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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


Twitter: @DDewittTimes

  1. DeWitt: Hernando's raids on natural lands fund need to stop


    It's clear that Hernando County commissioners now view the nearly $6 million environmentally sensitive lands fund as a pot of money they can dip into at any time for just about any purpose.

    Need $275,000 to remove the clumps of vegetation clogging Hunter's Lake?

    No matter that a county attorney said this was not an approved use, the commission last week grabbed the money from the fund anyway....

  2. Family obligations leave Hernando School Board member attending meetings remotely


    BROOKSVILLE — To anyone who has noticed the frequent emptiness of Hernando County School Board member Susan Duval's chair at recent meetings and workshops, there's a good reason for her absence, Duval said.

    Her daughter, Lee, a lawyer who lives in Connecticut, was diagnosed in August with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Duval, 69, moved there to take care of her daughter's two children, who are 10 and 6 years old....

    Hernando School Board member Susan Duval is attending meetings remotely from Connecticut.
  3. DeWitt: Norman-Vacha set Brooksville on a path to success

    Local Government

    Because Jennene Norman-Vacha has taken heaps of criticism from her former bosses lately, and because complaints about the city she used to lead are pretty much eternal, let's remember Brooksville as it was before she took the job as city manager.

    Let's look at what she did to make the city better.

    Previous leadership was so focused on approving new developments that it was content to leave the old downtown as a ghost town. No tumbleweeds, maybe, but several firmly rooted varieties growing through cracks in sidewalks a few blocks from Main Street....

    The Brooksville City Council recently decided not to renew the contract of City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha.
  4. Hernando teachers get much-needed computer upgrade



    Lorraine Armstrong, a math teacher at West Hernando Middle School, said that only the night before, she had been thinking about how nice it would be to have decent laptop for work.

    "I was doing my lesson plans, and my old one quit like five times. It just powered down by itself," Armstrong said. "I had to save every five minutes, and I didn't save, so it was a little bit distressing."...

    Shellee Johnston, 54, left, a district technology specialist, issues a laptop to West Hernando Middle School math teacher Lorraine Armstrong, 55. “Just the thought of having a new computer … this is really nice for my students,” she said.
  5. Absentee rates at Hernando schools: high but showing improvement


    BROOKSVILLE — West Hernando Middle School posts its latest attendance figures every day on the cafeteria wall.

    When students begin to miss school days more than 10 percent of the time, which disqualifies them from participating in sports and other extracurricular activities, teachers talk to them and reach out to parents.

    If the trend continues, the conferences include guidance counselors, academic team leaders and administrators....

    Middle and high school students who don’t attend school at least 90 percent of the time are disqualified from participation in band, sports and similar activities.
  6. DeWitt: Education funding gives Ingoglia a chance to prove he's not a politician


    It's been one of the major head-scratchers of the run-up to this year's session of the Florida Legislature:

    Doom-and-gloom budget forecasts, especially from the House of Representatives, at a time when Florida's economy seems to be humming along.

    What gives?

    How did we go from a budget surplus of $636 million this year to the forecast of $7.5 million for 2017-18 and, far more concerning, big deficits in the two years after that?...

  7. Hernando schools will not seek new funding for StarFISH


    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District will not seek additional state funding for Project StarFISH — a program designed to address underserved students with mental illnesses — because of forecasts of a tight state budget and incomplete data about its effectiveness.

    "We are going to hold off on adding StarFISH" to the list of budget requests for this year's session of the Florida Legislature, Karen Jordan, the district's spokeswoman and legislative liaison, wrote to School Board lobbyist Brady Benford on Jan. 13....

  8. DeWitt: Dinner at Beasley Brooksville farm is 'outstanding'


    Most of the diners, the ones who could spend $190 on a five-course lunch, weren't from around here.

    Neither were the tattooed and pierced industry pros who prepared the meal and brewed the beer and staged the event last week at Joann Beasley's farm 5 miles east of Brooksville.

    Outstanding in the Field, a Santa Cruz, Calif., company that bills itself as a "restaurant without walls," had set up a long table laid with white linens and wine glasses between rows of neatly tended chard and mustard greens....

    Woody Beasley of Beasley Farm shows guests the various greens grown on the property during an Outstanding in the Field dinner held at the property.
  9. DeWitt: Outgoing judge has conflict as he prepares to return to previous job


    The career plans of Hernando County Judge Donald "Sonny" McCathran Jr. will be no surprise to defense attorneys who have appeared before him.

    When his term ends in January, McCathran will become an assistant state attorney, the same job he held for 14 years before being appointed to his judge's job in March 2014 — and, to hear some lawyers tell it, a job he practically continued to perform on the bench....

    County Judge Donald "Sonny" McCathran lost his primary election race in August to Kristie Ruppe.
  10. Plan calls for lease of former golf course to Florida Blueberry Festival

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The Brooksville City Council is moving ahead with a controversial plan to lease the former site of the Quarry Golf Course to the Florida Blueberry Festival for 60 years.

    The challenges of continuing to stage the festival downtown, especially the presence of two state-maintained highways, will keep the event from growing, backers of the plan say. The move to dedicated grounds, where festival organizers plan to build an amphitheater, would allow the nonprofit organization to host several other events each year. And it might help fend off blueberry growers from Polk County who have sought to lure the festival away from Brooksville....

    Under a plan being discussed with the Brooksville City Council, the Florida Blueberry Festival could be moving to the site of the former Quarry Golf Course in Brooksville.
  11. DeWitt: Despite disputes, Hernando School Board has made progress


    There was a nasty discussion at a Hernando County School Board meeting last month.

    Board member Beth Narverud said she had heard from parents and teachers about the chaotic situation at Moton Elementary School — now on its third full-time principal in less than six months — and wondered what the district was doing about it.

    Board member Gus Guadagnino, a steadfast ally of superintendent Lori Romano, responded by blasting Narverud for "basically crucifying our superintendent without knowing all the details."...

  12. Bike trail projects in Hernando move forward


    BROOKSVILLE — With broad-based support locally and statewide, three portions of a network of paved walking and cycling trails in Hernando County have hit or are approaching crucial milestones.

    And former Brooksville Mayor Lara Bradburn can hardly believe the level of official backing.

    "We've gone from a house full of non-believers to a house full of believers," said Bradburn, a trail advocate for about 20 years....

    With wide support from officials, Hernando County’s bike trail plans seem to be moving forward. [Times files]
  13. Tour of Chinsegut spurs thoughts of what could be



    Howard Dunn, like a lot of people who had gathered at the top of Chinsegut Hill, looked down into the grassy valley and imagined what might grow there.

    Calves were first on his list.

    "I'm a cattleman," said Dunn, who is president of the Florida Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association and whose profession could be guessed by his jeans, denim shirt, cowboy boots and cowboy hat....

    Florida A & M University forum participants tour the buildings and facilities in the sprawling Chinsegut Hill property.
  14. Brooksville must reapprove budget to comply with state law

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The city of Brooksville, which held what was billed as its "final budget hearing" in September, will have to reboot the process after the state said its property tax rate was not quite as low as advertised.

    The Florida Department of Revenue sent the city a letter dated Oct. 17, saying it had failed to advertise its adopted millage rate, 6.6426 mills, as a tax increase....

  15. Hernando elections office offers remedy for incomplete Brooksville ballots


    BROOKSVILLE — It was only after Brooksville resident K.O. Smith cast his early ballot that he noticed something had been missing.

    After leaving the polling place at the Sarah F. Davis Community Center in south Brooksville last week, Smith and his wife, Lynne, saw Brooksville City Council candidate Frankie Burnett sitting nearby in a lawn chair, surrounded by campaign signs.

    "I said, 'I need to go over and talk to Frankie.' And my wife said, 'Hey, he wasn't on the ballot,' " Smith said....

    Frankie Burnett is running for City Council re-election.