05/01/2014 Guest Column, Nathan Whitt

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It’s urgent we move forward

As many of you know, I am a positive, forward-thinking person. I am an eternal optimist.
However, with all due respect, I feel that I must immediately address the constant, petty, personal attacks by this paper, its editor and others.
While some were throwing potential City Manager Eddie Esch under the bus, he was almost single-handedly saving Dunnellon from financial collapse.
Also, while some chose to throw myself and our City Council under the bus, we were diligently working with our city staff, police, fire and public works departments along with many positive, forward-thinking citizens and, if you didn’t know or have forgotten, let’s review the first year-and-a-half of my administration.
First, and foremost, no more blank checks. I am specifically speaking of the removal of the previous city manager and attorney. Also, we removed the red-light cameras most of you were against. More important, thanks to the cooperation of Regions Bank and the state, we found a workable resolution to the Greenlight Communications enterprise, which was no small feat.
We are working with the Marion and Citrus County Commissions to expedite the hiking/biking trail connections and found grant funding to bring the trail into town at Blue Run Park. We have enhanced enforcement of the laws on the Rainbow and Withlacoochee rivers in the city.
Just recently, we proudly shared in the opening of a wonderful new Boys & Girls Club facility. More important, we are listening.
We hear your concerns and we are working on addressing all of them, one step at a time.
I must also address the fact that the editor of this paper chooses to tell me the positions I should take. That’s not journalism, period. That is called an opinion, and you know what they say about opinions. Specifically, my position as a board member on the Rainbow River Conservation is, as I understand, not OK with the editor.
Well, whether it’s OK with this newspaper and its editor or not, I am a conservationist, both fiscally and environmentally, and I am for conservation of the Rainbow River.
It should be protected, as it is one of the largest and most spectacular springs in the world. I believe we can all agree about that. Therefore, I am on the board of the conservation group tasked with protecting
the Rainbow River for
a reason.
All political agendas aside, my hope is that our spring and rivers are protected for my children and grandchildren to enjoy long after I’m gone.
All of that is “old business,” and I for one will not live in a world of petty insults and personal attacks any more than I will live in the past. Let’s move onto exciting, positive, forward-thinking “new business”.
To that end, the most recent, exciting “new business” is that our neighbors to the south on the Citrus County Commission have voted unanimously to fund engineering for the final connection to the Withlacoochee Rails to Trails.
This trail connection is being somewhat underestimated in that the two trails it will connect, the Withlacoochee State Forest Trail and the Cross-Florida Greenway, generated approximately $65 million in revenue last year from visitors of these two trails.
Dunnellon will now become the hub for the estimated 1.5 million hikers and bicyclists who used these two trails just last year. This means a new revenue stream for our local businesses, a more hikeable-bikeable community, and moves Dunnellon into a prosperous future built around our cultural, historical heritage and, of course, ecotourism.
To foster this growing new economy, we have reached out to the Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership and the Dunnellon Chamber of Commerce to promote a synergy between the two organizations.
The CEP, through, Kevin Sheilley, its president, has started a dialogue with, Beverly Leisure, Chamber executive director, and Viola Soffe, president, who will provide a new avenue of business attraction and retention previously unavailable to our city. The CEP is very clear that they do not have members, they have partners, and partners expect a return on their investment. This level of accountability is crucial to Dunnellon as we move forward into this new economy. I commend our Chamber of Commerce for embracing this opportunity, and I truly believe that our city will be the “rising tide that lifts all of our ships”.
More “new business,” we should all be excited about is the upcoming presentation from the Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 7, at City Hall.
Loretta Shaffer, executive director of the VCB will give an in-depth presentation into the potential for Dunnellon within the Marion County Tourism Development Plan.
Once she has given her presentation and has taken questions, I invite everyone to bring your vision of Dunnellon in the next 10, 20 and even 50 years. How would you like to see Dunnellon for your children and grandchildren?
Please come with positive, forward-thinking ideas and be ready to move on to “new business,” a wonderful future for Dunnellon.
Please come to the City Council Workshop at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 7, at City Hall with your vision for Dunnellon’s future. I look forward to seeing you there.
Nathan Whitt is the mayor of the city of Dunnellon. Email him at nwhitt@dunnellon.org.