When Scott Black first took his seat on the Dade City Commission, Iraq had not yet invaded Kuwait to ignite the first Gulf War, George Bush (the first one) was still president, and spending more than a dollar for a gallon of gas probably meant it was premium.
A lot has changed in 24 years, and Angelica Herrera feels Black has not kept up. And that’s why she’s facing off against him next week.
“Mr. Black has had his chance,” she said. “But after (more than) 20 years, he has lost touch with the voters.”
That was most evident, Herrera said, when Black approved physically expanding a sewage plant into a neighboring athletic field in the Mickens-Harper neighborhood.
“This was most insensitive and not necessary, since the city had other options,” she said.
However, if Herrera wants any chance to beat Black, she not only faces a commissioner that has strong name recognition in Dade City, but she may need to overcome some of her eyebrow-raising actions, including walking out of a candidate debate last week.
This, Black said, has hurt Herrera’s position, because she has not “presented anything of consideration relating to either experience or fresh perspective.”
“She has not attended any city commission meetings or public events to make any effort to educate herself on the current issues,” Black said of Herrera. Quoting the late Gov. Lawton Chiles, Black said elected officials can either “grow” or “swell” in their positions, and he chooses to grow.
“It is very important to me that I enjoy and embrace the many challenges that come with the position, and continue to grow with it,” Black said. “As well, someone purporting to be only a fresh infusion of energy is usually not the best option, while a knowledgeable proven force is always better, and should be preferred.”
Dade City’s commission earned some unwanted publicity late last year when Commissioner Jim Shive surprised his colleagues in the middle of a workshop last October, pushing to separate the position of city clerk and city finance — which was then held by longtime city employee Jim Class.
Black spoke out against the move, saying a workshop was not the right forum to bring up such an issue unannounced. But his protests fell on deaf ears, and the move later prompted Class to resign.
“The process of dividing the position of city clerk and finance director was flawed and misguided from the start,” Black said. “It was deceptively billed as ‘progress’ when there was no present need to make the personnel change in a smoothly running department — especially in the first month of the new tightly constrained budget year.”
Herrera, however, remembers all of it differently, and says Black has misrepresented what happened.
“The fact is that numerous city commission meetings document that this matter was discussed publicly,” she said. “It did not just come up at the workshop for the first time as my opponent would like us to believe. It (really) has been overblown.”
Black said his primary regret was not speaking out more loudly, and drawing residents into the conversation.
“I wish that the community could have been more aware and alarmed, and willing to stand up and question this continued gradual abuse of power, and demand better of us,” Black said.
Both Herrera and Black have combined to raise $6,500 in this race, more than any other municipal election in Pasco County this cycle. And it seems both may need every penny.
For other parts in our Experience vs. New Blood story package, click here.
Published April 2, 2014