WHO'LL TAME GROWTH? The Republican in the race says he will preserve and protect resources. The Democrat says he puts protecting the environment first.
Dennis Damato, the Republican, is a general contractor who plans to improve building standards in Citrus County, which will tame the area's booming growth by using tough development policies that protect historical resources and the environment.
Jimmy Carr, the Democrat, is a semiretired food broker who does not count the building community as his strongest ally. He is an environmental advocate who supports more growth regulations that would better protect forested areas, and even supports increasing the tourist tax to remove waterfront homes from polluting septic systems.
The candidates are battling for a seat on the County Commission in District 1, which consists of northwest Citrus, including Crystal River, Citrus Springs, Citronelle, Red Level and Ozello. Commissioners are elected at-large by all voters and make decisions for the entire county. But they must live within their districts when they serve.
Damato, 52, a newcomer to politics, defeated two-term incumbent Roger Batchelor and several other candidates Aug. 31 in the GOP primary.
Damato serves as longtime chairman of the Crystal River Community Redevelopment Agency. He said he plans to show residents a track record of historical preservation, building restoration and waterfront protection standards for homes, which do not use septic tanks and do not encroach upon the surrounding environment.
"I can give you specific examples of what I've done and he cannot," Damato said. "I think that gives me an advantage over Jimmy or anybody. If you've done it, you know it."
Carr, 60, ran for the state House of Representatives District 43 seat in 2002, losing to Republican Charles Dean. He considered running for the same seat again this year. Carr said he takes a tougher approach to protecting the environment than most. Unlike Damato and most candidates, he opposes an extension of the Suncoast Parkway through Citrus County, calling the highway a "rich man's road."
Carr said cleaning the lakes, rivers and coastline should be Citrus' top priorities, not building standards. For too long, Carr said, the environment has been ignored while commissioners have approved development projects such as the controversial Halls River Retreat that would have damaged county waterways in favor of "special interests" or developers.
The five county commissioners set policy and decide on ordinances. District 1 is northwest Citrus County, including Red Level, Ozello, Crystal River, Citrus Springs and Citronelle, which includes some parts known as Dunnellon. Commissioners must live in their districts but are elected at-large and make decisions for the entire county. They serve four-year terms and are paid $48,789 per year.
DENNIS DAMATO, 52, was born in Jersey City, N.J., and lives in Crystal River. He has served on several government and political advisory boards or committees. Damato graduated from Harist High School before attending Rutgers University and the Institute of Design to study construction. He has run Dennis Damato General Contractor Inc. since 1972. He is married and has one child. ASSETS: real estate, bank accounts, home, revocable trust, annuity, life insurance, savings bonds, investments . LIABILITIES: loan, mortgages . SOURCE OF INCOME: business, dividends.
JIMMY CARR, 60, was born in Baltimore but grew up in the Tampa Bay area. He ran unsuccessfully for state House District 43 in 2002. He lives in Crystal River and graduated from Florida Beacon College in Largo with a degree in Bible education. He is a semiretired food broker who ran Carr's Market Inc. He is married and has four children. ASSETS: home, stock, bank accounts, real estate. LIABILITIES: car loan. SOURCES OF INCOME: business, rent.