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Young faces Democratic challenger for seat

Pat Burke, a civic activist and accountant, joins the race for the County Commission District 1 seat.

For the first time since 1992, County Commissioner Sylvia Young will face an electoral opponent from her own party.

Fellow Democrat and water conservation activist Pat Burke filed her preliminary election papers for the District 1 County Commission seat with the county on Friday. Burke, 52, said she wants to bring more long-range planning and foresight to the county.

"There's so many problems in Pasco," Burke said Monday, as she stood outside the room where county commissioners were holding their first visioning session. Although she lauded the commission for sitting down to talk about the county's future, Burke called the series of meetings "too little, too late."

Burke has made a name for herself as a civic activist through her opposition to additional groundwater pumping near the Crystal Springs area, specifically the part owned by Robert Thomas and pumped by Perrier-owned Zephyrhills Spring Water Co.

She is chairwoman of the civic group Pasco Citizens Alliance, which she said is pushing two ballot initiatives this year. One of those would set up a single-member district system for county commissioners, which means commissioners would be elected solely by those people living in that district.

"I think (we need) to bring accountability here _ to make representatives responsive to their communities," Burke said.

The second ballot question Pasco Citizens Alliance want voters to approve is term limits for county commissioners. Burke said she'd like to see commissioners serve a maximum of two or three terms.

"I think fresh ideas need to be a way of life for Pasco County," Burke said.

Young, who has not yet filed her reelection papers, had little to say about Burke's candidacy.

"I always say anyone can file for anything they want," Young said. Republican Rod Neal of Zephyrhills also has filed to run for the District 1 seat.

Burke is divorced and has a teenage daughter. She is an accountant and has her own business, TaxWorks.