BROOKSVILLE - James "Jimmy" Lodato says he wants to finish what he started last year when he ran unsuccessfully for county commission.
Only, this time, he's running as a Democrat.
On Tuesday, Lodato filed papers with the elections office to run for the District 2 seat held by Republican Wayne Dukes, who has already announced his 2014 re-election bid. Libertarian party candidate Charles McBrearty is also running for that seat.
Lodato's entry into the race was not unexpected given his presence at most every county commission meeting and involvement in local issues.
Lodato told Hernando Today the county has dug a hole for itself economically by failing to plan for the future and relying on cash reserves.
Those reserves are played out and now the tab has come due to balance the budget by raising the millage, perhaps by the county's estimate of 1.4 mills, he said.
"There is no choice," Lodato said. "How else are we going to do it?"
Lodato said his previous experience as a businessman will serve taxpayers well as he works to attract industry here and create jobs.
"We've been running this county with absolutely no business plan," he said. "What business can move forward without a business plan?"
Lodato credits County Administrator Len Sossamon for his work on the soon-to-be-released strategic plan, which will serve as a blueprint for the future in Hernando County.
But Lodato said the administrator is handcuffed by county commissioners who continue to micromanage.
"We need to cut him loose," Lodato said. "There's no telling where he'll take us but they need to give him the power to do it."
Lodato has been critical of the inefficiency of county spending over the years and of what he calls the crisis management style of government.
Terry Ogden, media chairman for the Hernando County Democratic Executive Committee, called Lodato "a visionary who has knowledge and experience in governmental affairs."
Lodato ran as a Republican for county commissioner in the previous election primary for District 5 and lost to Jim Adkins.
He later switched to a no-party affiliation "to figure out which way I would go in the next election."
In May, he became a member of the Democratic Party, saying it better suited his philosophy and was more open to ideas.
Lodato represented 17 Fortune 500 companies in his former businesses and retired at age 39. He then became president of the Tierra Verde Community Association in southern Pinellas County before moving to Hernando County.
Lodato plans to pursue industries to complement existing corporations in Hernando County and believes his business management skills and expertise will be an asset for economic development.
Specifically, Lodato said there has to be a more aggressive plan to market the east side of Hernando County, which already has infrastructure-ready sites for large companies.
Lodato said in a press release that he was the spokesman for Corporate Jet Solutions Inc., which relocated from Pinellas County to Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport last month and plans to create 50 jobs in Hernando County.
Corporate Jet Solutions Vice President Bradley Dye said Lodato was instrumental in his company's relocation. He also credited the work of all five county commissioners, government staffers and the public for making that happen.
McBrearty, a student at St. Leo University, has previously cited the massive budget shortfall for the next fiscal year and, if elected, one of the first things he plans to do is cut his own salary.
McBrearty, who is unemployed, has also criticized county commissioners' spending practices and believes not enough has been done to lure new industry to Hernando County.
Dukes, who lives in Hernando Beach, is a career firefighter who retired as a civilian fire chief for the federal government. He said he was not surprised by Lodato's entry into the race.
"The more, the merrier," Dukes said.