BROOKSVILLE — Taking on a positive attitude and focusing on issues important to the community are Jimmy Lodato's goals as he assumes the chairmanship of the Hernando County Democratic Executive Committee.
Elected last month after Steve Zeledon stepped down, Lodato is a retired businessman who has made two unsuccessful runs for the County Commission. In November, Wayne Dukes defeated him in the general election for the District 2 seat. Two years earlier, running as a Republican, he lost to incumbent Jim Adkins in the District 5 primary.
With only one elected Democrat currently serving in Hernando County, Lodato acknowledges that there is a lot of work ahead.
"We're going to become a positive and not a negative in the community. We're not going to go around attacking people, attacking parties. We're going to put our party together. We have an agenda. We know what we want to do, and we want to engage others to join the Democratic Party,'' Lodato said.
The party will not spend a lot of time dealing with state issues and will not worry about national issues because "we want people to realize we cannot do anything about what's happening on a national basis,'' he said.
Instead, Lodato said local Democrats have to work to put together a slate of candidates, though he said the party is interested in welcoming non-Democrats who share many of the same values.
"I'm interested in having people who are Libertarians, Green Party, no party. I want them to come over and join us for one simple thing, one simple thing only, and that is to make this county as successful as it can be," Lodato said.
He also said he plans to have the party work closely with the Hernando County School District. He is heading the steering committee that is working on the campaign to bring back the school system's half-cent sales tax. In November, Hernando voters turned down the Penny for Projects sales tax referendum that would have extended the half-cent for schools and added a half-cent for county and city of Brooksville projects.
"We have to implement the half-cent sales tax,'' Lodato said. "The negative effect is that we lost $9 million this year, and we will lose $9 million next year.''
There are also other issues that are important to Democrats locally, and Lodato said the party plans to work on those.
"The impact fee (levied on new construction in the county) has to come back. There is no other way. We need the impact fee,'' he said.
He also wants to see emphasis placed on fixing ongoing drainage issues in south Brooksville while also working on improving parks and recreation areas that have fallen into disrepair over the past several years.
For a county so focused on economic development, improving schools is a critical issue, Lodato said. But equally important is providing other amenities and making the community an attractive place to live.
"We're sitting here with an image problem,'' he said. "We need to beautify our boulevards. We need to make our place look spruced-up, like we're open for business.''
Contact Barbara Behrendt at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.