Tim Langer’s making a second run at the county commission, but this time as a Republican.
The 61-year-old former Citrus County Sheriff’s Office deputy ran for a seat two years ago as a Democrat and lost to Republican Jimmie T. Smith.
He blamed the loss on his party affiliation, and switched his affiliation to Republican soon after the election.
He’s hoping for better results. He’s running in District 2, where the incumbent is Ron Kitchen Jr., a Republican and current board chairman.
“I’ve always had conservative leanings,” Langer told the Chronicle editorial board this week. “(Today), the Republican Party represents me the most. I didn’t change. The political system changed,” he said, noting that in the South the Democratic Party had been the party of conservatives in decades past.
Democrats these days, he said, don’t have a good track record when it comes to winning local elections.
Langer said it’s vital the county actively recruit new business. It was a mistake, he said, when commissioners got out of the economic-development business years ago. The recent hiring of Economic Development Director Bruce Register is a step in the right direction but there’s work to be done, he said. For example, the county does not have a professional website designed to help business succeed in the county.
The county, he said, is failing to take advantage of Citrus County’s beauty, weather, tourism opportunities and proximity to urban areas to entice new business.
Langer said he doesn’t buy the argument that Citrus County has a shortage of trained labor to fill jobs. That excuse is used in other counties, he said.
“Show me any place in America where there is a trained labor force,” Langer said. “You bring the jobs and the people will come.”
The real problem, he said, is that commissioners aren’t doing enough to bring in the kinds of jobs that attract workers here. For example, if the county had more computer programming or manufacturing opportunities — and invested in vocational training — workers would stay here instead of going to other places.
Langer said the Suncoast Parkway extension will benefit Citrus County, but the state needs to go back to the original design plan from the late 1990s to take it to U.S. 19 at Red Level north of Crystal River.
Langer said county commissioners need to take a stronger stance with Florida Department of Transportation officials in securing the best route.
“We need to tell them where we want it to go,” he said.
Langer said the county needs to invest to make it grow and cited the money Crystal River spent to improve Hunter Springs Park.
“Sometimes you have to spend a dollar to make $10,” he said. “You don’t get by with the least and the cheapest all the time. You have to go with quality.”
Langer said the commission must do all it can to safeguard its economic bonanza: the manatees.
“Our manatees are an absolute goldmine,” he said. “We have to protect them like the queens they are.”
Proper investment of money and expansion of the tax base will prevent the board from having to raise taxes, he said.
Langer realizes mental health is a top concern in the county, but he is against building a Baker Act receiving facility. Currently, people who are deemed a threat to themselves or others must be taken by a sheriff’s deputy to a facility in Brooksville or Ocala for evaluation.
Building such a facility here would cost the county millions, and not only in its construction, he said. The place would have to be manned around the clock, 365 days a year. It would be better to hire another deputy and take Baker Acted individuals the short distance out of county, he said.
It’s also the commissioners’ job to make sure the sheriff has enough money to staff school resource officers in every school. But to save money on salaries and benefits, he favors using retired temporary deputies, security guards or ex-military in schools.
On road-paving: Langer said residents deserve quality roads and they can be paid through better economic development efforts and tourism dollars, not through taxing residents.
“We can’t tax our people into prosperity,” Langer said.
Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or email@example.com.