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The incumbents in two west Pasco districts face growing competition for their posts.
By CHUIN-WEI YAP, Times Staff Writer
Published January 29, 2008
The County Commission contests in west Pasco just got more crowded.
Nicholas Planck and Teresa "Terri" Conroy, both Democrats from New Port Richey, filed papers last week to challenge Commissioner Ann Hildebrand for her southwestern Pasco district seat.
Rich Jenkins, a Republican from Hudson, will contest his party's primary against Commissioner Jack Mariano for Pasco's northwestern seat.
Planck, a 49-year-old retired U.S. Coast Guard employee, said he wants to stop the county from "bleeding money" and has a clear idea where the incumbent's vulnerability might be.
He wants commissioners to pay attention to their constituents.
Which issues did he have in mind? a reporter asked.
"You mean, aside from surfing the Internet?" he asked. "That tells you how much attention they were paying."
Two years ago, the St. Petersburg Times found some commissioners surfing the Internet liberally during commission sessions.
But Planck may have a problem sticking this accusation on Hildebrand.
The Times' analysis showed both Hildebrand and Mariano apparently never used public resources to visit Web sites unrelated to county business.
But that's not the only issue on Planck's platform.
"Our infrastructure is in the year 2000, but we're operating under management and procedures that's somewhere in the '70s," he said.
On broader issues, like runaway insurance costs for homeowners, Planck thinks the ball is outside the county's court for now. "At this time, I don't think Pasco, in and of itself, can do much," he said. "There may be some way, but I haven't figured it out yet."
Reached Monday, he said he wasn't aware he had a Democratic rival.
Conroy, his opponent, is a single mother of two - "your typical Pasco County resident," she quips - who's lived in Pasco since 1983.
Now 48, she was in the irrigation business before working in permitting and land development for Lexington Homes of New Port Richey.
"That's one of reasons I want to be on the commission," she said. "It's very difficult to build a home now. Impact fees are going so high. I've seen what other counties do in their procedures, and I can see that we can invite more people to do business here."
Conroy also supports giving incentives to "green" building and promoting recycling.
She used to write for a now-defunct Dunedin weekly called the Dunedin Times, and still runs what she laughingly calls a "positive news newspaper" called the Bay Area Tradewinds.
Laid off from Lexington Homes two days after Christmas last year, economic issues weigh heavily on her.
"I saw a lot of people go - my whole department - they let seven people go in one day," she said. "It was tough for them. So many of my friends are unemployed now: subcontractors, pool builders down to $20 a week, air-conditioning people. It's very tough."
The management of public money is also a big deal for Jenkins, who owns a mortgage firm in Port Richey.
He wants to see cuts in county expenses - but not in the sheriff's budget.
"We're going into a potentially dangerous time, and we don't need to cut into the public safety segment," he said.
As a budget-cutting measure, Jenkins is calling on the county to stop its reliance on consultants.
The 43-year-old pilot and history graduate from the University of West Florida also has some broad ideas on clustering development - and some tax breaks to go along with that.
"If we incentivize our developers to build along existing infrastructure or use site plans that use a lot of green space, we can offer something to help them, like cut impact fees or something along those lines," he said.
The trio are not the incumbents' only challengers. Hildebrand is also facing Republican Wil Nickerson, and Jack Mariano is facing Republican George Vera.
Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at email@example.com or 813909-4613.
[Last modified January 28, 2008, 21:56:42]