When Diana Finegan started her career at the Citrus Abuse Shelter Association (CASA) in 1999, she admits the nonprofit had a less than stellar reputation, poor financial practices, no policies, was in debt and didn’t do what the community needed.
“When I left (in 2017), CASA had a new 10,000 square foot facility that doubled the seating capacity, was solvent, had a year’s worth of reserves, tripled the annual budget, and doubled the staff,” said said Finegan who rose through the ranks to become manager.
Finegan, a longtime Citrus County resident who now lives in Homosassa, wants to bring those management skills to the county commission, where she will face fellow Republican Stacey Worthington for the District 2 seat.
“I’ve always had this sense of duty to the community,” Finegan told the Chronicle editorial board this week. “Being the person I am, I prayed about this for about two weeks and finally decided to throw my hat in the ring.”
Finegan said Citrus County needs to prepare for big changes as more tourists come here and people and businesses move in.
“It’s time for Citrus County to be proactive when considering our future, not reactive,” she said. “Our infrastructure needs to be repaired and improved, natural resources need to be protected, and we need a business-friendly government that brings in the kind of businesses that will increase our economic base and pay good wages.”
Finegan said her business background prepared her for a leadership role on the commission.
“I know how to build coalitions, forge partnerships and work with others to positively impact our community,” she said. “I have the experience to lead, manage assets for the future and balance a budget. Taxpayers’ money is precious, and I believe taxpayers should see their hard-earned money put to work.
If Citrus County wants to create career jobs, “we need to look better than the counties around us,” Finegan said.
Impact costs must be lower and infrastructure must be built to attract higher paying jobs. That’s why bringing high-speed internet service is essential to meet the industry’s relocation needs, she said.
“It’s up to the county to put the infrastructure in place to bring in those vendors,” she said.
Then there is the budget.
“Every need we have comes down to budget,” Finegan said.
She doesn’t think commissioners are negotiating to their full potential.
“I’m a fierce negotiator and I think if we’re using precious taxpayers’ money, we should be negotiating as fiercely as possible, like our roads or like the animal shelter,” she said.
Finegan added, “I know how to effectively run something with (a) very small budget and grow it.”
How to pay for these new installations and infrastructures?
She supports a sales tax referendum to let people decide if they want to go that route. The good thing, she said, is that tourists will help pay for this tax which benefits residents.
“Raising taxes of any kind should always be our very last choice,” she said.
Finegan said she has experience educating the public and knows how to spread the word about the benefits of the sales tax increase, whether it’s a half -cent or a whole cent.
“If we had better long-term (planning), I don’t think we’d be so behind on our roads, stormwater drainage, affordable housing (and more),” she said.
After leaving CASA, she helped her husband with their businesses, Air FX Inc. and Electrix Inc. They typically employ around 30 people.
Finegan said she has experience with multi-million dollar budgets, has written policy at the local and state level, and has worked with government entities with grants and funding.
“I’ve managed employees most of my life, held business meetings, fiercely negotiated contracts, and mentored other leaders,” she said. “I have proven my ability to lead, govern and be fiscally responsible.”
Finegan said commissioners must listen to all citizens, not a privileged few.
“As commissioner, I would like people to keep coming to me with problems,” she said.
Issues raised by citizens are never “a waste of time”, she added.
Finegan said personality differences among current commission members have caused them to internalize issues instead of planning.
“If ever, as commissioner, I have a personal problem, it stays with me and does not affect business,” she said. “Business is business.”