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Brooksville City Council

Joe Bernardini and Robert Pruitt are challenging Vice Mayor Pat Brayton.

By DAN DeWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


The Brooksville City Council race features two old rivals and one candidate who is new to town, but whose family is an old hand at state politics.

Joe Bernardini, the former council member who was the main target of a recall movement in 1994, is challenging the recall effort's most vocal leader, Vice Mayor Pat Brayton, who was elected that year and has served since. Robert Pruitt, a four-year city resident and the brother of outgoing state Rep. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, stepped into the race in August.

In its early stages, at least, the race had none of the fireworks expected from candidates with the history of Bernardini and Brayton.

"It's been awfully quiet," Brayton said. "Maybe it will stay that way."

Brayton said he does not know why two candidates would challenge him, considering the strong record the council has compiled since he began serving. The city's financial situation has improved considerably, he said. The city ended a state-imposed development moratorium by replacing its two old sewage treatment plants with a new one last year. It has won grants that paid for the replacement of ancient sewer pipes in the poorest sections of town.

"I'm looking forward to continuing what we've been doing ... and what we're doing is slowly building the city," he said.

Bernardini thinks the council's work has been less impressive. The former council was 18 months away from completing a sewer plan when most of its members were voted out in 1994. That means the work would have been finished more than three years before the city finally completed it, and for far less money, Bernardini said.

The former council was also making strides on downtown redevelopment, said Bernardini. That effort has stagnated entirely for the past six years, he said. And the city's financial health is in danger, he said, with the upcoming departure of Brooksville Regional Hospital; the nearby drugstores and doctors' offices will also probably close, he said.

Pruitt, who owns an irrigation and landscaping business, said he was encouraged to get into the race by his brother, Ken Pruitt, who had to leave the House because of term limits and is now running for the state Senate.

Robert Pruitt, who won the city's beautification award for the work done on his house on Howell Avenue, wants to bring similar improvements to the downtown.

Other than that, he said, he is still developing positions on issues the city faces, though he promises to be a responsive member of the council.

"I know my role is going to be a servant of the people," Pruitt said. "I run a service business, and I'm available to customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and that's how I'll work as a City Council member."

The term of Richard Lewis on the City Council also was up this year, but no one filed to run against Lewis. He was automatically returned to the council.

THE JOB

Brooksville City Council members serve four-year terms and are elected at large. Council members are paid $5,300 per year. The council elects one member as mayor each year and another as vice mayor. These titles are largely ceremonial.

CANDIDATES

JOE BERNARDINI, 48, a telephone repairman for BellSouth Telecommuni-

cations, is a native of Brooksville and a graduate of Hernando High School. He previously served 11 years on the City Council, including three terms as mayor. He is married and has two grown daughters. ASSETS: house, rental property, retirement accounts, savings, cars. LIABILITIES: mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: BellSouth salary.

* * *

PAT BRAYTON, 55, was born and raised in Brooksville and graduated from Hernando High School. He later attended Jones Business College in Orlando, receiving a degree in accounting. During the 1970s he served as Brooksville's city clerk. He has had his own bookkeeping firm since 1982. He is married and has two adult children. ASSETS: business, home, mobile home. LIABILITIES: loan on mobile home. SOURCE OF INCOME: accounting business and City Council salary.

* * *

ROBERT PRUITT, 45, owns a landscaping and irrigation business in Crystal River. He moved to Brooksville four years ago from West Palm Beach, where he also ran an irrigation company. He previously ran unsuccessfully for the Sebastian City Council. He and his wife have a daughter and Pruitt also has two sons from a previous marriage. ASSETS: house, savings and vehicles. LIABILITIES: mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: landscaping and irrigation business and from sale of previous business.

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