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County's seniors especially sad to see Thurman go

From working for veterans benefits to bringing back HMO Medicare providers, Karen Thurman was a true champion for senior concerns, they say.

By WES PLATT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 29, 2002

Nick Morana isn't in the "Draft Karen for 2004" movement yet, but he might join it.

Morana, a World War II Army veteran from Spring Hill who worked with outgoing U.S. Rep. Karen Thurman on issues ranging from veterans benefits to improvements to Oak Hill Hospital's Enrichment Center, says he will miss having her as a champion for local issues and projects.

"She meant a lot, I tell you," Morana said. "She was really instrumental in getting a lot done for veterans and nonveterans alike."

Beatrice Braun of Spring Hill, an activist with the local AARP chapter, agreed. In particular, she cited Thurman's efforts to bring back HMO Medicare services after providers pulled out of Hernando County.

"They all pulled out, and she really pulled the strings in Washington to get them back," she said.

Her husband, Richard Braun, praised Thurman's work on getting a $600,000 federal Housing and Urban Development grant for improvements to make the Oak Hill Enrichment Center capable of serving a dual role as a senior service center and hurricane shelter.

"I guess my feeling is there was never anybody who sought her assistance who didn't receive it," Richard Braun said. "She was really incredible as far as her constituents go."

Hernando County Commissioner Nancy Robinson agreed.

Robinson, a fellow Democrat, cited Thurman's work on the HMO situation, water issues and pushing for the Southwest Florida Water Management District to get its new headquarters in Hernando County as some key legacies.

"Karen has been a tremendous supporter of our seniors," Robinson said. "She's always been available to the community whenever needed. She was a tremendous asset to the county for her entire term."

Blaine Davidson of Spring Hill, a retired U.S. Navy commander and self-proclaimed "dyed-in-the-wool" Republican, takes it as a source of pride that Thurman is the only Democrat he has voted for since President Jimmy Carter.

"And I only voted for him because he's a classmate," Davidson noted. Both the president and Davidson attended the U.S. Naval Academy.

"She was a good lady," Davidson said of Thurman, whose help to veterans included work on covering medical expenses and lower-priced prescription drugs. "She was incredible for veterans. What she did really meant a lot for us."

The chief concern among those who bid farewell to Thurman is the uncertainty that lies ahead for freshman Congress member Ginny Brown-Waite.

"Karen really went to bat for us," Morana said. "I hope Ginny will do the same thing for veterans and other people.

"But I find that a freshman representative will take a while to get her feet on the ground and know which way to turn. She'll have a questionable amount of impact, versus someone like Karen, who was on the House Ways and Means Committee."

Said Beatrice Braun: "We'll have to wait and see what Ginny does for us. I'm concerned whether we'll have as loud a voice in Medicare reform as Karen would have. Karen did a tremendous job for us."

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