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District 1 Citrus County Commisison

Issues in this race range from waterway protection and the Suncoast Parkway to impact fees and the Economic Development Council.

By Bridget Hall Grumet

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


The two men running for the County Commission seat in District 1 agree that growth is coming, but they disagree about whether the county has done the right things to prepare for that growth.

County Commissioner Roger Batchelor, a Republican seeking his second term, said he thinks the county has been on the right track for the past few years. If re-elected, he said, he would continue working on the water quality projects and economic development efforts that have marked his first four years in office.

"We want to continue cleaning up our waterways -- that's our No. 1 priority," Batchelor said. "It's something I feel like we're years behind on, and we have to do it."

Democrat Bruce Van Vlack, a retired salesman making his first run for public office, says the county has not done enough. He says he would bring a more proactive approach to county government.

"I don't think the commissioners in the past have been very forward thinking," Van Vlack said. "Impact fees have been ignored for 10 years, and now we're looking at drastic increases because of obvious neglect. The same thing with water and sewer rates, now we have to look at them again."

Van Vlack supports increasing impact fees and reviewing the rates annually. Batchelor believes the rates need to be adjusted, but he said he could not vote for a rate change until the impact fee consultant provides more specific data that justifies the new rates.

Van Vlack criticized commissioners for putting the jail and the ambulance system into the hands of private management companies, saying the county is "shirking its responsibility." But Batchelor said both moves have brought considerable savings to the taxpayers without reducing the quality of service.

Batchelor believes there is no stopping the Suncoast Parkway: The road is built up to the county's southern border and eventually will be needed through Citrus, he said. But Van Vlack said the county should hold a referendum and fight the parkway's extension through Citrus, if that is what residents want.

The two men differ somewhat over the Economic Development Council, a private group that receives some county funding.

Batchelor headed the committee that recommended the creation of the Economic Development Council. But he said his once strong support of the group has turned tenuous because the group has suffered from miscommunication and poor leadership.

"I still think (the public-private model for the council) has some merit," Batchelor said. "Unfortunately, it's been a disappointment to me. I'm in a holding pattern now, and it certainly needs to be revisited."

Van Vlack opposes county funding for the group, saying the council is ineffective and inefficient. He believes economic development projects should be handled by the county directly.

THE JOB

The County Commission is the legislative and policy-setting body for Citrus County. Commissioners must live in the district they represent but are elected countywide. District 1 includes Crystal River and the northwestern part of the county. Commissioners serve four-year terms and earn $44,043 a year.

REPUBLICAN

ROGER ORVILLE BATCHELOR, 62, of Crystal River is a charter boat captain who is finishing his first term as a county commissioner. He worked for Florida Power for 36 years in engineering, management and public relations before retiring in 1993. Batchelor was born in Haines City and moved here in 1976. He earned his diploma as an electrical technician in 1958 from the Radio Electronic Television School in Miami. He is widowed and has two children. ASSETS: house and land, boat, stock in Florida Progress Corp., checking account. LIABILITIES: mortgage, auto loans, credit card debts. SOURCE OF INCOME: commission salary, retirement benefits, charter boat business, stock dividends.

DEMOCRAT

BRUCE LEE VAN VLACK, 62, of Homosassa is a retired salesman who worked at several office supplies stores from 1968 until 1991. He was a sales manager for three years at a Crystal River temporary employment agency, and then became an advertising account representative for the Citrus County Chronicle from 1994 until his 1998 retirement. The Connecticut native moved here in 1976. He is married and has a daughter. ASSETS: house, rental property. LIABILITIES: mortgage, credit card debts. SOURCE OF INCOME: Social Security, proceeds from a land sale.

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