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Of sound tests and manatee neckties

Slices is a behind-the-scenes look at Citrus County.

5, 4, 3, 2, UH, 7?: The QPI Productions crew was testing the sound equipment just before filming a televised debate sponsored by the Times and the League of Women Voters.

School Board candidates in District 5, B.

J. Collins and Janet Herndon, and moderator Samantha Brown were asked to count backward from five to test their microphones.

When Herndon finished, the crew asked her to repeat the countdown.

"What?" she said, rather shocked. "Did I get it wrong?"

NOT QUITE A RABBIT'S FOOT: As the candidates waited their turn before the cameras, they chatted about their apparel and which outfits would appear better on TV screens. B. J. Collins pointed to his manatee-print tie.

"After seeing what happened with Mrs. Spivey and Spike, I'm not taking any chances," he quipped, referring to the upset victory of the woman known as the Manatee Lady over the politically well-connected Inverness lawyer Richard "Spike" Fitzpatrick.

THE BUZZ: What's foremost on the minds of voters this year? The federal deficit? NAFTA? Not necessarily.

Just ask Albert Jordan of Inverness, a member of the county Mosquito Control Board.

After 26 years on the board, Jordan, 54, is seeking another four-year term.

"It's very near to my heart," said the man who has spent nearly half his life in pursuit of the whining beasties.

That board isn't exactly a hotbed of political controversy. Jordan and the other board members are quick to lament how little the public seems to know about their efforts to control mosquitoes.

But he got reason to hope at a candidates forum he attended last week at the Yulee Sugar Mill in Homosassa. It was sponsored by the county Democratic Executive Committee.

The speakers went one by one. There were Karen Thurman, running for re-election to Congress, and various candidates for state Senate, state House and County Commission. Finally Jordan got to say a few words.

Afterward, there were no questions for Thurman, Jordan reported, but he got three or four.

"People said, "I had a mosquito bite me last night' and "I haven't seen a fog truck in two years. When are you going to send one by my house?' " Jordan recalled.

"With all the trouble in the federal government, I would have thought Karen Thurman would have gotten more questions."

LUKEWARM ABOUT THE JAVA: Cameron Shaw was explaining to the Manatee Advisory Committee meeting this week that winter divers in Kings Bay loved the hot chocolate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service used to serve at their manatee education boat, but were not too crazy about the coffee.

The brand, it turned out, was unpopular. But it was easy to understand why a Fish and Wildlife staff member bought it, Shaw said.

"I told her it was for Kings Bay in the winter and so immediately she thought Chock Full of Nuts," said Shaw, who runs the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.

Staff Writers Barbara Behrendt, Jeffrey Brainard and Greg Hamilton contributed to this report.