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Anyone for sheriff? You bet

Ask anybody in the newspaper business _ the complicated economics of newsprint is putting a real squeeze on the industry.

When that happens, a lot of effort is concentrated on saving space. It got so bad in 1974 that we were actually telling advertisers that they couldn't increase the size of their ads. That's like asking an advertising representative to pare his or her nails with a machete.

But this year there might be an easier way to save space.

With the November 1996 elections still more than 16 months away, it is beginning to look like we can save a lot of time and effort by finding the one person in Pasco County who isn't running for sheriff, and just running a story on him or her.

It isn't the multiplicity of candidates that is a pain in the neck. Actually it helps when they have run so many times before that all you have to do is update the ages of their children and get the name of the current spouse.

It's all the baggage that goes with it.

We are already, for instance, getting what I call the ATL calls _ whispered assurances that morale in the agency is at an (all together now) All-Time Low.

All sheriff's departments have occasional morale problems, and Pasco may have more than its share _ but if the nameless heavy breathers who call my house are even close to credible, morale there has been at an All-Time Low for 22 years now, through four sheriffs, a handful of grand juries, an unsuccessful criminal prosecution of a former sheriff and some truly neat scandals.

It was at an all-time low when detectives (including one who later went to prison for dealing drugs) turned the tables on state attorney's investigators and caught them partying with the forewoman of the grand jury who was supposed to be investigating the department. It was at an all-time low when that sheriff was replaced by a new one; even lower when the new one was removed by the governor; really low when his successor took over; and unbelievably low when that successor left in a blaze of expletives based on his perception that he was persecuted by the communist news media.

Two of those guys are rumored to be considering another run for the office, as are a bunch of others who left their various administrations because the kitchens got too hot or the shoulders too cold.

Other counties have their sheriff's department politics _ even Citrus, where 15-year veteran Charlie Dean has held off a spirited challenge or two, and Hernando, which has had badge-and-gun politics that made Pasco look almost staid by comparison.

But something, maybe the fact that the county lies under the same hole in the Bozone layer as Port Richey, seems to convince everybody in Pasco County that he or she is qualified for sheriff.

That's not to say there won't be some extremely well-qualified candidates. It's just that telling them from the yo-yos will be hard unless you get close enough to see the strings.

And I can't help but note that there has been a real dearth of female candidates for the job. Cindy Kuhn, Pasco County's first certified female police officer, now in the maternity clothing business _ ran last time out. She got 22 percent of the primary vote. Hernando had a female candidate in 1988 who was strongly defeated in a primary election.

Since my usually unreliable sources tell me there is a strong chance of at least one and maybe two women running in Pasco this year, you should know that a total of nine women _ according to the Florida Sheriffs Association _ have held the position statewide since 1938. All were appointed to replace husbands who died in office and the most recent was in 1956 in Jefferson County.

One woman, Mrs. M. W. Baldree of Sumter County, was appointed in 1946, won a special election and then lost a regular election.

Men have been in control everywhere ever since.

And hasn't it worked out well?

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