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A Times Editorial

Phillips deserves third term as commissioner

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 26, 2000


Of all the incumbents on this year's local ballot, Vicki Phillips may be the most deserving of being returned to office.

Phillips, who is seeking her third term as the county commissioner from District 3, continues to be one of the most accessible, informed and conscientious commissioners in years. Since first being elected in 1992, Phillips has been a voice of reason who does her homework and asks probing questions in a professional and measured tone. She has demonstrated leadership and the ability to build consensus for her ideas, often being the commissioner who forges compromises between some of the less flexible members of the board.

Phillips, a Republican, has weathered a host of controversial issues during her tenure. Those include:

Consistently opposing public funding of the Economic Development Council and insisting that members of the private-public partnership conduct all their business in the open.

Voting to turn over operations of the county jail and ambulance service to private companies, which has resulted in savings for taxpayers.

Leading the commission's unsuccessful effort in 1997 to persuade voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax increase to improve the county's water quality by expanding the sewer and water system. Phillips' leadership on this initiative was especially remarkable because she represents a section of the county, Lecanto and Beverly Hills, that stood to gain the least from those improvements.

Supporting the construction of the second phase of the Suncoast Parkway, concentrating on keeping the road's impact on residents and sensitive lands to a minimum.

Although we haven't always agreed with her decisions, we respect Phillips' resolve and her ability to accept victory and defeat without being petty or vindictive. We also appreciate her candor and her diligence in pursuing her goals.

If re-elected, Phillips has promised to reintroduce a more modest revenue-raising measure for a variety of capital projects, including water and sewer lines, parks, libraries and road improvements. Phillips has been the most vocal supporter of sharing a 1-cent sales tax increase with the Citrus County School Board, which probably would use its share to build new schools. She understands that a broader approach, coupled with a comprehensive marketing plan to educate the public about its benefits, would appeal to more residents and have a much better chance of approval.

Phillips' opponent in the general election is Zoe McLendon, a Democrat from south Dunnellon who is making her second bid for the office. McLendon is a down-to-earth and sincere candidate. We are particularly impressed by McLendon's concern for young people and her wish to have the commission provide more money to groups such as the Boys and Girls Club. McLendon, a former sergeant at the county jail, correctly understands that getting kids off the streets and involved in worthwhile pursuits before they get in trouble with the law is a wise investment of public funds.

But the bright spots in McLendon's platform still pale in comparison to Phillips' experience and her understanding of the long-term infrastructure and growth-management challenges facing the county. We strongly recommend voters return Phillips to a third term on the commission.

Opportunity to reply

Candidates not recommended by the Times are invited to respond. The reply should be no more than 250 words and must be received no later than 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26. Deliver to 301 W Main St., Inverness, or fax to 860-7320, or e-mail as a text-only file to citrus@sptimes.com.

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