It wouldn’t be an election year without me explaining to a confused Citrus County electorate why we vote for people to kill mosquitoes.
Most folks might think, rather logically, that the county does that. Maybe where you came from, but not in Citrus and a dozen other Florida communities.
These select few have special mosquito control districts, created by state law. They’re their own little skeeter-fighting governments.
The Citrus County Mosquito Control District has been around since 1953 and was established as an independent district in 1999. It has three board members, elected to staggered four-year terms, who each earn $400 monthly.
The district has its own property tax — it’s about 43 bucks a year for someone owning a house with a taxable value of $100,000. The district has a $7 million budget and 24 employees.
Every two years this seat gets attention from candidates. This year there are three: incumbent Joe Adams, Tracy Lord and Steve Pochis. It’s nonpartisan.
Now that you know the encyclopedia details, let’s break it down some:
— I cannot recall any single year where issues dominated the debate. I mean…it’s mosquito control. Either we’re killing mosquitoes or we’re not. No issues this year that I’m aware of.
— This has always been considered a political stepping stone position, though that’s more theory than reality. No one that I know of has a successful political career that started with mosquito control. Yes, it’s a small budget and some governing, but truthfully many citizens don’t take it too seriously (the mosquito government I'm talking about, not mosquitoes, of which we take VERY seriously).
— Steve Pochis has signs that say he “packs a punch.” I asked about that, wondering about the imagery of punching a mosquito. He told me he had to do something to get his name out because this is a race where the first name on the ballot usually wins.
Well, I had to see that for myself. I reviewed election results back through 2010 and, sure enough, most of the mosquito control board winners were first on the ballot.
Adams, for example, in 2018 defeated a fairly known (for mosquito control) longtime incumbent: Brenda Buzby. His name was first on the ballot, as it is this time.
This first-name phenomenon probably helped Stephanie Adams in 2020. Theressa Foster West collected and spent like it was a county commission race and still lost by a wide margin to Stephanie Adams, whose campaign publicity included that she’s married to Joe.
(I was on the phone Monday with Joe Adams and asked him a question about the district’s new helicopter. He had to walk outside his house to answer so that his wife, fellow board member Stephanie, wouldn’t overhear him and potentially violate the Sunshine Law.)
— This isn’t Pochis’ first skeeter rodeo. He ran and lost in 2014 and 2018. I don’t say that to bring people down. It’s to show a candidate has history with a particular campaign and folks should know that.
— Every so often someone asks why the county doesn’t perform this function, since it seems like the kind of service the county government would do. So I asked Joe Adams about it, and he said there’s no way the county could do this job as efficiently as an independent taxing district.
He’s probably right about that. Given budget constraints and a county commission deciding whether to repave neighborhood roads or dedicate helicopter spraying to reduce pesky mosquitoes, most commissioners will take the former until the latter becomes a problem.
Next thing you know, mosquito control is caught in the budget web of picking priorities.
While electing mosquito board members is weird, the process does seem to work rather well.
Unless you’re a mosquito. Then it bites.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.