For as long as Hernando County residents can remember, a small clique centered in Brooksville has virtually ruled the county. These people have made valuable contributions to the community, but there is a growing feeling in the county that noblesse oblige isn't enough. Newcomers and longtime residents alike have become tired of being shut out of the political process and of seeing every county decision go the way of the powers-that-be, often to the detriment of everyone else. With their anti-incumbent votes in party primaries, voters made it clear that it's time for someone besides those in the inner circle to be allowed into the political ring.
That could explain, in great part, the success of the four people vying for the two spots open on the Hernando County Commission. They are not "insiders."
Of those four, Republican Virginia Brown-Waite is by far the most exciting and qualified candidate. Proudly, vocally an "outsider," she would, without doubt, provide leadership and give direction to a county that desperately needs it.
The Times strongly recommends that voters give Brown-Waite their full support.
We also recommend, though with less enthusiasm, Republican Anthony Mosca Jr. in the District 4 race.
Brown-Waite is a breath of fresh air in an often stifling community. She is not simply a critic. For most of her adult life, Brown-Waite has used her extensive educational background, including a master's degree in public administration and lengthy tenure in government service in New York and Florida, to work for positive change from the inside.
It was Brown-Waite, for example, who, as a member of the county's Planning and Zoning Commission, responded to local concerns over hazardous waste burning and proposed a zoning ordinance to restrict such burning _ a proposal, by the way, that prodded a reluctant county commission to impose a temporary ban on the practice.
At another time, Brown-Waite was the only P&Z member to vote against filling wetlands, the act of a genuine environmentalist.
Brown-Waite's list of credentials are impressive _ two college degrees, plus two years at Cornell University, a legislative director for the New York State Senate for 15 years, successful business owner, and active member of civic, social and professional organizations across the county. In her appointed capacity with the New York Senate, she was in charge of one of 18 committees responsible for drafting legislation and making recommendations on content of programs and expenditures.
Smart and sassy, she would be a natural leader on the commission, and it's a sure bet she wouldn't lead down the primrose paths taken by some of her predecessors.
Brown-Waite's opponent, Nancy Robinson, is admirably dedicated to her profession of nursing, but her work experience has not necessarily prepared her for the challenges of being a county commissioner. In addition, her low-key, quiet style does not provide the kind of assertive leadership so direly needed by the Hernando commission at this time.
The choice between Mosca and Democrat Verne Smith is not nearly so clear. Neither have the extraordinary qualifications of Brown-Waite. And both Mosca and Smith have questionable incidents in their backgrounds that might give voters pause _ Mosca's involving a dispute with the Spring Hill Civic Club in 1982 over his handling of a fund-raising raffle and Smith's involving his current difficulties in handling his own personal finances.
Still, voters should give the edge to Mosca for several reasons, including his considerable experience on county governmental boards _ Planning and Zoning, Adjustment and Appeals, Parks and Recreation. In addition, he was one of the volunteers who helped put together the county's comprehensive plan.
Mosca's involvement in community affairs goes back almost a decade, when he served in three different offices, including president, of the Spring Hill Civic Club. He also has given a great deal of his time as a volunteer with the Spring Hill Fire and Rescue District, the Spring Hill Lions Club and St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital's North Suncoast chapter.
It also is important to note that Mosca is a resident of the most populous development in the county _ Spring Hill _ and no commission member is from that community. Mosca's long involvement in that area gives him insights into concerns that other commissioners must learn as outsiders.
Brown-Waite and Mosca are both independent-minded, outspoken, strong-willed and often uncompromising, and it's likely they would cross swords on many issues.
Still, some raucous, open debate would be welcome on a commission that all too often has voted unanimously on controversial issues simply to give the appearance of a united front. At this point, a couple of mavericks are precisely what this go-along-to-get-along county needs.
Opportunity to reply
Nancy Robinson and Verne Smith are invited to respond to this editorial in letters of 300 words or less. They must be received at the Times by noon Monday.
Hernando County commissioners serve four-year terms at annual salary of $26,984. While they represent the district in which they live, they are elected countywide. Candidates on the Nov. 6 ballot are:
District 2 _ Republican Virginia Brown-Waite and Democrat Hannah (Nancy) Robinson.
District 4 _ Republican Anthony C. Mosca Jr. and Democrat Verne Smith.