Candidate talks trash but not about her opponents

Running against two members of her church, she has strong words on growth and landfills.

By Chuin-Wei Yap, Times Satff Writer
Published March 6, 2008

ZEPHYRHILLS - Anyone watching the contest for the Pasco County Commission's easternmost seat might want to keep an eye on the pews of St. Anthony of Padua Church.

That's something a new candidate for the commission seat, Regina "Gina" King of Zephyrhills, shares with her opponents, incumbent Commission Chairman Ted Schrader and challenger John Nicolette.

"We are all parishioners of St. Anthony's church," said King, who filed to run last week.

All three are Republicans, which means that unless a Democrat files in time, the contest could be decided by the Aug. 26 primary.

But don't expect to see feisty exchanges at the San Antonio church.

Tuesday, King issued broad criticisms of Pasco growth policies and skepticism toward a proposed landfill in east Pasco, but steered clear of directly attacking her two opponents.

Her candidacy, she said, "has nothing to do with Ted or John, but everything to do with geography. I live in District 1."

A 37-year-old Verizon software engineer and project manager with a political science degree from the University of South Florida, King said her top concern is the pressure of development.

"Probably my No. 1 reason for running is planning and uncontrolled growth," she said. "When I have to leave Zephyrhills on State Road 54 to go to Interstate 75, it makes me want to slash my wrists. I'm so tired of seeing all these cookie-cutter subdivisions, and it's getting so dense. Pasco needs to keep up with change, and we need to have responsible growth."

By the same token, King fears a new landfill proposed southeast of Dade City could choke her district with trash trucks.

"If it's completely rural and there are no homes here, that's one thing," she said. "But it's going to ruin a lot of people's lives. ... My problem is with privatizing (the county's trash disposal). Next thing you know, there'll be trash from all over the state dumped in our county."

King might be best remembered for her one term on the Zephyrhills City Council.

She won office in April 2004, beating a well-known incumbent with vows to overturn the renaming of Sixth Avenue for civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and quickly delivered on her promises despite public protests.

"I guess what really outraged me was how that whole process went down. ... I was just disgusted with the lack of a democratic process," she said. "They had guidelines on how to change the name of an established street and they just ignored it. That just infuriates me."

Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at cyap@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4613.