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District 3 Citrus County Commission

Challenger Zoe McLendon questions Vicki Phillips' positions on the Suncoast Parkway and privatizing government services.

By BRIDGET HALL GRUMET

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


County Commissioner Vicki Phillips, a Republican seeking her third term on the board, says she has established a track record of being accessible and accountable to the voters. She regularly attends civic association meetings and hands out her home phone number to residents who have questions about the issues or her votes.

Zoe McLendon, the Democratic challenger from south Dunnellon, says she is making her second bid for the District 3 seat to represent those whom Phillips does not: those who want to fight the Suncoast Parkway and those who want the jail and ambulance services to be run directly by the county.

McLendon said if elected, she would look for legal ways to keep the Suncoast Parkway from being built through Citrus County.

"If the citizens of Citrus County don't want the Parkway, I think the government should represent them and fight it," McLendon said.

The Suncoast Parkway is already built up to Citrus County's southern border, and Phillips said the county cannot stop the second leg of the state project. She also said many of the constituents she talks to support the road, as long as the wetlands are protected and growth controlled.

"I believe that ... it is to our advantage to work with the (state Department of Transportation) to make sure that when this road comes through here -- because it will come through here -- it is built in such a way that we protect our quality of life and our environment," Phillips said.

McLendon has also criticized Phillips for voting to hand the jail and the ambulance service over to private management companies. The county is less accountable for those important safety services when they are run by private companies, McLendon said.

McLendon, who previously worked as a sheriff's corrections officer, said the jail was more secure when it was under the sheriff's control.

"I think they're saving face more than they're saving money," McLendon said of the commission's praise for privatization.

But Phillips said the jail has been just as safe under the Corrections Corporation of America as it was under the sheriff, and it now costs the county just $42 a day to house an inmate, as opposed to $71 a day under the sheriff.

The ambulance system is now in the hands of the Nature Coast Emergency Medical Foundation, a non-profit group led by representatives of the local hospitals, law enforcement agencies, fire chiefs, medical community and the public.

"Some have expertise in (emergency medical services), others have experience in other emergency services," Phillips said. "I think the citizens are much better served by that board of directors than for us five commissioners to oversee that service."

Those differences aside, Phillips and McLendon hold similar views on impact fees and economic development. Both support raising the decade-old impact fees to the level that a consultant has recommended, and both oppose county funding for the Economic Development Council.

Phillips and McLendon also have both expressed their concerns about one of the Economic Development Council's most controversial clients, the Brown Schools, which opened a residential facility earlier this year for troubled youth at the former Heritage Hospital in Lecanto.

"They could have found a better place to put that school," McLendon said, echoing the concerns of Phillips and many of the neighbors.

THE JOB

The County Commission is the legislative and policy setting body for Citrus County. Commissioners represent a district but are elected by voters countywide. District 3 includes Lecanto, Beverly Hills and Pine Ridge. Commissioners serve four-year terms and earn $44,043 a year.

REPUBLICAN

VICKI PHILLIPS, 50, of Lecanto, is finishing her second term as county commissioner. The North Carolina native has worked as a bookkeeper/secretary for Piedmont Assembly Production, a payroll clerk for Florida Power Corp., and a marketing secretary for Ben Hill Griffin Inc. Phillips took time away to raise her daughter and volunteer in the school system. She earned her associate's degree in liberal arts from Central Florida Community College in 1989. She is married and has two children. ASSETS: house, bank account, property in North Carolina. LIABILITIES: mortgage, home equity loan, credit card. SOURCE OF INCOME: County Commission salary, commercial property rental payment, bank interest. WEB SITE: http://www.vphillips.com.

DEMOCRAT

ZOE GAIL McLENDON, 49, was a sergeant for six of her 13 years with the Citrus County Sheriff's Office. She is now preparing to take the entrance exam to law school. The Florida native earned her associate's degrees in arts and science from Central Florida Community College, and she earned her bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Saint Leo University. She has also worked as a teacher's aide in Marion County public schools and as a social services worker. She is divorced and has two children. ASSETS: home, bank account. LIABILITIES: none. SOURCE OF INCOME: none.

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