Each year, the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce conducts a “temperature check” of its 1,000 members, with the purpose of identifying the top issues of the county and gauging their confidence in the institutions and officials governing them.

The poll results are in and it shows that economic development was overwhelmingly ranked as the most important issue by the 150 participants.

From there, concerns include lack of affordable housing, bad road conditions, costly property insurance, the environment, utility infrastructure, mental health, crime and poverty.

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Josh Wooten


This is the second consecutive year business owners cited the economy as being a problem. Some of the same concerns are still present: inflation, supply chain shortages, access to a qualified workforce and a lack of competent people in the job market.

“There wasn’t a big movement on opinions since last year but rather members seemed to have solidified their views,” according to chamber President/CEO Josh Wooten. “It’s always important to hear from our members, especially this being an election year.”

While the poll numbers are not scientific, past checks have closely mirrored elections and surveys of local citizens, he said.

Wooten said the poll results will be used to develop questions for its county commissioner political candidate forum on July 8.

Here was a random sampling of anonymous comments from this year’s poll:

“County Commissioner Ron Kitchen is insulting to the women on the county board. He should resign from office now.”

“As far as community support and encouraging culture and acceptance, Citrus County is definitely heading backwards.”

“The flow of traffic is ridiculous. It takes longer to get from Crystal River through Inverness than it does to get to Tampa.”

“Citrus County is heading in the wrong direction with economic development. Bringing in these unremarkable big-box stores and associated retailers, we, as a county, are losing what sets us apart from other communities.”

“All in all, I feel we are pretty fortunate. Like most businesses, the thought of finding qualified employees at a wage we can afford is intimidating.”

Of the five county commissioners, Ruthie Schlabach received the highest score from respondents and Ron Kitchen Jr. the lowest.

Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto and Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, received high marks in the 70 percent range. Sheriff Mike Prendergast got a 45 percent favorable rating.

Here’s the percentage of respondents who said the following are on the right track:

Citrus County Chamber of Commerce (94 percent).

State of Florida (59 percent).

Citrus County (38 percent).

City of Crystal River (81 percent).

City of Inverness (64 percent).

Michael D. Bates is a staff writer with the Citrus County Chronicle and can be reached at mbates@chronicleonline.com