Meet the Candidates: County Commissioner District 3

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Meet the Candidates: County Commissioner District 3

Sun, 07/26/2020 - 19:50
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This is a Universal Primary Contest, so both (REP) candidates will appear on all Primary ballots (NPA, DEM & REP).  The District 3 designation refers to the area the commissioner represents.  Candidates must reside in the district they represent, but all voters in the county can vote for a district candidate. Thank you to the candidates for providing a bio and answering our questions.

JOHN ALLOCCO (REP, Incumbent)

John Allocco

BIO: John Allocco moved to Hernando County in 1999 to begin his career as a Physical Therapist after completing his bachelor’s degree at the University of Florida and his master’s degree at the University of St. Augustine.  He met his wife Randi here, married in 2002 and started a family.  In 2006 his entrepreneurial spirit pushed him to begin a physical therapy company with his wife as his partner. That business has grown steadily and over the last 14 years creating skilled jobs and providing quality care to well over 10,000 patients and counting.  In 2016 he was elected as District 3 Hernando County Commissioner. 

What are your thoughts on local regulations in response to COVID-19 type events?

Every community is different in population, size, and geography, and therefore should not be regulated the same during potentially catastrophic events.  Let us compare Pinellas County to Hernando County as an example.  Hernando County has around 425 people per square mile of land, while Pinellas County has a population density of nearly 3,500 people per square mile or over 8 times the population density.  When dealing with a healthcare emergency, especially when it is a communicable disease, having flexibility from county to county is crucial for the success of the community.

Describe up to three ordinances that need to be modified/removed/added?

During my 4-year tenure on the county commission numerous redundant and/or unnecessary ordinances have been eliminated.  The board members and our staff are regularly identifying more of these.  In an attempt to improve transparency in our local government, I presented an ordinance to the board in 2018 requiring lobbyists to register with the county and publicly report interactions with our commissioners and department managers.  It was unfortunately voted down 3:2.

Do you see any areas where the county needs to increase funding?  How could this be paid for?

I believe Code Enforcement is an area that needs an increase in full-time code officers dedicated exclusively to code enforcement.  This can initially be addressed by no longer having Code Enforcement Officers perform Zoning Department inspections. (We can do this without raising taxes).

Do you see any areas where funding/the budget can be cut?

Streamlining and cross-training is the first place to look for budget controls. Eliminating redundancies from department to department is another way.  Last year the Board of County Commissioners eliminated our Information Technology (IT) department and contracted with the Clerk of the Court and Comptroller's office to provide IT services.   Savings were modest in the initial change-over but this year we should recognize significant savings from this move.  

If you are in favor of decreasing the budget, how do you pay for obligated salary increases, cost of living increases, and other inflationary costs?

Regardless of the economic climate, controlling the growth of a budget is essential to long-term financial health.  Contracts and decisions from one board can cause harmful effects on future boards for years to come.  Creating an environment for healthy commercial growth in the community, keeping salary and benefits packages from growing unreasonably when compared to the private sector, avoiding long-terms on collective bargaining agreements, and annually reassessing what is an "essential" government function for this community is how you pay for these future costs.  

Please describe up to three county projects that are most important to the county and why?

Continuing our Road Paving Cost Share program for upgrading lime roads to paved roads, expansion of US 41 and County Line Road, and continuing to work with the federal and state government for expansion of broadband into our unserved and under-served rural communities are all important for quality growth in our county and for the expansion businesses that provide the jobs and careers necessary to support a family.

Please describe up to three top issues facing the county that need to be addressed. 

1.) Diversification of industries to reduce the economic effects of impending business cycles, 2.) Funding for replacement or upgrading of aging infrastructure, 3.) Protecting our water supplies for generations to come.

What inspired you to run for county commissioner?

I believe that a strong community must develop leaders in each generation with the ability to serve at different levels of government for a limited time.  Seeing people make a career out of an elected office by running over and over for personal gain and personal agendas is what inspired me to run for office (so that I could at least change this in my district).  Elected office held by one person for decades creates complacency in the electorate.  If 8 years is good for the presidency, it should be good for local office as well.

Burton F. Melaugh (REP)

Burton Melaugh

BIO: Originally from Manhattan, moved to Winter Park in 1978, moved to Hernando in 2008.  Sixth generation Floridian.  Served with the Marine Corps in Desert Storm; family counts six veterans from three generations who have served in four wars.  Began college at the University of Alabama, and finished at Florida State University:  studied Political Science and Philosophy (with a focus on political theory).  I've been in Florida politics since 2000.  Experience began as Vice President, then President of the Tallahassee chapter of our state restaurant association. Since then, I've worked on numerous public information and public office campaigns at the local, state, and federal levels, and am a past member of two county Republican Executive Committees.  I've partnered in two restaurants in the past, and currently own a local catering business with my wife.  As well, I've recently completed web design studies at PHSC, and have just finished our first website to launch a web design company.  I've volunteered for numerous local Hernando organizations over the years, with the goal of getting people, particularly children, fed.  Current volunteer with three local organizations, and am a member of the Board of Directors of one.

What are your thoughts on local regulations in response to COVID-19 type events?

The COVID situation has been handled properly, and without making any knee-jerk regulations.  In situations like these, we need to keep in mind citizen's right to self-determination, and not be too quick to level all-encompassing restrictions.  Hernando residents are doing an outstanding job of keeping COVID numbers low, so regulations haven't been necessary up to this point.

Describe up to three ordinances that need to be modified/removed/added?

The ordinance that needs to be reconsidered is that of impact fees on new-build homes.  Only one-third of the homes sold in Hernando are new-builds, with remaining 2/3 being re-sales.  So, this means 2/3 of folks moving to Hernando are not paying impact fees.  We need to retool the impact fee situation so everyone who moves here pays their share for growth in Hernando.

Do you see any areas where the county needs to increase funding?  How could this be paid for?

The area that the county needs to increase funding is for the restaffing of county employees after all the staff cuts.  I've met with numerous department heads, and I can tell you the situation is urgent.  In particular, we need ample staffing at the Economic Development office.  This is an investment, not a cost, and we must increase our tax base with the help of this office.

Do you see any areas where funding/the budget can be cut?

I don't see any areas to cut funding.  We've already cut too much to cope with the county deficit.  Instead of more cuts and tax hikes, we need to focus on expanding our tax base and county income with aggressive economic development at the airport industrial park.  Industrial tax sources yield the greatest amount of tax dollars and incur the least amount of cost to the county.

If you are in favor of decreasing the budget, how do you pay for obligated salary increases, cost of living increases, and other inflationary costs?

I am not in favor of decreasing the budget any further.  We've cut the budget as much as we can. Again, we need to focus on bringing more money in from economic development rather than focus on further cuts and tax increases.

Please describe up to three county projects that are most important to the county and why?

My highest priority for county projects, and highest campaign issue, is the aforementioned economic development at the industrial park area.  Without increasing our tax base, budget woes will again rear their heads.  The main source of income is property taxes, but the county loses money on each home unless the home is an expensive one.  In other words, the county pays more for a median price home than it collects.  This is unsustainable.

Please describe up to three top issues facing the county that need to be addressed. 

Top three issues that need to be addressed:  1. Economic development and preventing further tax increases.  2.  We need the Commission to refocus on what's good for our citizens, not what's good for certain public officials. The Commission has become way too much about politics and not enough about the Hernando constituency.  3.  Connecting people to their government.  Without a doubt, the most common complaint I hear in Hernando is that people feel ignored by, and disconnected to, their local government.  I will be available to address constituent concerns, and to educate constituents on how to negotiate their government.

What inspired you to run for county commissioner?

What inspired me to run for Commissioner is county's need to bring a greater sense of ethics and fiduciary responsibility to our county commission.  Hernando has become a cesspool of politics, and the cesspool needs to be drained.  I've aspired to run for public office for twenty years, and I find the position of County Commissioner to be attractive because, as opposed to serving in Tallahassee or Washington, one is always amongst the constituency.  It's much more desirable to work where you serve.

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