I went there expecting to witness the equivalent of a bureaucratic mud-wrestling match.
What I saw reminded me more of a college debate team exhibition.
It was a pleasant surprise.
Tuesday night's mining ordinance hearing at the National Guard Armory in the Airport Industrial Park was surprisingly civil, especially considering the fightin' words that have been spewed back and forth the past year between some of the mining industry's mouthpieces and CARMO, the citizens' group hoping to reshape the future of the industry in Hernando County.
The mining association's lawyer, Jake Varn, and CARMO's lawyer, Doug Bevins, spoke first and took considerable pains to thank each other for working so hard on the long-delayed ordinance.
Each then took time to heap praise upon Grant Tolbert, the county development manager, who has been saddled for the past year with the mammoth task of drafting an ordinance the two sides at least could debate. Tolbert apparently has been a masterful diplomat, able to elicit compromise and reach conclusions equally well.
Sally Sevier, the lead player in CARMO (Citizens Alliance for a Responsible Mining Ordinance), then strode to the microphone, sporting a "I Support Mining" sticker, and presented an articulate, well-reasoned statement to the county commissioners.
All in all, it was a refreshing departure from the allegations and episodes of name-calling that have peppered the mining ordinance debate.
But watch for the volume to be turned up a few notches June 29, when the final public hearing will be held at the armory and the commissioners may be forced into finally making a decision. If either side sees the commission ready to rule against it on a significant point, expect fireworks to fly at this showdown and aces to be pulled from sleeves in attempt to head off the commission's action.
Will tradition continue?
Before Jim Cummings was hired as Brooksville city manager almost 10 years ago, the city manager was Margaret Willard.
While Willard was in the job, the city attorney was Alan Underwood. After Willard was fired from her job, which turned out to be a costly mistake for the city, Cummings took over. The city attorney for the decade he was on the job was Bill Eppley.
Underwood and Eppley are partners in the law firm of High, Underwood and Eppley.
Now that the City Council is searching for a new city manager, could it be that it will pick the remaining member of the law firm, Chip High, as the new city attorney?
Probably not, because High hasn't applied for the job.
The smart money for that job is on Brooksville lawyer Doug Bevins, whose shingle hangs in the city, but who lives in Pasco County.
Providing that scenario plays itself out, the question then becomes, will Mayor Joe Bernardini and the council ask Bevins to move to Hernando County as a condition of employment?
There is a city ordinance that requires city department managers to move to the city within one year of being hired. But Bevins probably will be excluded from that requirement because his services are contracted and he's not a city employee per se.
Still, if they intend for the person who fills this important job to adhere to the spirit of the law, they might make such a request.
Please answer this multiple-choice question:
School Board member Susan Cooper's latest preoccupation is:
(a) AIDS education for fourth- and fifth-grade pupils;
(b) The St. Petersburg Times editorial board;
(c) Anointing a candidate to run for her School Board seat in 1994;
(d) All of the above.
If you answered "d" you pass the test and can go to recess today.
But if you answered "d" and also know the follow-up answer to question "c" (former Brooksville City Manager Jim Cummings), you get recess and extra credit for being politically correct (as in accurate, not gender-sensitive).