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State attorney supervisor has a new face

Anthony Tatti makes the one-hour drive from Brooksville to his home in Ocala every night after work.

In a couple of weeks, Tatti, the state attorney's office supervisor in Hernando County, will drive home to stay.

Tatti, who took the Hernando position on an interim basis in July 1996, has been promoted to head the larger office in Ocala starting in December. Ric Ridgway, chief assistant state attorney, met with Tatti on Tuesday and announced to the staff that Hernando felony prosecutor Jeffery A. Smith will fill the supervisor's job in Brooksville.

"I'm happy that I'll be able to spend more time with my family," said Tatti, whose third child is due in January. "I'll miss this office, the excellent staff. I enjoyed my stay."

Tatti took over for Louis Hatcher, who was the third person to head the office in less than three years. Tatti was supposed to manage the office for only six months, until State Attorney Brad King found a full-time supervisor.

It ended up taking 15 months.

Smith, 49, was hired in August on the assumption that he could take over for Tatti if things worked out during a tryout period. When an assistant state attorney in Ocala was nominated for a judge's position, it freed a spot in Ocala for Tatti.

Before coming to Hernando in 1996, Tatti managed felony prosecution in Ocala. He is a familiar face in the 5th Judicial Circuit, having, in his own words, "worked in almost every office in the area."

Tatti did not personally handle many cases, concentrating more on his managerial role.

He did handle the high-profile molestation case against Joseph Gatti, a Powell Middle School teacher who was cleared of multiple sex charges.

"I couldn't get involved directly in too many cases because it was tough to know when the interim position would end," he said.

Tatti raised morale and kept the office on an even keel after a turbulent two years, Ridgway said. "He made correct decisions in every case. He did a great job."

The supervisory change shouldn't cause any problems, Smith said. Staff members are supportive and knowledgeable, which should help the transition.

"We've got a great staff, and I won't hesitate to ask them if I need the help," Smith said. "(Tatti's) only a phone call and 60 miles away if I need his help."

Smith, who has been married for 27 years, plans on promoting the office's family atmosphere by continuing monthly birthday celebrations and holiday parties.

At the office's recent Halloween party, Smith brought his African pygmy pig for the kids to play with. He joked with a colleague that the pig was a guest, not an entree.

"My job is to maintain certain standards and at the same time make sure people enjoy what they're doing," he said.

After graduating from Stetson University College of Law in 1973, Smith prosecuted in Broward County for four years. He then went into private practice.

He worked constantly until 1987, when a serious skiing accident left him with two years of almost full-time rehabilitation. He now often walks with a cane.

He was again in private practice when the prosecutor's job came open.

Smith, a father of two girls, managed a private practice office of lawyers in Fort Lauderdale and said that experience should help him supervise the Brooksville office.

"(Prosecuting) is as fun as I remember," he said. "I feel really good about it."