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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. The stock market fell the most since June 2020, with the Dow loosing more than 1,250 points.

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Fireworks erupt during county admin selection process

It got a bit heated Tuesday when county commissioners gathered to narrow down seven people for the soon-to-be-vacant administrator position.


The problem was not with the caliber of the applicants. It was the process, which led Commissioner Ruthie Schlabach to say, “This is a hot mess.”

Finally, after much back-and-forth, the board agreed to choose four applicants that scored highest in their rankings. They are, in order of rankings:

Larry Jones: County administrator for Walton County, Florida (August 2013 to April 2022).

Steve Howard: county administrator in Camden County, Georgia (August 2007 to present).

Tobey Phillips, deputy county administrator in Hernando County, who worked for years in Citrus County government.

Stanley Hawthorne, town manager for Bloomfield, Connecticut (2021 to present).

Phillips and Hawthorne tied for third.

But the selections were overshadowed by the contention that went on leading up to it.

Kitchen Jr.

It started when Commission Chairman Ron Kitchen Jr. invited Commissioner-elect Rebecca Bays and Republican primary winner Diana Finegan to rank the candidates and participate in the process.

Finegan won the Republican primary and will face no-party candidate Paul Grogan in November.

Finegan gave her rankings but Grogan, who is out of town, emailed his choices and has indicated he won’t be there for the applicant interviews.


But Bays asked the board to hold off selecting a new administrator until she and the other new commissioner (Finegan or Grogan) is on-board. She declined to provide rankings or participate in the pre-selection process.

That set off Kitchen who accused her of throwing the county under the bus. Kitchen said the current board was unanimous on the process that the two outgoing commissioners – he and Scott Carnahan – have input on the selection.

“We’re still on the board and we have much more experience when it comes to executive-level hiring,” Kitchen said.

Now, the board wanted to throw the process out the window at the last minute, he said.

Commissioner Jeff Kinnard agreed that the process must be followed. Besides, if the board – after the applicant interviews – doesn’t have to select any of the four if they don’t pass muster.

The meeting got more amicable as it went along. They even passed a unanimous motion to go with the four interviews.

Here’s what will happen:

Commissioners will hold one-on-one interviews with Jones, Howard, Phillips and Hawthorne on Sept. 26 with the final candidate selection on Sept. 27. Finegan, Grogan and Bays can participate if they wish.

On Sept. 27, a final decision may (or may not, depending on how the interviews go the day before) select the county’s new administrator.

That meeting will be held during the board’s regular business meeting at 1 p.m. at the Citrus County Courthouse, 110 N. Apopka Ave., Inverness.

michaelbates / Chronicle 


Josh Wooten, president/CEO of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, emailed commissioners soon after their vote that they erred in asking Grogan to participate in the selection process.

“You have just invited someone who is a ‘candidate’ for District 2 who has not campaigned, does not live in the district has raised no money, doesn’t understand the issues and is rumored to be a ‘ghost’ candidate who has not yet received one vote to get an equal vote as our elected representatives in what is the most important vote a commissioner can take,” Wooten wrote.

“Today was not your finest moment,” he added. “Hopefully common sense prevails by the end of this process.”

Inverness craft brewery to donate to military support group, asks for community participation

Nine State Brewery owner Eric Lesage is joining the “Hops for Heroes” campaign and giving the full price of a Homefront special brew to a national veterans group every time someone orders a glass.

mattbeck / Matthew Beck / Chronicle photo editor 

Eric Lesage mashes in the grain as an early step in creating his Jack of the Lantern pumpkin ale he creates from his Nine State Brewery in downtown Inverness. The heated water and malted barley will mash for an hour, get strained and the liquid will then boil for another hour.

He is confident he will make a profit from the Saturday fundraiser that will donate to Soldiers’ Angels. It just won’t be a financial one.

In addition to donating the full price to Soldiers’ Angels from the special Hops for Heroes brew, he will also give an additional $1 to the national charity from each sale he makes from any beer he sells from the 200 Tompkins St., Inverness brewery Saturday, Sept. 17.

mattbeck / Matthew Beck / Chronicle photo editor 

Eric Lesage, owner of Nine State Brewery in downtown Inverness, sanitizes the lines used to create craft brews from his downtown Inverness brewery. His brewery will host a Soldiers’ Angels fundraiser this Saturday as part of the 2022 Hops for Heroes campaign.

In turn, Soldiers’ Angels and its volunteers help active duty personnel, their families, and military veterans with food, care packages when soldiers are sent abroad, and aid to their families.

The nonprofit was founded in 2003 by a mother whose son was sent to Iraq.

The organization ranks four stars out of four stars from, a website that evaluates charities and the help they provide.

So, why did Lesage agree to give the full price of the Homefront brew to the charity, including the cost to make it, resulting in a financial loss?

Because it would be a moral profit, he said.

mattbeck / Matthew Beck / Chronicle photo editor 

As part of the fundraising effort items like glass pints, tap handles and custom baseball bats will be available through live and silent auctions at Nine State Brewery in Inverness. All proceeds will directly benefit the Soldiers’ Angels charity this Saturday.

“My father was in the military, my brother-in-law,” he said, sitting inside his brewery, as his sister prepared a pumpkin spice ale,

Or, as Lesage likes to call it, pumpkin pie in a glass.

We have a lot of veterans who come in and support us,” he said. “The whole family is blessed to do this.”

Lesage’s family moved here from Massachusetts.

His father met Lesage’s Korean mother while stationed there. She now tends bar at the brewery and cooks traditional Korean food for its customers. It’s a popular side business.

His sister also works there when she’s not working at Lesage’s drafting firm.

And his father works with Eric in brewing beer.

The two will make three barrels, or 93 gallons of the Homefront brew.

The brewery is open Friday – Sunday. Lesage said that’s enough days for the area given he’s got the other drafting business.

mattbeck / Matthew Beck / Chronicle photo editor 

Nine State Brewery owner Eric Lesage, left, sports special jerseys made just for the Soldiers’ Angels benefit this weekend with his mother and father Jeannie and Bubba Lesage. Eric’s mother is the bar manager and his father is the lead brewer at the downtown Inverness brewery.

He offers four “core” beers that are always on tap and as many as a dozen more that are seasonal or intermittent.

This is the first time the Nine State Brewery has worked with Soldiers’ Angels to raise money.

“The event is part of Soldiers’ Angels annual campaign that invites craft breweries of all sizes to brew its custom IPA (India Pale Ale) recipe and donate 100 percent of the proceeds from the beer’s sales to the national nonprofit organization,” Soldiers’ Angels said in a news release. “The craft brewery is one of 16 breweries to participate in the 2022 Hops for Heroes campaign.”

Lesage said that the family is grateful to be able to help.

mattbeck / Matthew Beck / Chronicle photo editor 

Nine State Brewery owner Eric Lesage pours a beer into a waiting glass Monday, Sept 12, at his downtown Inverness brewery. He will host a fundraising event this weekend to benefit the Soldiers’ Angels campaign.

Lesage’s mother several years ago needed a kidney transplant and received one. It came from a 27-year-old from New Jersey.

The community helps annually in the brewery fundraiser to cover the cost of medications she will need for the rest of her life.

“The amount of support the community gave my mother and family when we had to raise funds after her surgery …we wanted to help others,” he said.

His only regret is he can’t help more charities.

“We’d love to say yes to everybody, but we have to (stick to) our special charities and budget,” he said.

The Hops for Heroes event at Nine State will be held Saturday 1 to 10 p.m.

There are more than 18,000 veterans living in Citrus County. About a third of veterans nationwide have disabilities, according to

“And this allows us to give back,” Lesage said.

School Board approves pay increases, final budget

The regular meeting of the Citrus County School Board (CCSB) Monday afternoon, Sept. 12, opened with a presentation highlighting the success of Lecanto High School’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program.


This was followed with a presentation by Darrick Buettner, coordinator of special academic programs, recognizing a significant and generous donation of $100,000 to Lecanto High School by the Davis Family.

The Davis’s are longtime residents of Citrus County and specifically the Lecanto area, with six generations of Davis’s growing up here and counting.

Two members of the family, brothers Dan and Gary Davis, spoke about their family’s deep-seeded roots in Lecanto as their reason why, following the passing of their uncle, the family has decided to donate $100,000 from the family trust to establish an annual scholarship for students at LHS who intend to major in agriculture or an agriculture related field. The scholarship will be $2,000 awarded annually to one graduating student.

Later in the meeting, the school board unanimously approved salary and pay increases for several positions in the district, including an increase of $30-$40 for daily substitute teacher pay rates.

Non-union support personnel and classified and professional-technical support will see a raise to $15 per hour minimum. School and district administrators’ salaries will see a 3.5 percent increase and all returning instructional staff salaries will increase with a new minimum of $47,900.

All pay increases will be effective Sept. 18 and retroactive to July 1.

The finalized millage and budget for the school district was also approved unanimously, as well as the finalized version of the 2022-23 student code of conduct and the school health services plan.

To view the complete agenda that was discussed, visit To watch Tuesday’s meeting, visit