Make us your home page

Dan DeWitt, Hernando Times Columnist

Dan DeWitt

Dan DeWitt has worked as a reporter or columnist for the Times in Hernando County since 1989. He and his wife, Laura, live with their two sons south of Brooksville.

DeWitt previously worked for the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press. A Cincinnati native, he attended Kenyon College in Ohio and received a master's degree in journalism from the University of Michigan.

Phone: (352) 754-6116


Twitter: @DDewittTimes

  1. Weeki Wachee High student, charting a new path for his school, will attend Harvard



    Alex Stewart was easy to pick out at Weeki Wachee High School on Monday morning.

    It was not just because he's tall and flashes — very frequently — a brilliant smile, not just because nearly every student he passed gave him a friendly wave or called out his baseball-playing nickname, "Stewy."

    It was also because he wore a crimson T-shirt that announced big news for both Stewart and the school....

    Alex Stewart, a Harvard-bound graduate of Weeki Wachee High School, is shown with his parents, Wil and Judi Stewart, at the recent Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce Honor Student Banquet. Alex and his parents chose Weeki Wachee after a guidance counselor there helped them map out a plan to reach a good college.
  2. DeWitt: New Main Street director works to make Brooksville a 'place'


    What if, asked Ryan Malloy, enterprising buyers recognized all the distinctive features of the Weeks Hardware building on Main Street in downtown Brooksville?

    What if they saw the potential in the brick front, metal door frame, embossed tin ceilings and the line of flower-shaped caps on the big bolts that support the second floor?

    What if they could find the grants and tax breaks that would make it worth their while to restore the retail space on the first floor and, maybe, create an apartment on the second?...

    Ryan Malloy is executive director of Brooksville Main Street.
  3. DeWitt: Legislators, including Ingoglia and Simpson, attack public schools


    For years, some school administrators and union leaders have said the ultimate goal of Tallahassee Republicans is to destroy traditional public education.

    And for just as long, it was easy to brush this off as fear-mongering or hyperbole.

    Not so much anymore. Not with the passage this week of the vast, messy, catch-all education bill, HB 7069, and the sadly inadequate education budget that went with it....

  4. DeWitt: Commissioners urge a 'flexible' growth plan that would cost us all


    Look around.

    Look at the relentless ugliness of tract housing and strip development. Look at the dry lakes and algae-choked springs. Look at the destruction of vast swaths of land that were once the home of deer, songbirds and gopher tortoises.

    Look at a map like the one a county planner displayed at a Hernando County Commission workshop on Tuesday — one that showed approved subdivisions, both built and unbuilt, spreading to every corner of the county not in public ownership....

    Commissioners were told that septic tanks account for 30 percent of the nitrogen that has clogged the Weeki Wachee River with algae.
  5. Construction starts on TreeUmph! Adventure Course in Hernando

    Economic Development

    BROOKSVILLE — Construction has begun on the long-awaited TreeUmph! Adventure Course east of Brooksville.

    The course, incorporating tall pines and grand oaks on the property, is expected to be a slightly larger version of the owner's first course in Bradenton.

    It will offer the same number of designated routes for customers, but with more "games," which is the term TreeUmph! uses for features such as zip lines, rope bridges and net ropes, said Kathy Corr, a co-owner of the company building the course, CSC Holding Group LLC....

    The footing can be precarious on the course at TreeUmph!, an outdoor zip line adventure and obstacle course in Bradenton. Construction has begun on a similar course east of Brooksville.
  6. Despite questions, Hernando commission moves forward with waste-to-energy plan

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission will proceed with a waste-to-energy plan after a lawyer for the company behind the agreement said the deal would not cost the county money — as a consultant had found — but save it $26.6 million over the 20-year term of the proposed contract.

    Nat Mundy, chief operating officer of the company, Freedom Energy Hernando LLC, and his lawyer, Jake Varn, emphasized at a commission meeting last week that the deal placed no financial risk on the county. And two commissioners, Nick Nicholson and Steve Champion, embraced the idea....

    Commissioner Nick Nicholson suggested arranging a visit to a similar plant in Elk River, Minn.
  7. As Spring Hill turns 50, longtime residents contemplate its future



    Greg Kirkland looked down his street near Kass Circle — the original commercial core of Spring Hill — and considered the future of his now 50-year-old community.

    Most of Spring Hill lacks sidewalks, he pointed out, and Kass is dominated by down-market enterprises, including a thrift store and a used furniture outlet. The houses in Spring Hill are too spread out to support any real community hub, he added, and are mostly occupied by financially strapped residents....

    “You got a D10 ’dozer? Just look at the place. There’s no planning.” Greg Kirkland,  
Spring Hill flooring contractor
  8. DeWitt: The 'vintage' look of old Spring Hill



    That's what people, at least some young people, consider homes in the oldest part of Spring Hill, according to Hernando County planner Pat McNeese.

    If it's true, it's the most hopeful and revolutionary idea I ran across in reporting on the 50th anniversary of the original Spring Hill subdivision.

    It's revolutionary because I never noticed it myself and never heard it from anyone else. Until recently, McNeese said, she hadn't either....

  9. DeWitt: Repealing the supermajority rule is not a 'good idea'

    Local Government

    There's a marvelously detailed picture of Hernando County on the county Planning Department website, the intricacies rendered not in pixels or brush strokes but in charts and graphs.

    It was compiled — or, you could say, created — over the years by David Miles, the county's longtime demographic planner who retired at the end of March. With zero fanfare, of course, because that was his style....

  10. Hernando superintendent, USF clarify focus of performance survey


    BROOKSVILLE — The long-delayed plan to allow Hernando County School District employees to rate the performance of superintendent Lori Romano got back on track this week after the district smoothed over differences with a University of South Florida professor hired to create the survey.

    "I called it a meeting of clarification," said School Board Chairwoman Beth Narverud, who met with Romano and USF professor George MacDonald on Monday....

    “This is the third time we’ve asked for these changes to be made. They haven’t given us a reason; they just haven’t done it.”
Lori Romano, superintendent
  11. DeWitt: Heroes in Aquatic Services Division deserve a tip of the cap

    Local Government

    At a community event a few months ago, in a friendly if somewhat heated chat with Sheriff Al Nienhuis, I said we certainly need a good, well-funded Sheriff's Office, but we also need good parks.

    He responded that what we really need is good families.

    It's a not-uncommon refrain, the subtext of which is that public safety is the essential work of government and that other functions are secondary, even extraneous....

    Crossed-paddle sign that marks the county’s new Bayport-Linda Pedersen Paddling Trail.
  12. 'Aripeka Jim' Rosenquist left a lasting impression in coastal community

    Human Interest

    ARIPEKA — In the late 1970s, a guy who said he was building a house in Aripeka started stopping by Norfleet Fish Camp, a neighborhood store and social hub.

    The youthful-looking middle-aged man, who introduced himself as Jim Rosenquist, loved to fish, said longtime store owner Carl Norfleet. He bought milk and beer, talked community news and mentioned in passing that he was an artist, though not in a way that suggested Norfleet should recognize his name....

    Visitors pass by James Rosenquist’s Four New Clear Women at Basel Messe on June 14 in Basel, Switzerland. Rosenquist’s knowledge of advertising art came from his start as a billboard painter.
  13. DeWitt: Challenging the sheriff's budget is not war, but good sense

    Local Government

    If you believe the budget war between the Hernando County Commission and Sheriff Al Nienhuis is over, you have to believe there really was a war.

    This idea was pushed by sidelined Commissioner Jeff Holcomb, who is serving an active-duty deployment with the Navy but who seems to haves plenty of time and energy to devote to local politics by way of Facebook.

    Not only did Holcomb apply this overly dramatic comparison to a dispute that involved less than $2 million, he made it clear who he thought fired the first shots: the County Commission....

    Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis’ top deputies earn $82,194,  more than Pinellas’.
  14. DeWitt: Texas is the inspiration at Brooksville's new MOPAC BBQ


    The mahogany color of the brisket circling slowly in the smoker at MOPAC BBQ promised intense flavor once the meat ended up on a plate — or, actually, in Texas barbecue fashion, on a paper sheet spread over an aluminum tray.

    So did the smell of charcoal-and-cherry wood smoke that trickled from the stack of the custom-made grill.

    So does general manager Kevin McDougal's description of the cooking, which had started nearly 12 hours earlier — each cut, about the size and shape of a schoolkid's backpack, had been rubbed with a spice mix so finely tuned that an extra teaspoon of salt can throw off the entire process....

    Bernard Price of Brooksville scoops mashed potatoes in a to-go container for a customer at MOPAC BBQ in Brooksville.
  15. Recent Hernando School District decisions raise questions of transparency


    BROOKSVILLE — When the Hernando County School Board gathered last week for a retreat at a gated community, it was required by state law to notify the public of the event, said Barbara Petersen, president of the Tallahassee-based First Amendment Foundation.

    It didn't.

    To double-check her interpretation, Petersen said, she consulted with Pat Gleason, special counsel for open government at the Florida Attorney General's Office, "and she confirmed that there are no exceptions for these retreats or team-building exercises."...

    Recent moves by  superinten?dent Lori Romano have also raised transparency questions.