Chester Dishong Downing, 64, a Sebring Democrat, grew up in Wauchula. He spent summers on Lake Francis, where his family owned a home. He moved to Highlands in 1971 and began a 39-year teaching and coaching career at Sebring Middle School.
His qualifications also include knowledge of the local geography, an awareness of current needs from attending county commission meetings for the past year, and a master's of education in administration and supervision. He is running for the District 2 seat on the Highlands County Commission.
You'll hire the next county administrator. What will you look for?
A person within the county who has no special interest group ties. A person who understands our county's needs, strengths, the way government works, and works cooperatively with new ideas in bringing industry, while protecting the environment.
Is Highlands an urban county or a rural county?
Traditionally rural. Industries have been primarily agricultural and service related. Many would like to keep things as they have always been, but we have fast become a retirement community and not offered enough choices to young families.
What is the most important issue affecting Highlands County?
The lack of employment is causing the loss of many of our most talented people. Others are remaining, but are discouraged over their futures.
Which decision of the commission would you have made differently?
Sebring Parkway. I am in favor of a bypass on the outskirts of the county, helping take the traffic off Highway 27. Even now, I believe it is not too late to stop Phase 3 forever, preserving some fragile, endangered land.
DCA defines Blue Head and Lake Placid North and South as sprawl. What's your opinion?
Law and processes must be followed by all. If exceptions are made, then sprawl results. Careful presentation and examination of all facts and plans should be mandatory. More public symposiums should be held.
The commissioners were criticized for the way they fired Mike Wright. What should they have done?
I don't believe anyone who has not been privy to all facts can judge this situation, or add commentary that will have a positive effect.
Highlands County owns an asphalt plant. What should be done with it?
Thus far, this plant has not saved the county any money. The costs to run it have exceeded its value. Unless a study proves its viability in the short term, then we should consider leasing or selling it.
The library loans DVDs, CDs, popular novels and shows movies. Which services should libraries provide?
Those services should continue. The library helps us stay abreast of what is going on in the world. Many cannot afford computers and Internet access. In today's world, that hurts job chances. I see a library as a central part of a community's culture.