Party.

    But then again, his opponent was a stand-in for a governor who has an even more questionable business history, and who recently has seemed intent on irritating loyal Republicans and undermining his own credibility....

    Blaise Ingoglia is the new chairman of the state GOP.
  14. City of Weeki Wachee approves senior housing development


    WEEKI WACHEE — The three-member Weeki Wachee City Council has approved an 86-unit apartment complex on one of the city's few remaining vacant lots — a 9-acre parcel on U.S. 19 across from the entrance to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.

    The apartments will be available only to renters 55 and older, and the land is owned by Greystone LLP of Clearwater, which also owned the site of the nearby Dollar General store....

  15. Hernando County schools may lose small-district funding


    BROOKSVILLE — Last spring, when state law was changed to give Hernando County schools the extra state funding granted to small districts, it was hailed as a great victory.

    "It's huge for us, a huge win for the district," superintendent Lori Romano said at time.

    Now it appears the district might not be quite small enough — and that the law might not have changed enough — for cash-strapped Hernando schools to receive this small-district bonus....