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A Times Editorial

Diane Rowden, District 3

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 31, 2000

Two candidates. Two different approaches and philosophies about county government.

Make that two very good candidates and two very different approaches, each very badly wanting to be the next county commissioner from District 3.

After carefully researching the candidates and their platforms, and considering the strengths and stark differences in their personalities, the Times' recommendation goes to Democratic candidate Diane Rowden. Rowden's previous experience and tenacity as an elected official, her ability to make a personal connection with the people she hopes to serve, and the unconventional points of view she will bring to the board are the factors that tip the scale in her favor.

Before elaborating on Rowden's qualifications and platform, it is appropriate to commend the candidacy of her opponent, Republican Carey Carlson. Carlson, 45, is a lifelong Brooksville resident making his first run at public office. He has run a positive campaign and after being vague on some issues early on, his stances are more clearly defined now.

Carlson is bright, congenialand has an impressive background as a businessman in the cement and mining industries. Setting policy from a distance, whether in a private or public board room, is how Carlson is most comfortable doing business. But while there are times when such detachment is preferable, a steady diet of it doesn't go over very well with the stockholders in government: taxpayers and voters.

In contrast, governing from the bottom up is Rowden's forte. It is virtually impossible for her to make a decision without first thinking about how it will affect constituents. Rowden's dynamic personality wins people over the hard way: She earns it, one handshake and deed at a time. She is fiercely independent and will make sure she cannot be accused of being controlled by anyone. If she shows favoritism, it is toward those who feel disenfranchised from government.

Carlson supporters have attempted to cast Rowden as "another Pat Novy," referring to the maverick commissioner from District 1 who recently was defeated in a runoff election. Novy may have fancied herself as "the people's commissioner," but Rowden wrote the book on that approach, and handles it much better because she is more sincere and trusting. Also, because Rowden has been an airline flight attendant for more than 30 years, she has a view of public policy issues that extends far beyond Florida.

When Rowden was on the Hernando School Board in the early 1990s, she was a catalyst for change. She was the first board member to question the spendthrift ways of Superintendent Dan McIntyre, and she also led the charge to implement a much-needed nepotism policy. Later, she spearheaded the effort to change the superintendent's job from elected to appointed. That accomplishment could be one of the most significant improvements in county government during the past decade.

Of course, Rowden had her faults, one of which was to be convicted of breaking the state Sunshine Law for talking privately about public business with another board member. For that serious indiscretion, the governor suspended her from office and the state Senate later refused to reinstate her. Rowden learned a valuable lesson from that mistake, and we have no reason to believe she will repeat it.

That's mainly because Rowden, 51, has matured. She is less brash and more disciplined in solving problems, and she articulates her ideas with forethought and balance. Her platform reflects that restraint. If elected, her best proposals include these priorities:

SENIORS: She wants to establish a panel of residents to advise the commission on issues affecting the elderly, a segment of the population that needs better representation.

GROWTH MANAGEMENT: Rowden would require developers to pay up front for the infrastructure-related improvements that growth brings, including full funding of water lines and roads. She correctly recognizes that growth is inevitable and that such charges are the norm elsewhere, and developers will not bypass the county because of it. Rowden believes quality of growth is more important than quantity.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Rowden wants to bring the operation back under county control. As a compromise, she proposes limiting public funding to a matching level the corporation can collect from the private sector.

ENVIRONMENT: Rowden wants to stop expansion at mines and cement plants until water and air quality standards are universally measured and enforced.

It is not an embellishment to observe that Rowden clearly loves what she is doing, which is listening to people and trying to solve their problems. And she appears more enthused by that prospect than any commission candidate. We believe it's time for voters to give her that chance. We recommend her in the Nov. 7 general election.

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 noon Thursday, Nov. 2. Deliver to 161 E Jefferson St., Brooksville, or fax to 754-6133, or e-mail as a text-only file to

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