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Candidates filling east Pasco political tent

(ran PC edition)

This week, two more candidates joined the growing Dade City Commission field, and San Antonio's mayor picks up papers to run again.

The east Pasco political scene heated up this week with the addition of two more candidates to the growing Dade City Commission field and the re-election bid of San Antonio's mayor.

In Dade City, former Downtown Dade City Main Street president P. Hutchison "Hutch" Brock joined the race for the seat being vacated by Commissioner Gregg Lynch. And schoolteacher Joe Gude made the race for retiring Mayor Charles McIntosh's seat a three-way affair.

In San Antonio, Mayor Roy Pierce picked up official papers Tuesday to run for office, and in neighboring Saint Leo, Commissioner Donna DeWitt has made her re-election bid official.

Brock, a downtown lawyer raised in Dade City, said he wants to add a new voice and some new ideas to the commission. He said he supports the work commissioners have done in the past but wants to mingle some progressive ideas with the traditional.

"We've made some great strides in making Dade City a very great place to live," said Brock, 34. "We can improve it and we can get even better."

Brock has been a strong voice for establishing architectural review guidelines for downtown construction and said he wants to balance development with Dade City's historic feel.

He also said he wants to work with city staffers to make sure they are working as efficiently as they can, and he wants to see the city reach out to people who have been left out of the governing process.

"I'm talking about inclusion. I'm talking about minorities and people who feel disassociated from the city," Brock said. "It seems the only way you can get folks who feel that way involved is to go communicate with them. Ask them."

One other candidate, Steve Van Gorden, has already announced he is running for the seat.

Gude, 30, is a lifelong east Pasco resident who grew up in the St. Joseph area, north of San Antonio. He teaches children with learning disabilities at Zephyrhills High School.

"I've been thinking about running for a while, really since the demolition of the old Pasco Twin Theatre," he said.

Gude said he understand that growth is necessary but wants to help Dade City keeps its small-town charm.

"I could have moved anywhere when I got out of college, but I chose to come back to Dade City and living right in town," he said.

Gude said he supports Main Street initiatives but wants to see more green space downtown, as well as the development of the Rails to Trails concept and recreational programs.

Gude, a political newcomer, said he also wants to help the town lure new businesses and improve the look of its entrances so that the area is more inviting to visitors and industry. It's also important to take a tougher stance against rundown or abandoned buildings, he said.

Gude joins Kathy Lambert and Lowell Harris in the race for McIntosh's seat.

In San Antonio, Pierce, 50, said he is running to continue his efforts to handle the area's rapid growth and protect the small city's way of life.

"I think this whole area is growing rapidly and you have to make sure that you, as best as possible, maintain the flavor of the town as it is," he said.

Pierce also cited the continued need to hold taxes as low as possible in the face of new demands.

The five-member commission had one member die last year and two others announce they would not seek re-election. If Pierce did not run again, it would have left Commissioner Sharon Madden, elected last spring, as the senior member.

And in tiny Saint Leo, a town that is seeing large-scale growth inside and outside its borders, DeWitt, 56, said she has gained a deep appreciation for the work government leaders do.

DeWitt, a Benedictine nun at the Holy Name Monastery, said it's going to be important in the coming years to protect Saint Leo's way of life.

Saint Leo University has embarked on a major expansion plan, and the Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club is bringing up to 900 homes to the area, more than 100 of them inside town limits.

The official filing period for municipal candidates runs Feb. 8-15. Candidates who picked up filing papers must have them validated during that period by the county elections office to be placed on the ballot for the April 11 election.