Note: I planned to update this blog to correct that Ozello Trail is not the only county road with mile markers, that they're also on Fort Island Trail.
We’ve spent a lot of time recently talking about Ozello so let’s end the week with a funny story from years gone by.
First, though, today’s stumper:
What is unique to Ozello Trail among all Citrus County public roads? The answer is below and, sorry, you’re not going to find it on Google.
Right off: If you have a negative opinion on Pirates Cove and haven’t actually SEEN it and the community park, then for gosh sakes go do that. The drive alone is spectacular if you’re not in a hurry, and Ozello itself is quaint in that old fishing village sort of way.
From a political standpoint, Ozello has probably had no more or less decent representation on the county commission than any other small corner of the county. Ozello has few issues that I can recall other than protecting what they have.
Ozello is Ozello.
Before I tell my Ozello story I want to say a little about my approach to voters on Election Day. Generally, I stay away from them. I know there are media organizations and pollsters who accost people and ask them how they voted. I don’t do that. Some things just are not my business.
But if I KNOW how you voted and I see trends, I may ask why you feel the way you do. Again, these are not my favorite interviews and I’ve tried to avoid them over the years unless an editor insisted.
And that takes us back to 1988. I had been in Citrus County a year and was covering my first election. Wilma Anderson was supervisor of elections. Unlike the world in which we now live, people weren’t looking under every rock for voter “fraud”.
Miz Willy wore fuzzy slippers on Election Night.
It was the second primary, another political tradition of bygone days. The way it worked was if the primary winner in a race with more than two candidates didn’t get over 50% of the vote, the top two went to the tiebreaker in the second primary, usually in October.
The turnout was historically awful, something in the 20% range. It wasn’t unusual to see a popular candidate win the first primary, just miss the 50% cutoff, and lose the runoff because of the horrible turnout. I can’t recall if it was the Republicans or Democrats who wanted to kill off the runoff but it’s no longer around.
So, the second primary means low voter turnout. For Ozello, that’s really low. Ozello had a precinct that, in a normal election, would mean under 50 people total voting. (Before Mo Baird breaks down my door, these old tiny precincts no longer exist.)
In the 1988 Democratic runoff primary, U.S. Sen. Buddy MacKay was in a runoff with Bill Gunter, a former state insurance commissioner and, yes, we voted for such a position at one time. MacKay, our former congressman and future governor, easily won the runoff but not in Ozello.
There, the vote was 5-0 for Gunter.
I thought, what did Buddy MacKay do to aggravate the Ozelloians? I didn’t have to ask how they voted because there were only five votes that day and they all went to the same candidate.
I got the names of the five voters from the elections office – voter names are public record – and thought it would be fun to call and find out why Ozello hates Buddy MacKay.
The first person hung up on me. The second person wanted to know how the hell I knew how she voted. When I started to explain in my cheerful voice this anomaly, she also hung up on me.
A little while later, Wilma Anderson called. In her nicest grandma voice, she said: “Mike, will you please stop calling people in Ozello asking why they voted that way?”
Of course, I did as she asked. I still don’t know what Buddy MacKay did to anger Ozello.
Lesson: Don’t talk to people about their vote unless they initiate the conversation. Especially in Ozello.
And now an answer to our stumper:
What makes Ozello Trail unique among county roads: It is the only one with mile markers. I’m sure an Ozelloian can explain this further, but the county put them in many years ago at the request of community leaders who wanted a point of reference when someone called for an ambulance or deputy. This was long before GPS, and those mile markers exist today.
Take advantage of this beautiful weather and go explore Ozello, one mile marker at a time.
Just a note: I planned to update this blog to correct that Ozello Trail is not the only county road with mile markers, that they're also on Fort Island Trail. I decided, instead, to leave it alone. But it's not. Just know that.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.