Face of local government changes
By Michael D. Bates | Hernando TodayBROOKSVILLE - The face of Hernando County government will undergo an extreme makeover starting next week as the first of two new elected officials begin filling their seats.
Published: November 18, 2012
Published: November 18, 2012
Democrat Diane Rowden and Republican Nick Nicholson will be sworn in as county commissioners Tuesday.
And at the end of the year, the long tenures of four constitutional officers will come to an end: Property Appraiser Alvin Mazourek, Tax Collector Juanita Sikes, Circuit Court Clerk Karen Nicolai and Elections Supervisor Annie Williams.
Add the retirement of Judge Daniel Merritt Sr. to the list and the wholesale makeover is complete.
The Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce honored the departing elected officers during a breakfast meeting this past week.
Morris Porton, who sits on the executive board of the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, said it is an exciting time for the county.
The community, he said, was fortunate to have the lengthy tenure of their elected officials.
"It's so rare for a county to have that consistency in their constitutionals," said Porton, who is also chairman of the chamber education training association. "I think we're going into an era with new ideas and I think it's important the community buy in and give these new constitutional officers a chance to help grow the community."
Porton said it can be daunting for the new people coming on board.
"It's a concern," he said. "But we have to have faith in the people who will pick up the knowledge quickly."
Porton said new people bring new ideas and that's a good thing.
"There's the opportunity for new ideas you may not have had before," he said. "There may be a learning curve but sometimes that's good."
Robert Eaton, president of Artistic Homes, said he is not so much concerned with the new county commissioners. Nicholson is well-versed in local issues and Rowden has been there before, having served two terms on the board.
Eaton said the elections office and tax collector's office should not take too big a hit. Their replacements should do fine, he said.
However, Mazourek and Nicolai's departures will be keenly felt, he said, because they are taking with them years of county institutional knowledge.
"Those are big shoes to fill," said Eaton, chairman of the Hernando Builders Association government affairs committee. "We're definitely going to miss them. They've been here a long time and have done a good job."
Eaton hopes for a seamless transition for all new people.
Marilyn Pearson-Adams, president of Century 21 Alliance Realty and District Seven vice president for Florida Realtors, said time will tell "if our new leaders have what it takes."
"As elected leaders, they have an obligation through efficient government and budgeting to continue to identify and promote the critical factors for effective economic growth and economic recovery," Pearson-Adams said.
Mazourek plans to spend more time with family.
"During the past 14 years I have had the privilege of serving Hernando County, the taxpayers and I have been fortunate to work with an excellent staff," Mazourek said in an earlier prepared statement.
Mazourek endorsed John Emerson, his chief deputy, to succeed him as property appraiser.
Emerson, who has served in his present capacity for more than four years, won the August primary and faced no opposition in the general election.
"His knowledge of Hernando County and all facets of the office will be very important to the taxpayers," Mazourek said of Emerson.
Sikes, who's held her post for 10 years, said she has been "truly blessed to have served the citizens all these years" and appreciates the faith people had in her as tax collector.
Sally Daniel, the office's chief deputy, ran unopposed for the position and will succeed her.
Sikes said in an email Friday she has mixed emotions about leaving and it will take her a while to grow accustomed to not coming to work daily, especially after 40 years in the office.
"I love the people and knowing that I may have helped citizens in some small way," Sikes said. "I have always stressed to my staff that when people come into our office, it always cost them money and we need to try to make it as pleasant an experience as possible.
"I will not miss the folks that take their frustrations out on my staff and I when everything doesn't go their way," she added. "Since the economy has been so bad, we have had a lot more than when times were good. My staff and I try to be understanding and compassionate to everyone."
Nicolai, stepping down after 24 years, has said she is leaving the office in good hands in her hand-picked successor Don Barbee, general counsel to the clerk's office who ran unopposed this year to take the post.
Nicolai said she would not have considered retirement if she did not have confidence in Barbee's ability to "keep this office running strong."
Nicolai said retirement was something she had been contemplating for some time and there wasn't any one thing that made up her mind.
She said she wants to spend time with her family and travel.
"I have truly enjoyed my job and the opportunities given to me by the people of Hernando County," Nicolai said in a previous press release. "It is now time for me to retire, enjoy time with my family, and continue to give back to the community in other ways."
Nicolai said she is proud of her achievements during her long tenure and cited the formation of teen court, drug and mental health court and her office's work with audit services.
Williams, elections boss since 2000, said she looks forward to more time with her family.
"Over a 40 year span, almost 38 of those years have been here in the elections office," Williams said. "(It) never crossed my mind that I would still be here when I started in 1973 at the age of 17, while still in high school."
"I'm sure I will miss coming here after so many years, along with the friendships and acquaintances I've made," she added.
email@example.com (352) 544-5290