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Ross Perot supporters learn the plan

They came as trusting supporters of Ross Perot, hoping to hear how they're going to take back their country.

They left with what has been promised them for months _ a new plan.

The secrecy that preceded United We Stand America gatherings across Florida on Saturday lifted somewhat as Perot announced that his grass-roots organization will be arranged by congressional districts.

"Ross keeps saying if we do our jobs, we will be successful," said Tony Risoldi, 41, of Palm Harbor who was among 200 supporters at a gathering in Safety Harbor on Saturday.

"I believe we need a change," said Risoldi, vice president of an insurance company. "It will give us a bigger voice in our congressional districts instead of the counties."

Not everyone was happy, however. Some Florida supporters continued to complain that the organization is too dictatorial and secretive.

United We Stand members in 13 congressional districts in Florida nominated local leaders Saturday and will return next weekend to elect them. The remainder of the state's 23 congressional districts will do the same today and next Sunday.

Among the volunteer posts to be filled are district coordinators who will lead local meetings and form a statewide committee.

In Safety Harbor on Saturday, about 200 Perot loyalists crowded into a fellowship hall usually reserved for potluck suppers at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church.

Some applauded as Perot explained in a videotaped message why the organization is taking a new shape.

"The congressional districts are the logical way to set things up," said Woody Snow of Palm Harbor, who said he was pleased with the changes.

So many members came to the meeting Saturday that cars were parked three blocks away, leaving the church with standing room only.

After the videotaped address, Jim Whitehouse, an Inverness volunteer recruited to lead the meeting, told members that the district chapters will pressure representatives in Congress, as well as influence all types of elections.

"Eventually, you will have city and county and the district chapters. They will target county commissions, mayors and school boards," Whitehouse said. "How this will work is something the state committee will have to decide for Florida."

The state's 23 district coordinators will meet in July to select a chairman, who will relay concerns to Patricia Muth, paid by United We Stand to be Florida's executive director.

Muth of Tallahassee said Saturday that the non-profit United We Stand is not preparing to become a political party. "We don't endorse candidates. We're set up to educate and inform our members."

Some members aren't so sure.

They complain that Perot is propagandizing and that his organization does not listen.

"I've given up on them. Everything is being dictated. There is no grass roots," said Ralph Winters, 54, a Largo accountant who had been a regional coordinator for seven counties before resigning two months ago. "The secrecy is another problem. People don't get any information. It's a one-way street down the way they want us to go."

Lynn Kane of Valparaiso, coordinator for 10 counties in the Florida Panhandle, said Saturday that members in her area are upset that United We Stand was not dividing into chapters along county or city lines.

One congressional district alone includes five counties, and members fear district meetings may be too far away for them to attend. She also said Muth, who was picked by Perot's headquarters, was filtering too little information to local members.

"Pat Muth has not been elected by the people. She represents Dallas in Florida," Kane said. "I've called her dictatorial because she would tell us to do things. If we don't agree with her, we're told to go find someplace else to play."

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