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....
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....
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....
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?...
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....
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....
05/03/17 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....
05/03/17 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....
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....
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....
04/20/17 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....
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....
04/11/17 Local Government
At a community event a few months ago, in a friendly if somewhat heated chat with Sheriff Al Nienhuis, I said we certainly need a good, well-funded Sheriff's Office, but we also need good parks.
He responded that what we really need is good families.
It's a not-uncommon refrain, the subtext of which is that public safety is the essential work of government and that other functions are secondary, even extraneous....
04/06/17 Human Interest
ARIPEKA — In the late 1970s, a guy who said he was building a house in Aripeka started stopping by Norfleet Fish Camp, a neighborhood store and social hub.
The youthful-looking middle-aged man, who introduced himself as Jim Rosenquist, loved to fish, said longtime store owner Carl Norfleet. He bought milk and beer, talked community news and mentioned in passing that he was an artist, though not in a way that suggested Norfleet should recognize his name....
04/06/17 Local Government
If you believe the budget war between the Hernando County Commission and Sheriff Al Nienhuis is over, you have to believe there really was a war.
This idea was pushed by sidelined Commissioner Jeff Holcomb, who is serving an active-duty deployment with the Navy but who seems to haves plenty of time and energy to devote to local politics by way of Facebook.
Not only did Holcomb apply this overly dramatic comparison to a dispute that involved less than $2 million, he made it clear who he thought fired the first shots: the County Commission....