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Mylander has easy time on way to victory // SHERIFF

Sheriff Thomas Mylander trounced Democratic challenger Nicholas Piccinich Jr. on Tuesday to win his fourth straight term as top cop in Hernando County.

Mylander, 54, was beaming Tuesday night as he awaited final election results at the county government center.

"We worked real hard on this campaign, and it's great to know that the community has faith in our track record," Mylander said.

Piccinich was disappointed but not devastated by the results.

"This was a real learning experience for me," said Piccinich, 41. "Sure, I wanted to win, but it feels good just knowing there are people out there who believe in me."

Mylander's victory was hardly shocking. With crime rates falling in the county, infrequent complaints about the conduct of deputies and an inexperienced challenger, few Hernando residents wanted a change. The sheriff has 26 years of law enforcement experience _ including 12 as sheriff _ and was elected president of the Florida Sheriffs Association in 1995.

Piccinich's background couldn't be much different. A hairstylist by training, his police experience is limited to six months as a patrol officer in Port St. Lucie. He was rejected in 1991 for a deputy's job at the Hernando County Sheriff's Office and passed over by the Brooksville Police Department for an unpaid reserve position. During the campaign, Piccinich raised $700, compared with the $21,000 raised by Mylander.

Piccinich said on Tuesday that he plans to run again for sheriff in 2000.

And on Tuesday night, Mylander credited his competitor for aspiring to be a leader. "Mr. Piccinich seems like a nice guy with good intentions," the sheriff said. "He just doesn't have the experience this job demands."

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