Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

Young retiring at end of term

The veteran county commissioner says she wants to spend more time with her children and grandchildren.

After 20 years on the job, County Commissioner Sylvia Young announced Thursday that she will not seek re-election this fall.

Young, 61, said she is retiring from politics to spend more time with her children and grandchildren. She said she made her announcement early to allow prospective candidates time to campaign before the November election.

She said she will not seek higher office.

"When you're a grandmother and have grandchildren from 8 to 20 years old, you want to spend more time with them," Young said. "I've been in politics all their lives. They've had to share me."

Despite a tough year in 1999 that saw Young hospitalized for intestinal ailments, the commissioner said her health and the strain and growing scope of the job were not concerns.

Instead, she said she gave her political future a hard look over Mother's Day and decided her family had to come first.

Young's tenure on the commission has seen remarkable growth, both in the county's population and in the services offered to residents. She has been at the heart of controversial decisions and major improvements.

Since she won office in 1980, commissioners approved construction of a library and parks system, miles of new and repaved roads, new sewers and a county garbage incinerator that freed the county from dependence on landfills.

The population grew from 193,661 in 1980 to a projected 331,489 this year. In the 1990s, Tampa commuters discovered the county, and new housing developments crept into Young's east Pasco district, replacing pastures with golf courses.

The struggle with growth is a far cry from Young's rural upbringing. Growing up a farmer's daughter in Darby, she lived in a home that didn't have electricity until she was 13. She recalls the days of horse-and-buggy travel in Pasco County and single-digit phone numbers, and she can still point to the spot where the Rural Electrification Commission set up shop in Dade City.

In 1982, Young became the first chairwoman of the commission. In her five terms on the board, she became known for her direct, sometimes confrontational style and often championed east Pasco projects, such as the historic courthouse renovation in Dade City.

It's the courthouse restoration Young considers one of her proudest accomplishments.

The building has become a Dade City showplace, and Young is the only commissioner to maintain her full-time office there, in the county seat.

"I might be better liked if I just sat on the fence," Young said in 1996. "But I won't do that. If someone wants an answer, I give them one. I think I'm plain-spoken."

Young, a graduate of Pasco Comprehensive High School, got her start as a cashier at the A&P grocery store in Dade City before moving into secretarial work. She tackled her first election concerned about water and inflation in Pasco County.

She started her political career on the short end of some controversial votes, once noting, "I've had more 4-1 votes than anyone else."

In her first term she was on the short end when voting against hiring County Administrator John Gallagher, against raising landfill rates and against hiring additional legal help to fight an antitrust suit.

In the past four years, Young has held her share of controversy. She helped persuade fellow commissioners to cross Gallagher and hire former water attorney H. Clyde Hobby, whose law firm was paid more than $1-million over three years. Young later received more than $1,300 in a single day from attorneys in Hobby's firm for her 1996 re-election bid.

And while she is credited with restoring the old Dade City courthouse and furnishing it with antiques, she was criticized last year for a policy that restricted use of the building by the public.

She also got tangled in a parkland proposal. Dade City developer Bill Adair said he tried to donate land to the county next to John S. Burks Memorial Park in Dade City, but was foiled by Young. He said _ and county officials confirmed _ that he had worked out a deal to donate graded land, worth about $500,000, to use for additional ball fields, but Young killed the deal and called him a "carpetbagger from Georgia."

Young denied making or breaking any deal with Adair.

Her colleagues said they knew Young's retirement this year was a possibility and weren't surprised by Thursday's announcement.

"She's been a tireless champion for Pasco, and it's been real fun working with her," Commissioner Ann Hildebrand said. "She's a good friend of mine, and I've always thought of her as a champion for Pasco."

Young said she enjoyed her service and has no regrets.

"I've always analyzed each issue I voted on. I always tried to tell the truth, then you don't have to worry about what you're saying," she said. "I've always loved Pasco County."

She said she will remain active in the community and plans to volunteer at area hospitals and nursing homes.

For those who would follow her, Young offered some advice.

"Be faithful to Pasco County. Be good to the people," she said. "And vote your conscience."

District 1 candidates

Here are the remaining candidates for

District 1, County Commission:

Alan Brenia, Republican

Pat Burke, Democrat

Rod Neal, Republican