In commission District 2, it's Dukes, Robinson

A Times Editorial
Published August 17, 2006

Of the three Democrats who want their party's nomination for Hernando County Commission District 2, the seat held by Nancy Robinson, one stands out because he knows what he stands for and makes no apologies for it.

Hubert "Wayne" Dukes, 61, is an unabashed fiscal conservative who wants government to operate more efficiently. Toward that end, Dukes says he will use his experience as a 32-year U.S. Department of Defense fire chief to weed out government waste and promote efficiency. Retired and living in Hernando Beach, Dukes says his civil service career has given him exceptional skills at budgeting, planning, construction and contract management.

That expertise, which includes having overseen the merger of fire departments, would add depth to the commission. And, presumably, Dukes' miserly ways and reluctance to raises taxes would be applauded by most residents.

But Dukes promises to not pinch pennies from programs people need. He supports preventive health programs and the public transportation system, and wants to begin planning for a government service center and a hospital on the east side of the county.

In addition, Dukes believes in strengthening the comprehensive plan by requiring a super-majority vote to amend it and requiring developers to better demonstrate the need for a change before the commission forwards such requests to the state Department of Community Affairs for approval.

The second-best candidate in this race is Rose Rocco, 64, who is hoping her third try for the commission is charmed. This is Rocco's first attempt as a Democrat, however; she abandoned the Republican Party this year.

Rocco is an inexorable activist whose involvement in the community is known to many. She oversees cleanups by Operation PRIDE, and volunteers for a host of organizations, including the umbrella group for neighborhood associations, United Communities.

Rocco's platform does not differ significantly from her previous outings as a candidate. She believes her leadership, communication and organization are needed on the commission, and that her commitment to the community demonstrates that she is stronger than her opponents.

Beyond that, Rocco's ideas are shared by most candidates about the need for more industry, more jobs, better infrastructure and managing growth to protect the environment.

We admire Rocco's persistence and willingness to offer herself for public service. But Dukes, who has returned to the county where he was born and raised after retiring from his civil service career, brings more to the table with his government management background.

Ronnie McLean is the remaining candidate in this race. He is passionate and sincere, but his familiarity with local government operations and the community does not approach that of either of his opponents.

Dukes, a lifelong Democrat, may be a bit of a political hybrid, but he is poised and persuasive. Voters can count on him to be decisive and to justify his reasoning. We recommend Dukes in the District 2 Democratic primary.

Robinson for Republicans

The choice should be less difficult for Republican voters in District 2.

Nancy Robinson, who switched to the GOP in her 12th year as a Democrat on the commission, is facing an in-party challenge from Augustino "Augie" Peretti.

Robinson touts her experience and her ability to cultivate compromise among her colleagues on the commission. Her critics point to those same qualities as her weaknesses, suggesting she has lost enthusiasm for the job, and that her brand of negotiation is born of indecision and selfishly preserving her popularity.

Robinson's record probably falls somewhere in the middle of those descriptions.

Robinson, 61, is a critical thinker, as evidenced by her grasp of the issues and her understanding of government's obligations - and limits - in assisting residents. It is apparent she does her homework because the alternative solutions she offers often are assembled from details buried deep in the background material compiled by county staff.

In her first 10 years on the board, Robinson was a key player in some of the board's most significant accomplishments. She was an architect of the residential road repair program, she has lobbied several times for higher impact fees on new construction, she steered the commission through Brooksville Regional Hospital's bankruptcy protection proceedings, and she advocated increasing both the gas and sales tax to raise money for county projects.

That said, Robinson's light has not shone as brightly during her last term, and it sometimes seems, as her opponent Peretti has charged, "She thinks she owns this job."

Peretti is an affable 68-year-old retired social worker from Long Island, N.Y., who lives in Hernando Beach. He has sharply criticized the commission for what he sees as poor planning and wasteful spending.

But Peretti's fiscally conservative message of lowering taxes does not realistically address the long-term revenue shortages facing the commission, namely how to pay for big-ticket infrastructure improvements.

And, even though Robinson has not demonstrated leadership commensurate with her lengthy term on the board lately, her experience as policymaker and her institutional knowledge of county government gives her fundamental insight that Peretti simply cannot match.

We recommend Robinson in the District 2 Republican primary.


Candidates who are not recommended by the Times are invited to respond. Replies from candidates for County Commission District 2 must be received no later than noon Monday, Aug. 21. Replies are limited to approximately 250 words. Deliver to: Jeff Webb, editor of editorials, Hernando Times, 15365 Cortez Boulevard, Brooksville. Fax to 754-6133, or e-mail to webb@sptimes.com.