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Citrus slices

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 30, 2000

Candidates prefer chuckle to a rumble

Who says politicians can't take, or make, a joke? The comedy was in high gear last week during the Citrus County Chronicle's candidate forum.

TAKE MY WIFE . . . PLEASE: County Commission candidate Bruce Van Vlack noted that a recent profile of him failed to note that he is married.

"I am available," Van Vlack said. Then, after a pause, he completed the thought: "To be your county commissioner."

A SOUND IN THE NIGHT: Members of the audience laughed when the microphone stand creaked as candidates handled it.

"That's the Halloween effect," moderator Mike Wright said.

Van Vlack begged to differ: "That's my joints after all this (campaign) walking," he said.

JOKES IN STORE: Tax collector hopeful Lee Cooper said he was pleased to see the National Guard Armory so full. But did that many people really come out to see politicians?

Perhaps not. "There's a young couple that came in looking for the tile department," Cooper joked.

Home Depot just opened its massive store just across U.S. 19 from the armory.

SPEAKING OF POLITICIANS: County Commissioner Jim Fowler got some jokes of his own onto the record earlier in the week, when serving as co-master of ceremonies at Tax Collector Norine Gilstrap's retirement party.

Fowler lamented Gilstrap's imminent departure.

"She's going to miss the grand opening of our courthouse expansion," he deadpanned, "which will probably be done in 30 or 40 years."

HOW SWEET: Citrus Memorial Hospital is building a medical clinic in Beverly Hills, and Clark Stillwell, the Inverness lawyer who represents the hospital's governing board, was happy to hear that the hospital was planning a grand opening ceremony.

During a meeting of the governing board last week, the lawyer asked whether the party would include refreshments. Charles Blasband, the chief executive officer, promised punch and cookies.

"We would love for you to serve them," Blasband said.

THEY BLEW IT: Attorneys attempted to pay Circuit Judge Michael Blackstone a lighthearted tribute on his last day of conducting dependency court Wednesday, but it went unnoticed.

A couple of dozen lawyers had piled into the courtroom. One lawyer handed out chewing gum. Gum is not allowed on the third floor of the courthouse. The plan was to blow big bubbles when the judge entered the courtroom. And that's what the lawyers did.

But Blackstone stepped hurriedly into the courtroom, barely looking up, and immediately called the first case. Because dependency court generally deals in cases of child abuse or neglect, the prank, which had been planned for weeks, was quickly abandoned.

The attorneys, not to mention their gum, were foiled.

Blackstone leaves the bench Tuesday.

- Times staff writers Jim Ross and Bill Varian compiled this report.

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