Newly elected commissioner seeks office downtown
By Michael D. Bates | Hernando TodayBROOKSVILLE - Three years ago, county commissioners agreed to move into satellite offices in their districts to be closer to constituents and free up space at the downtown government center.
Published: November 10, 2012
Published: November 10, 2012
For the commissioner representing District 3, that meant an office at the West Hernando Staffordene T. Foggia branch library at 6335 Blackbird Ave., off State Road 50, near Weeki Wachee.
Incoming County Commissioner Diane Rowden is slated to take over Druzbick's office, located in the back of the library.
If she has her way, she won't be moving into it at all.
Rowden doesn't like the idea of taking up needed library space and wants to be closer to staff downtown. She asked the county administrator to find office space for her at the government center at 20 North Main St. in downtown Brooksville.
Rowden said she doesn't need a big space — just somewhere she can access a phone, computer and meet with constituents.
"That's where things happen," Rowden said of the government center.
Rowden said she doesn't think people will travel to the library to meet her, and it is ridiculous to take up valuable space better served by library staffers.
County Administrator Len Sossamon said he would take a look and see what space is available at the government center.
At the same time, Sossamon said he can see the rationale behind freeing up space downtown and being closer to constituents.
County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes said commissioners need to be near their constituency, even if they don't see many people in their satellite offices. His office is in the Forest Oaks veterans center in the government complex.
"I don't understand why a commissioner wouldn't want to be in their district," Dukes said. "But I'm not surprised (Rowden) has done that. She's been there before, and we saw how she operated. I'm not pleased, and I'm not surprised."
Dukes said he has heard from employees at the government center how former commissioners used them as sort of errand runners and it disrupted their schedules.
"There have been commissioners in the past who have micromanaged, and being in the government center they have more a tendency to do that," he said. "It's not efficient. It wastes taxpayer dollars by misuse of staff time, and it sends a bad message that we don't want to be in our own district."
If a commissioner wants to move back to the government center and maintain an office then it should be discussed and voted on by the entire board, Dukes said.
County Commissioner Dave Russell said his office at the Hernando County Airport works well for him. He said he meets constituents there, at the conference center in the government center or "wherever they want to meet."
But Russell said he has no problem with Rowden seeking to stay downtown if it works best for her.
"That's fine," he said. "It should be up to the individual commissioner. We've probably got space there she can use."
In 2009, county commissioners relocated to their satellite offices throughout the county.
All except then-commissioner Rose Rocco, who opted to stay at the downtown government center.
The move was part of a county reorganization plan to create room on the fourth floor for the property appraiser's office and get him out of a leased building at city hall.
The plan also was supposed to make commissioners more accessible to their constituency by having them situated in their district.
Rocco fought against the idea and chose not to move to her district, which covered mainly Hernando Beach. She believed it would be inconvenient to taxpayers and be harder for her to have access to staff members.
Druzbick said the idea behind the relocation was sound and it did free up space. But it didn't result in an increase in visitors.
"I thought it would make it easier for constituents to see us but it didn't happen," he said.
Druzbick said he had about five people meet him at the library in the last four years. He meets most people at the government center, where board members still have a common office for appointments.
He said his library office is functional and close to his home in the district. But he makes frequent trips to downtown Brooksville to meet staffers. It makes no sense, he said, for employees to drive out to him.
He describes his library setting as functional.
"It's an office with a desk, a computer and a phone," he said.
Commissioner Jim Adkins said he enjoys being at the Department of Public Works building.
Adkins remains the closest from the government center — about 1.5 miles to the Department of Public Works, 1525 E. Jefferson St.
Adkins said he is happy there, but would bend to the board's will on whatever direction is chosen.
"It's positive," he said. "People come and visit me and I get a lot done. The DPW is probably one of the most active departments in the county for taking care of people's needs."
It's also easier, he said, for people who don't want to walk up the steep hill at the government center.
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