Sunshine State News
By: Kenric Ward
Bitner relocated to Southwest Florida and served for many years as the general manager of the Port Charlotte-based Charlotte Sun-Herald.
“Dave came to work with the free weekly when we had only four employees,” said Derek Dunn-Rankin, chairman of the Suncoast Media Group. “He was the key player in building it into a significant daily newspaper.”
In 1990, Bitner sold his interest in the newspaper and joined Wendy in starting Sun Specialties, a provider of company promotional products and business gifts. In 1992, he was elected as a state representative from District 71.
As a lawmaker, Bitner helped pass tort reform bills, stricter penalties for criminals, and tax cuts.
One of his key legislative accomplishments was sponsoring Florida’s “name change” law, ensuring the record of prisoners incarcerated under one name and released under another reflected their complete criminal record.
In Charlotte County, Bitner remained active as president of the Charlotte County Cultural Center, president of the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce and as a member of the Charlotte County chapter of Big Brothers & Big Sisters and the YMCA. He was also involved in local high school booster programs.
During his first two terms in the Florida House, Bitner served in the minority, but helped the Republican Party gain the majority in the Florida House in his third and fourth terms under Speakers Daniel Webster and John Thrasher.
In 1994, Bitner was honored by the Florida Homebuilders Association as “Legislator of the Year.” The Florida Economic Development Council followed suit, naming him "Legislator of the Year" in 1997.
He was also recognized by the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges as an “Outstanding Legislator” and by the University of Florida for his “Dedication, Leadership and Support of Higher Education.”
In 2000, Bitner was asked by then-Gov. Jeb Bush to travel the state and campaign for "George W. Bush for President." Throughout the campaign, Bitner traveled across Florida to knock on doors, attend rallies and make phone calls, playing a critical role as a liaison between the Bush campaign and the 67 Republican Executive Committee members throughout Florida.
Following his tenure as a state representative, Bitner, joined by Wendy, relocated to the Tallahassee area and founded the government consulting firm Bitner & Associates.
While Bitner’s love for politics drove him to serve as a lawmaker, baseball was his second passion. While at Bitner & Associates, he represented major league teams, including his beloved Baltimore Orioles.
Bitner is credited with helping keep several major league baseball teams in Florida for spring training and also helping to lure the Tampa Bay Rays to his former home of Port Charlotte for spring training in 2008.
Since leaving the statehouse, Bitner remained active in Republican Party politics as a Jefferson County precinct committeeman and a member of the Jefferson County Republican Executive Committee.
During his brief tenure as RPOF chairman, Bitner traveled the state extensively, meeting with local Republican clubs and helping to unify the party. He also worked to honor Florida’s nearly 250,000 military veterans through the “Greatest Generation Tour” across Florida.
In addition to Wendy, his wife of 20 years, he is survived by a daughter, Jennifer Blackburn of North Port; three sisters, Debbie Poff of Sarasota, Darlene Muse of Winter Haven and Dawn Lewis of Hagerstown; a brother, Don Bitner of Tallahassee; mother-in-law, Sandie Checchia of Port Charlotte and father-in-law, Damian (Lisa) Wojdula of Englewood; brother-in-law, Steven Wojdula of Venice; grandchildren, Kelly Plueger, Dylan Hixson, Amanda Blackburn and Bob Blackburn; and a great grandson, Phoenix Plueger.
Service is pending.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to JOY (Jefferson Outreach for Youth Inc.), P.O. Box 206, Lloyd, FL 32337. Friends may visit online at www.robersonfh.com to sign the memory book and extend condolences to the family. Arrangements are under the direction of Roberson Funeral Home & Crematory, Port Charlotte Chapel.
Contact Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or (772) 801-5341.