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Allen soundly defeats Kouba, takes on Sikes


© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2000


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BROOKSVILLE -- Garry R. Allen will square off against Juanita Sikes for the post of Hernando County tax collector Nov. 7. The election will mark the first time the job has been up for grabs in eight years.

Allen, who is the county technology services director, soundly defeated his opponent, John J. Kouba, in the Republican primary election Tuesday.

Now, he must face opposition from Democrat Sikes, a 27-year employee of the Tax Collector's Office. She is the sister of current Tax Collector Leona Bechtelheimer, who retires at the end of December after more than two decades in office.

Less than an hour after polls closed and with 45 of the 51 precincts reporting, supporters congratulated Allen at the Hernando County Republican headquarters in Brooksville.

"There is a certain amount of relief," said Allen, who spent the day doing some last-minute campaigning. "I met (Kouba) as an opponent, but I would like to consider him a friend."

Kouba could not be reached Tuesday night.

In the month before the general election, Allen said he has no plans to change his campaign strategy. "I still plan to run a clean campaign," he said.

Married with two children, Allen, 40, is a 1977 graduate of Hernando High School.

In his current position for 11 years, Allen supervises about 15 employees and has a $1-million budget. A county employee since 1979, he designed and developed software for the tax office. If elected, Allen has promised to focus on the county's projected population growth by making the office's services available on the Internet. Services that could be handled electronically would include paying taxes, purchasing fishing and hunting licenses, and renewing automobile registration.

Also, Allen has said he intends to expand office hours to accommodate the schedules of working people who need to conduct business after 5 p.m.

With the job comes a customer base of about 125,000 people, two offices, 32 employees and a $1.4-million budget.

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