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The Villages
Friday, July 12, 2024

Absurd comments show Sumter commissioners’ arrogance and disregard for constituents

We thought we’d seen the height of arrogance and disregard for residents last month when Sumter County commissioners voted to raise property taxes by a whopping 25 percent.

But judging by their comments at a recent meeting, the arrogance we saw on display at two September meetings at the Savannah Center – you know, the ones where they totally ignored scores of angry residents – was just the tip of the iceberg.

Sumter County commissioners prepare to start the Sept. 10 meeting that drew a near-capacity crowd to the Savannah Center.

We knew the five commissioners were completely out of touch with their constituents and beholden to The Villages Developer. But even we never imagined they’d actually gloat about sticking it to taxpayers with the burden of funding infrastructure in the newest section of The Villages.

But at this past Tuesday’s commission meeting, that’s exactly what happened.

“There was a whole lot of talk and a whole lot of complaining from very few people,” said Commissioner Doug Gilpin. “Most people realize it’s a very small tax increase after 14 years of no tax increase.”

Commissioner Doug Gilpin

Note to Gilpin: You work for T&D Concrete, a company largely in business because of the relationship with The Villages Developer. So, we all know whose pocket you are in. But don’t insult the hundreds of residents who attended those two meetings and several others by suggesting the complaints came from just a few. That’s a flat out lie and you know it. And we’re not sure what kind of math you’re using, but in most people’s view, a 25 percent tax increase is far from small – especially to retirees who live on a fixed income.

Gilpin, who clearly didn’t know when to stop talking, went on to say that Villagers’ desires to have stores Costco, Trader Joe’s or P.F. Chang’s won’t be possible without growth.

“You don’t get that without the rooftops to support it,” he said.

We’re pretty sure the majority of Villagers living in Sumter County – many of whom were highly successful in their chosen careers – understand the economics of growth. What they don’t understand is why someone elected to represent them would be so condescending and have no qualms about tossing them to the wolves so he can constantly kowtow to the Developer. Maybe you should explain that one to all of us at the next commission meeting, but we won’t hold our breath.

Commission Chairman Don Burgess

Also hopping aboard the arrogance train was Chairman Don Burgess, who said he was bothered by the booing of the crowd at the public hearings for a young woman who said growth helped her get a job and a chamber of commerce official.

“You can boo me, but don’t boo Sumter County,” he said.

Apparently, Burgess doesn’t understand that in the eyes of residents who knew the tax increase was a done deal before they ever said a word, he and his four cronies are Sumter County. So, make no mistake, Chairman Burgess, those boos largely were for you.

Not to be outdone, Commissioner Al Butler added to the insults by saying those who attended the meetings didn’t seem interested in the reasons for the tax increase.

Commissioner Al Butler

“Many people weren’t ready to receive good information,” he said. “People got a little bit long and some of them got off track.”

We’re wondering exactly how finding out that you have to pay 25 percent more in property taxes could ever be considered “good information.” And as for suggesting that the residents who poured their hearts out were long-winded, that’s insulting. Unlike Butler, we applaud everyone who spoke up and we think many of you made some excellent points – even though they fell on deaf ears.

So, you ask, what have we learned from the commission’s last three meetings besides the fact that they could care less about their constituents, they jump when the Developer calls, and their arrogance level is off the charts? For starters, we’ve found out that some residents have had enough and plan to do something about it.

Sumter County Commissioner Steve Printz, left, will be challenged by Villagers Charles Kasner, center, and Oren Miller in the 2020 GOP Primary Election.

Steve Printz, a Villages resident who made the motion at the Sept. 10 meeting to endorse the tax increase, will now face at least two challengers – Charles Kasner and Oren Miller – in his bid to get re-elected next year. We’re not sure what their platforms will be, but we’re guessing one of the points they’ll make time and again is that Printz made the motion to raise their taxes. Do they really need to say much else?

Gary Search

Butler, also of The Villages, hasn’t announced if he’ll run for another term next year. But if he does, he’ll also face at least one challenger. Gary Search, a former elected official who served in Pennsylvania, said the tax increase was the “final straw” in his decision to run for a commission seat. Again, we don’t know what his platform will be, but we’re guessing it will go something like this: “My opponent, Al Butler, voted to raise your taxes by 25 percent.”

As of now, the third Villager on the commission, Burgess, hasn’t announced if he will seek reelection. If he does, we wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one or two challengers come forth. After all, the campaign just couldn’t get much easier.

Sherry Duvall, of the Village of Gilchrist, on Sept. 10 warned Sumter County commissioners about the 2020 election.

If you ask us, those five commissioners, the Villages Developer and the fourth-generation Morse Millennials should hang their heads in shame over what they’ve done to the people who call Sumter County home. They had no qualms about sticking it to residents across the entire county so the Developer wouldn’t have to pay higher impact fees. And they sold out the folks who elected them and count on them to look out for their best interests in the process.

Sumter County residents know they’ve been had, but you can bet they’ll have long memories about this nightmare. If you don’t think that’s true, just ask Villager Sherry Duvall, who early on the Sept. 10 commission meeting said: “You are sticking it to us and hopefully we will return the favor at election time.”

Enough said.

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