Bill Hunter would have enjoyed today’s County Commission meeting.
It’s a light agenda with one heavy hitter item — deciding who gets interviews for county administrator.
I’d already be in my seat by 12:30, half an hour before gavel time, and we’d make sure to spend a few minutes chatting about how the day might go.
He’d sit near the back of the room, usually in the row in front of me, and every time a commissioner would make a questionable remark, I’d expect Bill to turn around with a knowing smile.
But he won’t be there and it’s a loss, to his Pine Ridge community and to all of us as well.
I received word Sunday that Bill had died. I knew he was sick; we spoke in June about how he was pulling back from activities to focus on treatment, but he fully expected to get back in the game.
County Commission gadflies are nothing new. Bill was different, though I didn’t think so at first.
He moved to Pine Ridge in 2021 and started attending board meetings right around the same time I was about to retire from the Chronicle. I noticed the new guy in the audience — it’s easy to see who’s there for a specific reason and who’s there for the overall experience — and he was taking notes on the back of his agenda.
Before long, we were talking about residential road repaving — a very big deal in Pine Ridge — and he had this manner that I instantly liked.
What was it? Let’s see. Um…NOT PUSHY. That’s what it was. Bill was just a nice man, polite, knowledgeable but eager to learn more. Opinionated for sure, but in a way that it’s fun to debate. I’d lose debates with Bill and feel better because of it.
He was that way with everybody. He respected the office of county commissioner and was respectful of commissioners and the county staff.
Bill became involved in Pine Ridge issues, particularly road repaving, the Suncoast Parkway and turnpike extension. Boy, he knew his stuff.
Road resurfacing was a particular aggravation. As with many who’ve moved to Citrus the last two or three years, Bill couldn’t understand how the county let neighborhood streets get in such bad shape.
He was a firm believer that the best way to fix roads on a regular cycle was through a sales tax. This was our favorite subject. I agreed with him about the financial end but said voters will never go for it. He told me I was crazy.
I was looking forward to more of those talks.
Bill was a very early supporter of Just Wright Citrus. I think he got one of my first business cards. While he read the blogs, he especially enjoyed the online discussion. Bill encouraged conversation and opinion from others.
I mention all this because Bill Hunter was the kind of Citrus Countian we want. Engaged in his community in a positive manner. Engaged in local government. Friendly, polite, knowledgeable, not overbearing, keeping politics at bay.
I wish I had a photo of Bill for this blog but I don’t. So I grabbed a screenshot of Bill speaking at a road resurfacing workshop in November. He spent his 3 minutes giving solid observations while at the same time acknowledging he still is learning.
That humility is so rare on both sides of the government dais.
We need more Bill Hunters at local government meetings. It seems so, I don’t know, combative lately and any calm, rational, intelligent voice is a welcome one. People listened to Bill. Not because he shouted or threatened all sorts of dire consequences if ignored.
They listened because he had something to say.
I’ll be thinking of Bill today when the gavel comes down at 1 p.m. We lost a good one, Citrus County. A good one indeed.
Join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.