Let me tell you about my hometown.
That would be Inverness, the county seat of Citrus, the place where Elvis made a movie and tossed a football on the Courthouse lawn.
Upon my arrival here in early 1987, I noticed two things immediately: friendly charm and a ton of traffic on U.S. 41 through town.
Thirty-five years later, the city still exudes charm and there’s still a ton of traffic on U.S. 41 through town.
I’ve been an actual city resident for the last 17 years, but all my time in Citrus has had an Inverness address. I consider myself an Inverness guy.
During my Chronicle years, I covered Inverness City Hall on occasion. I recall when the late Bruce Banning abruptly resigned as city manager and his assistant, someone named Frank DiGiovanni, replaced him.
I also wrote about the night DiGiovanni unveiled plans for the Depot District. That man was a visionary and this city wouldn’t be close to where it is today if not for him.
(We’ll return to that in the near future.)
Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate Inverness for its attitude. DiGiovanni, known for his “my way or, well, there is no other way but my way” style of governing, also encouraged out-of-the-box thinking.
How else to explain the Cooter Festival? And the July 3 Patriotic Evening, pure genius to place Independence Day celebrations the night before.
DiGiovanni came up through the parks system and it shows today. Inverness has tremendous parks: Whispering Pines (where DiGiovanni landed from Long Island), Wallace Brooks, Liberty and now the Depot District. Wide expanses of beautiful outdoors with the Withlacoochee State Trail rolling right through it.
The photo with today’s blog is out in front of the restored Valerie Theater, where my wife Deb and I were about to partake in a New Year's Day showing of “When Harry Met Sally.” I’m told the Valerie is busy nearly every night with movies or live performances.
The business community is thriving. It wasn’t always that way. I’ll never forget the day the bagel shop on Courthouse Square closed. First they were closed for vacation. Then they were closed for repairs. Then closed as in no more bagels. I remember thinking at the time, “What kind of town can’t support a bagel shop?”
Now downtown is alive and the big name restaurants are starting to show up elsewhere in the city.
My little picture postcard of Inverness has a point. It’s exactly because of all this that I wanted an election for city council this year.
Just like countywide, Inverness is in transition. How do I know? We’re talking about things in Inverness that we’ve never talked about before.
Apartments and density come to mind, but folks also see all this commercial and residential growth and wonder how the city’s road system is going to support it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the city council or City Manager Eric Williams are on the wrong track. Not at all. They’re extremely responsive to citizens, including me.
Is there corroboration between City Hall and citizenry about the city’s present and future? That’s what I want to know.
And that’s where the election comes in.
A campaign forces public discussion on issues that would not be afforded that opportunity. The city doesn’t have town hall meetings, so the best way to get council members in front of the public outside of City Hall is through campaigning.
Two of the three council incumbents, Gene Davis and Linda Bega, are automatically re-elected without opposition.
That leaves five names on the ballot: Seat 1 has incumbent Dave Ryan, Crystal Lizanich and a third candidate who I will refer to in campaign blogs as Labriola Guy; for mayor, incumbent Bob Plaisted and Max Schulman.
I’ve had Cattle Dog chats with three of the candidates and I’m meeting with the fourth on Monday. Labriola Guy hasn’t answered my email invite.
You’re probably going to see more about Inverness in the coming weeks than you ever thought you would, but I’m asking for a little leeway here. What happens in Inverness affects us all — same as in Crystal River, Floral City, Hernando, Citrus Springs etc.
The Just Wright Citrus World Headquarters are not located in any of those other fine Citrus County communities.
It’s on the shores of Big Lake Henderson. In Inverness, my hometown.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.