Yeager throws snag into commission race

Second of two parts.

Sunday's column began telling the tale of how influence and power behind the scenes are combined to choose the candidates you see on the ballot this fall.


At the moment, some backroom maneuvering is resulting in a developer-backed consortium of


trying to set up a scenario where their chosen candidate is pitted solely against County Commissioner Elaine Renick, who was elected in 2006 from District 2.

Though the former


councilwoman is a Republican, she is not of their ilk. Which is to say that she does not vote against the interest of the people in favor of the urban sprawl that has harmed Lake County but makes these particular Republicans even wealthier. That's why she isn't the group's choice.


The Republican group of friends and associates knows that their chosen candidate, Sean Parks, will make a better showing against Renick if there aren't other pesky candidates to split the vote. Parks ran for the commission from District 3 last year and lost big time to veteran campaigner Jimmy Conner.

However, a snag has arisen in the Republicans' plan. His name is David Yeager, the former mayor of Minneola.

Yeager's rocky ride

Yeager said that he was encouraged to run by this same consortium when they were trolling for a candidate in November. But then the group decided to back Parks, and he was dropped. Now, he said, they're urging him to get out, leaving Parks a clearer shot.

Yeager said he was told initially that Parks wasn't a factor because he had taken only 38 percent of the vote last year in a dramatic loss to Conner in a three-way race. But the group planned to take a poll in January and then would decide who to support. Yeager figured he was a shoo-in.

The poll, however, was too expensive, said Angie Langley, a former Lake Republican chairwoman."We all kind of went back and said, ‘Let's just talk to friends and neighbors and see what the consensus is among regular people," Langley said.

The decision to support Parks came because he hasn't espoused plans that involve casino gambling or building a ski slope in Minneola.

"We like David and all, but sometimes he is really out there with his ideas," wrote Scott Blankenship, owner of Blankenship Consulting and one of the group, in an e-mail.


Langley said Parks' ideas would be "more real and voter friendly than a casino and gambling where we have a church and a chiropractor on every corner. To be pushing, pushing, pushing gambling stuff is not the right fit."

Sayonara, David.

Hello Sean Parks

Langley, Blankenship as well as Michael Bucher, a vice president of United Southern Bank, and Montverde Academy Headmaster Kasey Kesselring met with Yeager to explain the situation.

"Now Sean's the golden boy," Yeager said. "They said, ‘You're being a spoilsport — you should just get out.' "

Yeager said the foursome said they were just meeting with him "to explain what happened."

"They said, ‘We're not saying you should get out, but here's who we're going to support.' I know the message. I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I definitely have an edge."

Dan Robuck, a lawyer and owner of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply in


, is the most powerful member of the informal consortium that approached Yeager.

He wasn't at last week's kiss-goodbye meeting. However, he said the group didn't convince Yeager to run and didn't make any promises.

"At that point, we didn't even know who all was going to run," Robuck said.

He said "lots of groups of different people" are meeting with potential candidates to decide who to support.

So why Parks?

"I just think Sean's a better candidate," Robuck said. "I don't want to go on the record as to why."

Bucher didn't return a call, and Kesselring, the headmaster, was traveling and not available for comment.

Asked about the Yeager controversy, Parks said, "I don't know anything." He said he respects anyone who is willing to run for office. Parks said he saw Yeager recently, and the former mayor was "all peaches and cream" in public.

It's not a love-fest

Yeager, however, is not such a big fan of Parks. He said the consortium's choice "has no tail section, no backbone."

"He was on the water board [Lake County Water Authority]. What has he done? Whether you like what I've done or not, at least I've done things. I did not bow down," Yeager said.

Parks said, "I'm not one of those who has to talk loud and scream to show you I have a backbone. We'll let him think that. I'm trying not to say anything bad. It will all come out."

Yeager is concerned about what might be alleged during the campaign. After all, by staying in the race he is bucking some of the richest and most politically powerful people in the county.

So, there you have it in two columns — a look behind the political curtain. And in the end, who actually will appear on the ballot? That's anyone's guess. Renick has not yet said whether she will seek re-election, and a third candidate, Mark Saunders, also has pre-filed to seek office.

Robuck summed it up: "That's what politics are all about. Anyone is free to run."

Lauren Ritchie can be reached at

You may leave her a message at 352-742-5918. Her blog is online at