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Picnic honors longtime county employees

The day after he was appointed interim Hernando County Administrator Alan Holbach was feeling the heat _ from the barbecue grill.

His face glowing red, Holbach spent part of Wednesday afternoon flipping burgers and pinching off servings of bratwurst from a coil that sizzled on the grate.

A line of hungry county employees, who were given an extended lunch break for the county's annual employee appreciation picnic, snaked behind the grill. When they got to several tables covered in white paper, Commissioner Nancy Robinson served them the meat of their choice, Commissioners Paul Sullivan and Bobbi Mills scooped out beans and potato salad, and Commissioner Pat Novy poured soft drinks.

It took them two hours to feed the crowd, which county officials estimated at 500. The county has approximately 800 employees.

"This is the biggest turnout I've seen since I've been with the county," Sullivan said. Sullivan worked for the county Utilities Department for seven years before he was elected to the County Commission last year.

In addition to honoring employees whose tenure with the county extended to five, 10, 15, 20 and 25 years, commissioners and administrators selected the employee of the year: East Hernando firefighter Terry Rainier.

Speaking from the stage at Hernando Park in downtown Brooksville, commission Chairman Ray Lossing said Rainier, who was selected by department directors, commissioners and administrators from a group of departmental employees of the year, earned top honors in part for going beyond the call of duty in 1994.

While off duty one Sunday in February 1994, Rainier heard on his portable police scanner about a car accident at the Circle K store at U.S. 301 and State Road 50 in Ridge Manor. When he arrived at the scene, he saw a car had driven through the building, and a man was crouching behind the counter, taking off his clothes and mumbling his intent to kill himself.

Rainier subdued the man until police arrived, an act that earned him a letter of commendation from Sheriff Thomas Mylander.

As employee of the year, Rainier receives a $50 savings bond, a day off with pay, a weekend getaway or the cash equivalent _ all paid for through donations by commissioners and department directors _ and his picture on the employee wall of fame.

When commissioners were finished recognizing employees, the employees took their turn and named departing County Administrator Chuck Hetrick honorary employee of the year. By 1 p.m. Wednesday, the resolution that bestowed the honor on Hetrick bore the signatures of 200 employees, though more were expected to sign. Hetrick, who was fired in August, will move to Tallahassee after his last day with the county on Nov. 15.