County Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr. said Citrus County was in danger of going over the “financial cliff” when he took office four years ago.
But thanks in part to his budgetary prowess, the county has gone from financially strapped to fairly debt-free in four years, he said.
Kitchen credits that to County Administrator Randy Oliver and his own insistence on budgetary scrutiny and transparency. He said his recommendation of creating a separate commissioners’ savings account for better money savings also created greater accountability.
Kitchen, 62, is seeking a second four-year term representing District 2 to, he said, put into motion projects to move Citrus County forward.
Those projects include: development of an economic development plan, continued efforts to clean up the springs and making Citrus County more business-friendly by maintaining a consistent, stable tax base.
“We have a plan everyone has bought into, and we’re moving in the right direction,” said Kitchen, who attributed that to recently hired Economic Development Director Bruce Register.
Under his watch, Kitchen said fire services was once again brought under the wing of the county and morale is up.
The county, he said, adopted a new fertilizer ordinance designed to reduce nutrient contamination of sensitive springs and King’s Bay.
The space needs of the elected constitutional officers’ was a concern four years ago. No longer, he said.
New-home construction has rebounded with the economy, he said.
If re-elected, he will continue to push for the Suncoast Parkway extension to proceed to State Road 44 and then on to U.S. 19 at Red Level, north of Crystal River — the original proposed route.
Kitchen said he has stayed abreast of public concerns, in part, through his periodic constituent meetings where he gauges residents’ concerns and tries to find solutions before they become issues and money-drainers.
He also believes his work as a member of the Citrus County Tourist Development Council has brought more visitors and money to the area. It’s vital, he said, that the county continue to invest in tourism because it is an economic engine for Citrus.
He remembers four years ago when “not a dime" was spent on road resurfacing projects. Today, roads are being resurfaced and that problem has abated, he said.
Kitchen said the working relationships between the county and the cities of Crystal River and, especially, Inverness have improved.
“I don’t think the relationships (with) the two cities have ever been better than they are now,” he said.
The next four years will be crucial, he said, because the county needs to develop a transition plan in case Administrator Oliver leaves.
“We need to get people in the pipeline and we can’t wait until the last minute,” he said.
These next four years will also be important as Citrus County decides what direction it wants to go. He believes it will take a commissioner who has faced the issues and knows how to proceed.
“We’ve turned the ship around,” he said. “Now, let’s go somewhere.”
Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or email@example.com