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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Lauralee Westine, sheriff's wife, may seek Pinellas Commission seat



The list of potential candidates thinking about running for Susan Latvala's county commission seat just keeps getting longer.

Today you can add the name Lauralee Westine to the mix.

Westine, 42, is a lawyer and the wife of Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. Though she’s never run for office before, the East Lake Republican said she’s followed local politics and issues for years. When she heard earlier this week that Latvala was planning to retire, she immediately began to contemplate a run.

"It was a put up or shut up moment," she said. "I thought: If you really care about the community, this is how you handle it."

There is the matter of her marriage, which could be no small issue in a campaign. If elected to the seven-member board, Westine would be in a position to vote on and approve Gualtieri’s annual budget, which in 2014, accounted for nearly a quarter of Pinellas’ overall budget.

On the other hand, as Westine noted, the sheriff office’s is an independent entity from the county and the sheriff is an elected constitutional officer.

"Do I think there’s a perceived conflict there? Yes," she said. "Do I think it can be effectively managed? Yes."

[Last modified: Thursday, January 30, 2014 6:59pm]


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