A Times Editorial
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 26, 2000
Ideas -- good ones, at least -- often are scarce during election years. But when a candidate comes up with a few, his opponent had better be prepared to follow suit. Failing to do so can be interpreted by voters as unquestioned satisfaction with the status quo, or even a lack of imagination or zeal for the job.
Annie Williams has fallen into that trap. While her opponent in the race for supervisor of elections, Gus Guadagnino, has brainstormed and beat the bushes to get his ideas across to voters, Williams has been content to campaign almost exclusively on her 24 years of experience in the elections office, declining to suggest ways to improve the operation.
That is unfortunate, because Williams may have had the best chance of any African-American in the history of Hernando County to be elected to a county office. Instead, she has allowed Guadagnino to advance virtually unchallenged in his quest for the job.
That should not diminish Guadagnino's candidacy. He is passionate about his desire to get more people involved in the democratic process, and the ideas he has suggested for accomplishing that goal have promise that transcend Williams' shortcomings in the political arena.
If elected, Guadagnino says he will enhance the office's outreach programs to educate voters, especially younger ones, about the need to meet their civic responsibility. He plans to overcome voter apathy by working with schools and senior citizen groups to register voters. He also wants to make voting easier for the infirmed and immobile by expanding the absentee ballot program or taking voting machines into nursing homes.
Guadagnino, a Republican, also recognizes the need to increase the number of precincts in the county, which will make it more convenient for voters to get to a poll on election days. He opposes closing public schools so they can be used for polling. One of his more progressive ideas is to create an interactive Internet Web site that allows residents to vote on topical issues being considered by local elected officials. The votes would be non-binding, of course, and wholly unscientific. But if properly applied the Web site might draw in those who are otherwise indifferent to how government operates, and it could be a valuable learning tool for students.
Guadagnino also promises to put candidates' campaign contributions and expenditures on the Web site, as well as provide links to election laws. That should have been done several years ago.
Guadagnino's plans for the office are complemented by his extensive involvement in the community. He has been a tireless volunteer for more than a dozen organizations, many of them charitable, which has given him an understanding of residents and their concerns. In addition, his experience as the owner of a successful business arms him with several skills that are necessary to run the supervisor's office, including managing money and personnel. (Incidentally, if elected Guadagnino promises to turn his business over to his wife and to be a full-time public servant.)
Williams, a Democrat, has been a mainstay in the elections office for more than two decades, working her way up from clerk to her present position as assistant supervisor. She has served with fairness and aplomb, doing all that has been asked of her. By all accounts she is a taskmaster who has worked well under three elected supervisors. If Guadagnino wins this election, he should be eager to retain Williams in that management capacity. Her knowledge of the election laws and office procedures will prove invaluable to him as he concentrates on implementing his improvements.
With a tip of the hat to Williams for her steady record of public service, we recommend Hernando County voters support Guadagnino Nov. 7.