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Dan DeWitt, Hernando Times Columnist

Dan DeWitt

Dan DeWitt has worked as a reporter or columnist for the Times in Hernando County since 1989. He and his wife, Laura, live with their two sons south of Brooksville.

DeWitt previously worked for the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press. A Cincinnati native, he attended Kenyon College in Ohio and received a master's degree in journalism from the University of Michigan.

Phone: (352) 754-6116

Email: ddewitt@tampabay.com

Twitter: @DDewittTimes

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  1. The push to clean up Weeki Wachee Spring comes at a high cost

    Water

    WEEKI WACHEE

    Every Sunday and Thursday morning, a squad of volunteer divers descends into Weeki Wachee Spring to "scrunge" its lime rock basin, working like wet-suited gardeners to pull up black-green strands of lyngbya algae.

    And every time they return, more algae has appeared, one of the divers, Bill Patty, 71, said last week as he stripped off his suit.

    "We'll never run out of work."...

    Trehey helps unload algae from the spring. “We have to clean up our springs,” said state Sen. Wilton Simpson, a co-sponsor of the 2016 bill.
  2. DeWitt: Leaving the Times, and Hernando County, in good hands

    Human Interest

    The Chinsegut manor house was a beautiful wreck in 1991, when I first visited, with sheets of plywood tacked over expanses of rot.

    "You think I like putting a Band-Aid on it like this?" asked an administrator from the University of South Florida, which then leased the property.

    "I don't."

    There are no plywood patches at Chinsegut anymore, and the fully restored antebellum plantation house north of Brooksville is a busy retreat center that everybody considers a Hernando County treasure....

  3. Friends, family remember Mike Liberton, advocate for nature and the downtrodden

    Environment

    RIDGE MANOR — Two days after one of his last hospital stays and six weeks before his death from blood cancer, Mike Liberton appeared before the Hernando chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society to give a funny, informative 45-minute presentation on creating backyard bird habitats.

    "It was the first time Michael was on an oxygen tank, and the first time we had a speaker at the Native Plant Society with an oxygen tank," said his wife, Cindy Liberton, one of the group's founding members....

    Mike and Cindy Liberton at Cheaha State Park in Alabama.
  4. Brooksville's popular Florida Cracker Kitchen aims at statewide expansion

    Retail

    BROOKSVILLE — Florida Cracker Kitchen's inverted cowboy boot logo — seemingly plastered on every pickup truck in Hernando County — may someday be just as ubiquitous across the state.

    "When people think of Florida, they'll think of that logo, just like the orange. That's the plan," said Bob Tilka, an executive with ServStar LLC, a Jacksonville restaurant group.

    The company, in partnership with the Brooksville restaurant's owners, Blair and Ethan Hensley, expects to open a Jacksonville location in two months and is negotiating deals for two more outlets....

    Shrimp and grits is a signature dish at Florida Cracker Kitchen, which plans to open more restaurants in the state.
  5. DeWitt: Superintendent of schools makes public relations way too difficult

    K12

    If things are going well for a government agency, public relations should be a snap.

    The organization can and should highlight successes. And when bad things happen, leaders are on firm enough ground that they can discuss them thoroughly, honestly and — this being, after all, the state of the famous Sunshine Law — publicly.

    Before we get into how that works with the Hernando County School District and superintendent Lori Romano, I can tell you that after three years of covering the district — a job that a younger (and smarter and hungrier) reporter will take over next week — I think things with the district are generally going well....

    Lori Romano has been superintendent of Hernando schools since 2013.
  6. Weeki Wachee High student, charting a new path for his school, will attend Harvard

    K12

    WEEKI WACHEE

    Alex Stewart was easy to pick out at Weeki Wachee High School on Monday morning.

    It was not just because he's tall and flashes — very frequently — a brilliant smile, not just because nearly every student he passed gave him a friendly wave or called out his baseball-playing nickname, "Stewy."

    It was also because he wore a crimson T-shirt that announced big news for both Stewart and the school....

    Alex Stewart, 17, a graduating senior at Weeki Wachee High School, will attend Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., this fall. Stewart will be the first Weeki Wachee High graduate to attend an Ivy League school.
  7. DeWitt: New Main Street director works to make Brooksville a 'place'

    Growth

    What if, asked Ryan Malloy, enterprising buyers recognized all the distinctive features of the Weeks Hardware building on Main Street in downtown Brooksville?

    What if they saw the potential in the brick front, metal door frame, embossed tin ceilings and the line of flower-shaped caps on the big bolts that support the second floor?

    What if they could find the grants and tax breaks that would make it worth their while to restore the retail space on the first floor and, maybe, create an apartment on the second?...

    Ryan Malloy is executive director of Brooksville Main Street.
  8. DeWitt: Legislators, including Ingoglia and Simpson, attack public schools

    K12

    For years, some school administrators and union leaders have said the ultimate goal of Tallahassee Republicans is to destroy traditional public education.

    And for just as long, it was easy to brush this off as fear-mongering or hyperbole.

    Not so much anymore. Not with the passage this week of the vast, messy, catch-all education bill, HB 7069, and the sadly inadequate education budget that went with it....

  9. DeWitt: Commissioners urge a 'flexible' growth plan that would cost us all

    Growth

    Look around.

    Look at the relentless ugliness of tract housing and strip development. Look at the dry lakes and algae-choked springs. Look at the destruction of vast swaths of land that were once the home of deer, songbirds and gopher tortoises.

    Look at a map like the one a county planner displayed at a Hernando County Commission workshop on Tuesday — one that showed approved subdivisions, both built and unbuilt, spreading to every corner of the county not in public ownership....

    Commissioners were told that septic tanks account for 30 percent of the nitrogen that has clogged the Weeki Wachee River with algae.
  10. Construction starts on TreeUmph! Adventure Course in Hernando

    Economic Development

    BROOKSVILLE — Construction has begun on the long-awaited TreeUmph! Adventure Course east of Brooksville.

    The course, incorporating tall pines and grand oaks on the property, is expected to be a slightly larger version of the owner's first course in Bradenton.

    It will offer the same number of designated routes for customers, but with more "games," which is the term TreeUmph! uses for features such as zip lines, rope bridges and net ropes, said Kathy Corr, a co-owner of the company building the course, CSC Holding Group LLC....

    The footing can be precarious on the course at TreeUmph!, an outdoor zip line adventure and obstacle course in Bradenton. Construction has begun on a similar course east of Brooksville.
  11. Despite questions, Hernando commission moves forward with waste-to-energy plan

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission will proceed with a waste-to-energy plan after a lawyer for the company behind the agreement said the deal would not cost the county money — as a consultant had found — but save it $26.6 million over the 20-year term of the proposed contract.

    Nat Mundy, chief operating officer of the company, Freedom Energy Hernando LLC, and his lawyer, Jake Varn, emphasized at a commission meeting last week that the deal placed no financial risk on the county. And two commissioners, Nick Nicholson and Steve Champion, embraced the idea....

    Commissioner Nick Nicholson suggested arranging a visit to a similar plant in Elk River, Minn.
  12. As Spring Hill turns 50, longtime residents contemplate its future

    Growth

    SPRING HILL

    Greg Kirkland looked down his street near Kass Circle — the original commercial core of Spring Hill — and considered the future of his now 50-year-old community.

    Most of Spring Hill lacks sidewalks, he pointed out, and Kass is dominated by down-market enterprises, including a thrift store and a used furniture outlet. The houses in Spring Hill are too spread out to support any real community hub, he added, and are mostly occupied by financially strapped residents....

    Spring Hill Drive is paved prior to the grand opening of the development in 1967.
  13. DeWitt: The 'vintage' look of old Spring Hill

    Growth

    “Vintage."

    That's what people, at least some young people, consider homes in the oldest part of Spring Hill, according to Hernando County planner Pat McNeese.

    If it's true, it's the most hopeful and revolutionary idea I ran across in reporting on the 50th anniversary of the original Spring Hill subdivision.

    It's revolutionary because I never noticed it myself and never heard it from anyone else. Until recently, McNeese said, she hadn't either....

  14. DeWitt: Repealing the supermajority rule is not a 'good idea'

    Local Government

    There's a marvelously detailed picture of Hernando County on the county Planning Department website, the intricacies rendered not in pixels or brush strokes but in charts and graphs.

    It was compiled — or, you could say, created — over the years by David Miles, the county's longtime demographic planner who retired at the end of March. With zero fanfare, of course, because that was his style....

  15. Hernando superintendent, USF clarify focus of performance survey

    K12

    BROOKSVILLE — The long-delayed plan to allow Hernando County School District employees to rate the performance of superintendent Lori Romano got back on track this week after the district smoothed over differences with a University of South Florida professor hired to create the survey.

    "I called it a meeting of clarification," said School Board Chairwoman Beth Narverud, who met with Romano and USF professor George MacDonald on Monday....

    “I called it a meeting of clarification,” said School Board Chairwoman Beth Narverud.