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Letters to the Editors

Back off and let Rick Michael do his job

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 24, 2000

Editor: I am embarrassed for Rick Michael by what I have been reading in the newspapers lately regarding his performance, or lack of performance, over the last four years as Economic Development Commission executive director. I would like to offer my perspective, which I hope will help counter some of the negative bias that I see and, in the process, maybe help Rick keep his job.

I am the president and owner of Kinematics & Controls Corp. in the Corporate AirPark at Hernando County Airport. We relocated our small manufacturing operation here from Long Island, N.Y., a little more than a year ago. Although we were not directly recruited by Rick, or the EDC, it was Rick Michael's strong and charismatic leadership, shown early in our deliberations, that enormously influenced our decision to move to Hernando County.

Sometime in mid-1999 I made a tentative decision to move the business here, but shortly after having made it, I was faced with significant and serious doubts about following through on such a daunting plan. It was solely Rick Michael's confident and reasonable counseling and salesmanship over the course of several sessions that helped restore my confidence in our original decision. I have never looked back.

I credit him and thank him for helping me make a good decision for myself, for my company, and for my family. Furthermore, there were countless other little things Rick did for us. It was Rick and his staff who helped us recruit and interview some of the best workers we have ever had in the history of our company. His office is responsible for having introduced us to many of the other tenants in the park, to reputable local builders and to bankers who would make it possible for us to build our dream. I was surprised when he even personally accompanied me, and spoke on our behalf, at the Design Review Board meeting, which was considering approval of our building permits.

In part, this is what Rick Michael is about. Rick is major league material, who chooses to play in our minor league market. Make no mistake about it: Hernando County is fortunate to have him.

Frankly, I hope we all smarten up and start easing off on the political pressure we are bringing to bear on him before he starts to question why he puts up with us. Rick Michael is a strong and charismatic leader who is extremely self-confident. He is smart, good on his feet and knows when to speak and when to keep his mouth shut. Some would misinterpret this as arrogance. I see none in him.

A few current members of the County Commission know I strongly disagreed with Rick Michael on the overall value of the Wackenhut project. I questioned his judgment. But I do clearly understand his rationale. Here was a perfect example of a man with inherently sound judgment being influenced by unreasonable pressure to achieve "tangible" short-term results.

If we insist on pressuring a man for a list of short-term results as a measure of his job performance, we had better take what he gives us and credit him for it.

Here, when he produced something tangible, he was left hanging out to dry by a now largely retired group of county commissioners, some of whom suddenly became enlightened and bailed out on him at the eleventh hour.

What do we want? Do we want economic development at any cost? The correct answer, of course, is, "No!"

When you give a man a job to do, give him a clear directive and let him do it. And don't try to measure economic development in the short term. It's just not possible to take out a yardstick every year and measure the success of an agency such as the EDC. Economic strides are measured in decades, not in single years.

Finally, please think about this: What are we all going to do when Rick Michael is finally forced from his job? Let me put it another way. Once the satisfaction, which Rick's hard-core detractors undoubtedly will relish, has worn off, where is the county going to be in terms of moving forward with it's economic development? I say that none of us in this county will be better off by his leaving. Frankly, I fear we may be substantially worse off for it.

You have a good man here. I say fix the problems you may have with him, stop sending him conflicting signals and keep him. Rick is good for Hernando County. He wants to stay, and I think we are damn lucky to have him. The alternative is that you'll look long and hard for a suitable replacement. Then maybe, just maybe, after you think you have found him, you'll let him do the job you've hired him to do.
-- John Rakucewicz, president, Kinematics & Controls Corp. Brooksville

Nobody addressing U.S. 19 problem

Editor: Re: Delay in fixing of U.S. 19 is taking a toll on business, letter, Dec. 19 Hernando Times:

I echo Jim Marsh's complaint about the construction on U.S. 19. As a family we regularly shop at the Publix directly across the highway from Forest Oaks Boulevard. For some months we have been subjected to crossing the highway, first by slowing to a crawl so you don't break an axle, and half the time the light changes to red before you get across.

I have called the responsible parties and have been assured they would look into this problem. To date nothing has been done.

Before retirement I traveled some 50,000 miles per year by vehicle on the East Coast and West Coast. In all my varied experience I have never seen a worse example of highway construction.

Again my sentiments are with the business owners on U.S. 19. The construction needs a wake-up call and now.
-- Victor R. Carlson, Spring Hill

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The Hernando Times welcomes letters from readers for publication.

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Send your letter to Hernando Times, 161 E Jefferson St., Brooksville, FL 34601. Send letters by electronic mail (in text only format) to

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