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A Times Editorial

Gary Bartell still best for District 2


© St. Petersburg Times
published October 27, 2002

For 12 years, Gary Bartell has been a voice of reason and responsible government on the Citrus County Commission. He understands the challenges that a growing community faces, and no one has worked harder to seek solutions that are in the best interest of all of the people.

The characteristics of Bartell's tenure on the board are the hallmarks of public service. He identifies issues of critical importance, does his homework, pushes for resolution of problems and follows through on projects. He is approachable and accountable, someone who listens to and respects his constituents.

These traits make Bartell, a Republican from Homosassa, the obvious choice in the District 2 race with Democrat Phil Mulrain of Lecanto.

Bartell has shown that he can handle many important issues at once. Rather than being sidetracked, he sees how they all fit into the larger picture of the future of Citrus County. From road and sewer projects to impact fee adjustments and public safety matters, Bartell knows that they are all pieces of a common mosaic.

It's this vision that separates him from his opponent in the Nov. 5 general election and makes him a leader on the board of commissioners.

Bartell is a firm believer in adhering to the county's comprehensive growth plan, not just the letter of the growth management blueprint but its intent, as well.

Where other commissioners seek ambiguities in the plan to cover their actions, Bartell is faithful to the document's spirit -- which is not to halt development or to take away property rights but to manage the inevitable growth that will occur here.

To that end, Bartell has been a key player in the most controversial development issue in Citrus County in recent years, the proposal to build a timeshare condominium project along the Halls River in Homosassa.

Having an extensive knowledge of environmental, public health, safety and growth matters, Bartell has been one of the loudest voices questioning the project's viability. He also acknowledges that thousands of people in the county have protested the plan and has lived up to his obligation to represent those people's concerns.

Unlike some commissioners, he honors the responsibility that the comprehensive plan gives the board to have the final say, through compatibility, on whether a project can move forward. Even if a developer has met the legal requirements, commissioners can say no if they believe that it is simply not a good fit. Bartell has demonstrated the courage to take that stand.

Relying on an inaccurate report in the Citrus County Chronicle, Phil Mulrain has tried to paint Bartell as having flip-flopped on the issue. He maintains that Bartell at one point in the process supported a scaled-down version of the Halls River Retreat. A tape recording of the meeting on which that news report is based proves differently.

This is typical of Mulrain's candidacy. He offers little more than unsubstantiated complaints about Bartell, bereft of any fresh ideas or suggestions of how he would have done any better. On the Halls River project, for instance, Mulrain says he has no opinion.

Mulrain applauds Bartell for perhaps his biggest accomplishment in recent years, orchestrating the efforts to fund the ongoing sewer and water projects in the Homosassa and Chassahowitzka area.

Those efforts demonstrated Bartell's broad knowledge of how state government and factors beyond the county's borders and its control can impact Citrus, as well as his ability to win over legislators from around the state to support Citrus projects. His work earned him recognition in July from the Florida Association of Counties as the county commissioner of the year for the state.

Bartell is quick to point out that those important projects would not have succeeded without the many citizens who have helped along the way.

On issues such as the proposal to require mandatory garbage collection in the county, the need for impact fees to reflect the true costs of growth, and whether the Suncoast Parkway should be extended through Citrus County, both candidates agree. The difference is that Bartell can clearly articulate how these and other matters influence the quality of life in Citrus County.

In recent years, Bartell has often found himself on the losing end of 3-2 votes by the commission on important questions. Rather than being discouraged, Bartell welcomes the opportunity to continue battling for the best interests of Citrus residents.

Based on his solid record of hard work, accomplishment, attention to detail and accountability, Bartell has earned a fourth term on the County Commission. The Times recommends that voters return him to the board on Nov. 5.

Opportunity to reply

Candidates who are not recommended by the Times editorial board are invited to respond. Replies must be received no later than 5 p.m. Wednesday. Replies are limited to 250 words. Deliver to: Greg Hamilton, Editor of Editorials, Citrus Times, 301 W Main St., Inverness, FL 34450; e-mail to hamilton@sptimes.com; or fax to 860-7320.

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