By Nancy Kennedy, Citrus County Chronicle
In 1995, Citrus County Tax Collector Janice Warren worked in banking, wore her hair permed and curly, had kids still in school — and the year 2020 was still 25 years in the future.She and her husband, Dave, had moved to Citrus County in the early 1970s from Jacksonville where she had grown up, settling in Homosassa.
“There were only about 20,000 people in Citrus County back then,” she said.
But by 1995, she had seen a growth explosion and all the problems and challenges that brings to a community.
And although not a county native, she had some of the concerns the old-timers had.
“The 1994 Leadership Citrus class had a couple of planners in it — I was in the class of ‘93 — and a group of us determined to do a community-led project that would plan into the year 2020,” she said.
Folks like Kevin Cunningham, Stan Olsen, Curt Ebitz, Sybil Barco, Jeff Dawsy, Avis Craig, Stephanie McLeod, Judge Patricia Thomas, as well as Janice Warren and others made up the steering committee of what they called Citrus 20/20, short for “Citrus 20/20: Focus Today for A Clear Vision Tomorrow.”
Together, along with other community leaders who joined them, the group cast a vision for Citrus County for the next 25 years.
They began with what they considered the county’s treasures: the people who form a caring community, a sense of safety and security in a small-town atmosphere, an excellent education system and clean water resources.
Next, with input from the community, they identified 10 issues critical to the county’s future: education; economic development; growth management; “nature and man;” infrastructure; identity, culture and society; government, public/private partnerships; eco-tourism, social services and youth needs.
With the year 2020 only 10 months away, how did they do?
“In 2007, we did an audit of the things we said we were going to do, and it was quite remarkable what we had accomplished ... including a YMCA, which was one of our original aspirations,” Warren said.
“In 2011, the 20/20 group dissolved — the economy was struggling and we lost members who left the area for other jobs and some had passed on. By then, many of our objectives had been met,” she said.
However, as 2020 approaches, not all the objectives have been met, and as the county continues to grow and change, there are new challenges.
For example, she said, the Suncoast Parkway is on its way to the center of the county.
“It’s no longer people deciding IF it’s going to happen,” she said. “Now it’s, OK, it’s here, how will we deal with it in areas of the environment and smart growth management?”
Enter Citrus 20/30.
Under the umbrella of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, this group -- some of those who started Citrus 20/20 and newer, younger members -- is in the forming stage, with the goal of casting a new vision for Citrus County for the next decade.
She also said the new vision group has the advantage of being able to use the existing plan as a model.
“What I see 20/30 doing — taking what we’ve done, seeing what was successful, what’s left undone, but more importantly, what are the priorities now for the next decade? I think a lot of what was important to us 25 years ago is still important, but the community needs are different.”
That’s why Citrus 20/30 is bringing younger leaders to the table, those with fresh ideas and a different focus.
“I came here from Orlando almost five years ago,” said 32-year-old David Reed, Citrus County YMCA operations director and part of the Citrus 20/30 steering committee.
“Citrus 20/20 was a great plan, and we can look back at some of the things they talked about in 1995, including the YMCA,” he said. “For me, Citrus County is a real community where people are willing to help each other out, and by being a part of Citrus 20/30, it’s a way to help serve the community.”
It’s about destiny, Warren said, “destiny by choice as opposed to destiny by chance.”
Contact Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy at 352-564-2927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.