Two seats are up for grabs this year on the Hernando County Commission, but only District 4 is involved in this month’s primary.
Republicans Jeff Holcomb and Laurie Pizzo will face off Aug. 26 and the winner will confront Democrat Dan Oliver and no-party candidate H. David Werder.
Holcomb and Pizzo agree that job growth is the most pressing issue facing Hernando County. But they differ on other key issues, including the Penny for Projects sales tax initiative that will be on the general election.
Pizzo has received the backing of several big-name Republicans, including Dave Russell, the current occupant of the District 4 commission seat.
Holcomb has one endorsement: Commissioner Jim Adkins.
The District 4 county commission seat became available when incumbent Russell announced he was stepping down at the end of his term.
After 16 years in public service – eight on the county commission and eight in the state Legislature – Russell last year announced he wanted to spend more time with his grandchildren and concentrate on his pool business.
Holcomb offers private sector experience and a background in economics.
He is an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves with more than eight years of decorated service. He started with the rank of seaman and received four promotions in 6 1/2 years, including his commission as an officer in 2012.
Holcomb’s three-pronged platform is to grow and diversify the economy of Hernando County, attract new manufacturing- and technology-based businesses, and make the county more business-friendly.
Pizzo has strong backing from the local and state real estate community. She sits on local boards, including the HCA Oak Hill Hospital Advisory Council and Habitat for Humanity.
Pizzo said Hernando County will prosper when job-creating small businesses are encouraged to start and expand and when taxes are cut so government spends less and taxpayers can spend more.
Pizzo has amassed more financial contributions than Holcomb. As of Aug. 1, her total monetary contributions were $50,252, compared to Holcomb’s $17,297.
Hernando Today sent a questionnaire to both candidates and asked them questions about their platforms. Here are their responses:
1. Why are you running for office and what differentiates you from your opponent?
Holcomb: “I am running to make a difference and help establish fiscally responsible government that will be primed for the growth of the economy. I am different from my opponent because I am conservative and I truly want to fix government. I also will not cater to special interest.”
Pizzo: “I believe I have the experience and knowledge of this county to guide us into the future. I think I have the vision and conservative principles to lead Hernando County. I want our county to be in the best position possible as we recover from the economic recession and continue to build into the future.”
2. What do you think is the biggest issue facing Hernando County and what would you do on the commission to address it?
Holcomb: “Jobs and growing the economy of Hernando County. I have met with the county administrator many times and he indicated that when he meets with companies, having a commissioner with him helps because it lets the company know the county is serious about attracting new business. I would be willing to meet with these companies.”
Pizzo: “The number one priority is attracting business and increasing employment opportunities in Hernando County. In order to do this we must maintain a balanced budget, even if this means looking for ways to reduce spending and hold the line on the taxes. We must expand our technical and vocational training centers in the county to provide a well-educated workforce for these better-paying jobs.”
3. Where do you stand on Penny for Projects, the one-cent sales tax increase being proposed by the county and school district?
Holcomb: “I like that the citizens will have the choice to decide on the fate of the tax. I agree with those that say the combining of the tax is a risk to the schools.”
Pizzo: “I support this investment in our county’s future. The half-cent for the schools will be earmarked for schools maintenance and technology needs. The half-cent for the county will be for economic development. This is a win-win for our county’s future.”
4. Do you support the construction of an education-tourism center in Hernando County and where do you think it should be located?
Holcomb: “I think the Weekiwachee Preserve, with the beach that would allow for fishing, swimming, kayaking, etc., is the most attractive place.”
Pizzo: “I believe that this is a wonderful concept. It is incumbent upon our county and all interested stakeholders to come together to provide their thoughts and input to this project.”
5. How do you think the Hernando County commission should address growth management in the coming years?
Holcomb: “The best places for growth in industry is at the airport and the I-75 corridor. Both of these locations are designed for this growth and will not have an effect on the residential communities.”
Pizzo: “I believe in proper planning and adherence to the comprehensive plan. However, there is flexibility … as it is a flexible document. It should not be dismissed summarily. I am in favor of smart growth insuring we have quality of life, adequate water supply and adequate infrastructure.”