The seeds of the revolution were sown in September 2019 when Sumter County Commissioners sat stonefaced when residents decried a planned 25 percent tax hike.
Three incumbents 11 months later found themselves roundly defeated by three Villagers who represented the taxpayers who felt disrespected by that fateful 2019 decision to raise taxes.
Craig Estep, Oren Miller and Gary Search were longshot candidates in the Sumter County race. The incumbents – Don Burgess, Steve Printz and Al Butler – were deeply embedded in the local Republican Party and in the pocket of the Developer of The Villages.
The trio of incumbents raked in bushels of cash, raised from contractors whose financial futures were intertwined with the whims of the Developer. That money enabled the incumbents to hire the services of a Tallahassee political consultant who flooded voters’ mailboxes with high-gloss mailers.
The challengers spent countless hours at postal stations in The Villages talking to voters. They ventured down to the south end of the county to speak with mayors and small groups that would give them an audience.
Even a dirty trick, putting fake candidates on the ballot, didn’t phase the determined electorate.
In the end, the trio of challengers emerged victorious far outdistancing the number of votes collected by their rivals.