The primary ballot for Hernando County Commission District 5, an open seat that was held by the late Betty Whitehouse, is crowded with six Republicans. Three of them have run unsuccessfully for the commission in years past, one had the job for four years but was not re-elected, and two are making their first bid for elected office.
Any one of the candidates would be a viable representative of the GOP and a worthy opponent for Chris Kingsley, the lone Democrat who will take on the Republican primary winner in November's general election. There are only minor differences in their platforms and all are fiscal conservatives who vow to curb government spending and regulation.
But one stands out as a candidate voters can depend to bring the right mix of diligence, practicality, impartiality and foresight. She is Anna Liisa Covell.
Covell has served on the Planning and Zoning Commission for four years. During that time, which included an unsuccessful run for County Commission in 2002, Covell has distinguished herself as a hard-working, clear-thinking public servant who will not hesitate to take on developers who have not met the requirements for rezonings. Even several of her opponents in this primary cited her studious attention to detail and her businesslike disposition.
Covell wants to bring that work ethic and experience to the County Commission. Her knowledge of the county's comprehensive growth management plan can be directly applied to the most critical challenge facing Hernando County. She advocates stricter adherence to the comp plan and says she will work to require developers to complete infrastructure improvements before voting to approve them.
Covell wants to conserve water by strengthening the county's landscaping ordinance to require developers to implement xeriscaping, and she advocates the installation of piping systems for irrigation with effluent water.
Covell also recognizes the need for the County Commission to work more closely with the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Metropolitan Planning Organization and the School Board as development proposals surface. She proposes quarterly summits of all those entities to share information, set priorities and remain focused on the overall impact of development. In addition, she wants to explore the possibility of creating a separate board that would scrutinize land-use hearings before final approval by the County Commission.
Covell understands the need to make long-term infrastructure improvements in the county while controlling spending and taxation. Yet, she has not lost sight of the need to protect the county's delicate and plentiful natural resources.
Beyond the overriding issue of managing growth, Covell advocates ending the mandatory curbside recycling program, phasing out the public transit system, and investigating the effect of consolidating the county's fire and ambulance services.
Covell's private sector experience as the owner of an electrical contracting business also should give her insight into the important tasks of budgeting and estimating job costs.
The other five candidates in this race are James Adkins, Janey Baldwin, J.O. "Jimmy" Batten, Lara Bradburn and Bobbi Mills.
It would be cumbersome to detail each of their platforms and compare them to Covell's. (Upcoming news reports in the Times will provide more information.) For now, suffice it to say that each offers Republican voters a choice, but it is their styles, not the substance of their messages, that distinguishes them. Some are mired in negativity, some are long on personality and short on ideas, and some are so caught up in their desire to curtail government spending that they can't foresee the long-term consequences of their suggestions.
But for voters who are looking for an informed, uncomplicated, independent thinker who they can count on to make the job of county commissioner her absolute top priority, Covell is a solid alternative. We recommend her in the District 5 Republican primary on Aug. 31.