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Letters to the Editors

Candidates win points for candor

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000

Editor: On Oct. 23 I had the opportunity to attend a political forum at the Greater Mount Carmel Baptist Church in the heart of the black community of Inverness. It was a most gracious effort on the part of the pastor, the Rev. Leroy Ed Jones, to host this event. As in centuries past, the church remains the mecca of social activity for us. The forum was sponsored by the Florida Voters League, a non-partisan organization striving for 100-percent voter registration and an active, informed electorate statewide. It was expertly moderated by the league's president, Eugene Poole.

In fact, were it not for Mr. Poole's arbitration, a fiery, emotionally charged and lively night of intense discussion could have easily turned into a riotous nightmare. It proved to be an evening of open-heartedness and honest introspection with unhindered, yet tempered, dialogue between a mostly African-American audience and political candidates.

We arrived with our own concerns and questions. We were not interested in the continued plight of the Economic Development Council, or the Chassahowitzka water ordeal. There were children, adolescents, adults and elderly present. Despite the age differences, our issues of concern were the same: the lack of blacks in managerial positions in county governmental agencies, where some have worked for decades; the deadlocked inability of the School Board to hire black instructors at Citrus High School; lack of reasonable minority employment and diversity in county government such as the Tax Collector, Property Appraiser, Clerk of Courts and Supervisor of Elections offices; some type of survey and evaluation to ensure that fairness is achieved as it relates to hiring and promoting practices; the fact that it has taken three years for the non-instructional staff of the school district to obtain a raise and will it take that long for the next one; what plans are being made to prepare currently employed black teachers for administrative positions, when the three blacks that now hold those positions will retire or be close to retirement in the next five years; and, the burdensome cost of prescription drugs for our elderly.

The format of the forum was simple: five minutes of speech followed by a question-and-answer session for each candidate. We received frank, unrehearsed responses to poignant questions. But no reply was as gripping as the one made by Property Appraiser Ron Schultz early in the evening. Sitting near me was an old lady and according to her perspective, he "put his foot in his mouth." The other candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, looked horrified, judging his answers as an enormous blunder. By the time Mr. Schultz sat down, everyone in the building, including the children, understood plainly what he had said.

Simply stated, I heard this: Black people have a problem with language skills. We cannot talk. When Yankees phone in wanting information on their property, we have a dialect that makes it impossible to communicate. The mere presence of blacks in the workplace generates a great deal of anxiety and frustration for white employees. Therefore one black in any office is enough. He had gone beyond the call of duty and satisfied all quotas because prior to the departure of Alida Langely, he had two blacks working for him out of approximately 38 to 40 people.

Mr. Schultz's words have dominated my thinking since they were uttered. One principle of life is certain: Whatever is in the heart, it will come out of the mouth. I respect honesty even if I disagree. Flattery and "sucking up" is so woven into our American culture that often truth can never be isolated. Schultz did not anger me at all because he fully exposed himself. It's the snakes I don't see that bother me. Despite our improvements in race relations, there are whites in public and private businesses all over this county who share Mr. Schultz's beliefs and they don't have gumption enough to admit it.

Hiring a "token black" is an accepted custom in Citrus County government. Schultz just brought it to light. I give him credit for that. Likewise, Schultz should applaud me and all the other black citizens present that night for our decency and civility.
-- Mercedia White, Inverness

PTA thanks volunteers for help at festival

Editor: The PTA at Crystal River Primary School would like to thank all the businesses and volunteers for their contributions to our Putt 'n Pumpkins golf game at the 13th Annual Scarecrow Festival.

This event was a lot of fun and a great success due to the efforts of those mentioned. A special thanks to Tina Williams of "B" on the Web at, 628-0627, for being our sponsor.
-- Angel Caleau, PTA secretary

Tax collector offers thanks for celebration

Editor: Special thanks to Sharon TenBroeck, Alyda Langley, Committee and County Commissioners for a beautiful and extraordinary retirement celebration. Your efforts, time and generosity will never be forgotten.

A big thanks to the businesses and individuals for your generous contributions in helping make my celebration possible.

Thanks to John Sullivan and Jim Fowler for being masters of ceremonies, and the many who participated in the program a very warm thank you. Many thanks to my friends who so graciously served the delicious food and refreshments.

Your gifts, proclamations, plaques, flowers, balloons, proclaiming Oct. 22 Norine S. Gilstrap day -- limousine, sheriff/police escort, your attendance and the many lovely cards -- all touched my heart and will always be treasured memories. It is a day I'll never forget!!
-- Norine S. Gilstrap, County Tax Collector

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