By reporter Mike Wright, as published in the Citrus County Chronicle June 18, 2020:
Candidates for county commission District 5 met Wednesday, June 17, with the Chronicle Editorial Board. Both candidates are Republican so this Aug. 18 primary contest is open to all voters. The primary winner is elected. Here are the highlights — by staff writer Mike Wright
• Big picture: Davis said the county commission’s focus is too reactive, not proactive, because it doesn’t plan strategically.
“The county is in need for more direction, more strategic thinking,” she said. “It takes a lot of experience with strategic thinking to be able to drive change from a top level. They’re not looking five, 10, 15 years out.”
Davis, the daughter of former longtime Crystal River Airport operator Tom Davis, said the county should seek guidance from the public.
“All of us love Citrus County,” she said. “We have that shut-the-door-behind-me mentality. No more people coming here is a pipe dream. We have to prepare for growth and we have to preserve our history.”
• Pandemic: Davis said the county was correct to keep the local state of emergency in place, despite efforts by her opponent to do otherwise. She also said commissioners should lead the public’s response.
“I wish some of the commissioners had been a better role model,” she said. “I see a mask as wearing a seatbelt to save someone else. Every little bit we do will help.”
• Taxes: Davis would not rule out raising taxes if a need for it is shown.
“As a lifelong Republican, taxes do not scare me. Waste scares me,” she said. “I’m not a no-tax Republican. I’m a better-use-my-tax-dollars-wisely Republican.”
• Chain of command: Davis is critical of incumbent Jimmie T. Smith’s public campaign to fire the land development director, saying he should direct any concerns to County Administrator Randy Oliver.
“Seems like he handled that very poorly,” she said. “Let the county administrator do his job. You don’t micromanage. I always go the positive route first. I’m typically pretty successful at that.”
• The incumbent: “He hasn’t delivered the last three years,” she said. “He doesn’t know how to build a vision and get people to buy into it. He’s been ineffective as a commissioner.”
JIMMIE T. SMITH
• Switching districts: Though they are elected countywide, commissioners “represent” districts. Smith is moving from District 3 to District 5.
“I’ll bring the same passion I have for Beverly Hills, Citrus Springs area to Inverness, Hernando and South Dunnellon,” he said, calling South Dunnellon “probably the most neglected part of Citrus County.”
• The goal: Smith said his aim is to forge a positive future for the younger generation. He cited, for example, his successful push to have Lecanto Community Park designated as a drone-friendly park, and has supported efforts in Beverly Hills to reopen the county pool.
“If you look at the policies and things I’ve brought forward, it’s not the decisions we make now, it’s the decisions we make now that affect future generations.”
• Board support: Smith acknowledged a hit-and-miss success rate for finding majority support for his initiatives.
“The things I bring forward are for debate and discussion,” he said. “We seem to struggle on debating even for five minutes. I don’t know what it is that they don’t want to debate or discuss things.”
• Pandemic response: Smith has three unsuccessful attempts at ending the COVID-19 local state of emergency, arguing the emergency no longer exists because hospitalizations from the virus have dropped.
“I never said we should pull back completely,” he said. “What was the mission? The mission was to flatten the curve. We flattened the curve almost right away. So, mission accomplished.”
• Economic development: Smith, a vocal critic of the county’s land development division, said the county has a reputation of being difficult to work with.
“Builders and developers have trouble getting things accomplished,” he said. “We have a process that is basically anti-business.”
Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.