LEALMAN — Voters here have a stark choice for fire commission between a controversial former member and a political newcomer who has run a low-key campaign.
Eric A. Blum, a political newbie who has been dating the daughter of fire commission chairwoman Kathleen Litton for almost five years, is running for the Lealman Fire Commission. He lives in a house Litton and her husband, Mark, own.
His opponent is former fire commissioner John Frank, 57, owner of John G. Frank Irrigation Contractor. Frank was kicked off the fire board a few years ago by fellow members who said he did not live in Lealman, a requirement for serving on the board.
Blum, 35, is a native of Dumfries, Va., who moved to Florida five or six years ago. He moved to Lealman about two years ago. He is a manager trainee for HSN.
Blum said he has long been interested in current affairs and has been concerned in general about fiscal issues at all levels. He consulted several people about becoming involved on a local level. One of those was Litton, who laid out various opportunities for local political participation. Blum chose to run for the fire commission because "it seemed like a good fit."
Blum said he does not believe the close relationship with Litton to be either a conflict or any other problem.
"I'm not scared to speak my mind," Blum said Tuesday. "I do have my own mind."
Blum said he believes the biggest issue Lealman fire faces is financial and making sure he and other taxpayers "get the most bang for my buck."
He said he is open to the idea of allowing firefighters to transport emergency medical patients to the hospital but would like to see the numbers on cost and the effect on response times.
Frank said he is running because he is concerned about spending and holding the line on taxes.
"The people in this community deserve a better deal than they're getting," Frank said. "That commission needs to be better guardians of the money."
One way to save money, he said, is a gradual consolidation of fire and rescue services.
"Consolidation will reduce costs by eliminating overlapping services in our system, reducing administration through attrition and increasing our buying power in purchasing of equipment," he said.
Frank also supports changing the county's emergency medical services system to allow firefighters to take patients to the hospital. Under the current system, firefighter/paramedics answer emergency medical calls, but a private company that contracts with the county takes them to the hospital.
"Using the underutilized capacity of our current fire and rescue system will reduce costs, reduce taxes, and stabilize the system by allowing for reasonable accumulation of cash reserves," he said.
Frank is a vice president of and serves on the board of directors of the Lealman Community Association and is a past vice president of the United Community Associations of Pinellas. He also was a member of the Lealman revitalization team.
He says he has lived in the Lealman community for 37 years, but his fellow fire commissioners kicked him off the board because they believe he lives on property he owns in Pinellas Park. Pinellas County investigations, however, indicate that he does live in Lealman.
While on the commission in 2005, he was charged with speeding, DUI and leaving the scene of a crash. Judgment was withheld on all charges. His license was suspended, but it has since been reinstated.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8450.