By Kyle LoJacono
For the second consecutive time, Pasco County Commissioner Ted Schrader will face a long-time supporter in the Republican primary.
In 2008 it was San Antonio developer John Nicolette, and now it is Zephyrhills citrus grower and cattle rancher Ronald Oakley.
Oakley, 65, supported Schrader’s conservative leadership he brought to county District 1, which covers most of east Pasco, but now wants the commissioner’s job. He filed the paperwork at the end of June for next year’s primary.
Oakley said the decision to run was not because of anything he specifically disagreed with Schrader on.
“It’s nothing like that,” Oakley said. “There isn’t a grudge or anything like that. I decided I needed to run and this would likely be my last chance to do so. I just happen to live in the same district as Ted.”
Pasco’s five commissioners must live in the district they represent, but are elected by all county voters for a four-year term.
Oakley said his main goal, if elected, will be to decrease the size of government to help streamline things like permitting to help business flourish.
Oakley also served on the Southwest Florida Water Management District, commonly called Swiftmud, since 2007 and was the organization’s chairman last year, but resigned in May in part because of the political run. He said his other main goal will be to ensure Pasco will have a sustainable water supply.
“I do find that strange and ironic,” Schrader, 55, said. “I don’t understand why he would bring up the size of government. I’ve had a history of lowering property taxes. Swiftmud hasn’t.”
Oakley grew up in Dade City, graduated from Pasco High and has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Carson-Newman College in Tennessee. He owns several citrus groves with the name Oakley Groves Inc., raises cattle and owns a trucking company.
Oakley was appointed to Swiftmud by former Gov. Charlie Crist and said, “Being on the board was one of the most humbling things I’ve done. It’s a big responsibility because we make sure everyone in the district has water for farming and daily living.”
Swiftmud covers all or parts of 16 counties from Levy and Marion in the north to Charlotte in the south, including all of Hillsborough and Pasco. Members of the board are unpaid.
Oakley said if elected he will seek a spot on the board of directors for Tampa Bay Water, the regional suppler of water for unincorporated Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties and the cities of New Port Richey, Tampa and St. Petersburg. Schrader is currently on that board serving as one of Pasco’s representatives.
Schrader filed to run for his fourth and, he says, final term early in June. He said he has counted on Oakley and his family as supporters since he first successfully ran for the commission in 2000. Schrader received more than $928 in contributions from the Oakleys in 2008, according to county records.
Schrader’s family has a long history in Pasco’s politics as his grandfather, Arthur Schrader, served as the District 1 commissioner for more than 20 years.
Bill Bunting, Pasco’s GOP state committeeman, said it will be an “interesting race” that could divide the east Pasco political establishment.
“They both have political experience,” Bunting said. “Ted as a county commissioner and Ron as the head of Swiftmud. They’ve both got good credentials and having competition is a good thing.”
The Republican primary for the spot is in August 2012. So far, no Democrat has filed to run. The Pasco Commission currently has no Democrats.
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