As co-owner of a Lecanto security and sound company, Republican Ruthie Schlabach of Lecanto said she is closely attuned to the needs of local business owners and can bring that experience to the table as county commissioner.
Schlabach, 54, is running for the Citrus County Commission District 2 seat, held now by incumbent Ron Kitchen Jr. There are four Republican contenders for that seat.
Commissioners, she told the Chronicle editorial board on Monday, are not doing enough to support small business and don’t seem to have a firm grasp on their concerns. They need to do a better job playing up the county’s strengths to attract new business, she said.
As a commissioner, Schlabach said she wouldn’t sit around and wait for the phone to ring from prospective business owners seeking to move here. She plans to represent Citrus County “in the best possible light” in Tallahassee and work closely with Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and state Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto.
“We have to stimulate our economy and make it easier for businesses to come in,” Schlabach told the board. “We have to revisit our codes and our ordinances and see what needs to be revised in order to be proactive, pragmatic and get (businesses) here.”
This is Schlabach’s first try at elected office.
She and her husband, Jarey, own Schlabach Security and Sound in Lecanto.
The Schlabachs made news in 2014 when they erected a fence to close off access to their parking lot from a neighboring gas station.
Two years later, the county cited the Schlabachs with code violations for cutting off access. Earlier this year, the dispute ended when commissioners voted 4-1 to allow the Schlabachs to keep the fence.
“I’ve had successes and failures in business and you learn,” she said.
Schlabach called herself “an unusual candidate.”
“I’m a businesswoman, a mother and wife and I have different life experiences,” she said.
On other issues:
-- Schlabach said the county needs to encourage more high school students to learn trades. Not everyone is college material, she said.
-- She said the board needs to invest money wisely on such things as: affordable housing to accommodate new workers; building on partnerships already established with Withlacoochee Technical College to help in training workers; and seeking better mental health facilities.
-- Spending tax dollars where it will have the biggest impact is key, she said.
“There’s a difference in being frugal and being cheap,” she said. “And I’m tired of being cheap. (If) we don’t invest, we’re going to go out of business," she said, referring to the county.
Schlabach said she is a fighter who will put the concerns of the county ahead of popular votes. The board, she said, needs to anticipate problems before they crop up so it doesn’t end up being reactive.
“We need to make the plans and don’t let the plans make us,” she said.
Schlabach said there cannot be any divisions between the cities of Crystal River and Inverness.
“We’re one county, so why aren’t we a united front?” she asked. “We need to unite our message and be one.”
On her leadership style if elected: “I’m an aggressive person, but I’m polite. “I’m kind but I’m strong. I think I can give a presence. I listen to people and love to fix problems. I love a challenge and nothing would make me happier than to see my friends and my neighbors succeed.”
Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or firstname.lastname@example.org.