SAFETY HARBOR — Realtor Damon Lister, an executive vice president of the Park Property Group of Clearwater, is challenging incumbent Andy Zodrow, an attorney with the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County, for the Seat 3 City Commission seat.
This is the second time Lister, who grew up in Seminole, has tossed his hat in the ring. Last year he was one of four candidates pursuing Seat 1, which went to Scott Long. Lister’s momentum to work with the local government has not stopped, however. In August, he was appointed the city’s first volunteer economic development liaison working directly with the city manager on efforts supporting the local economy. In December he stepped down in order to run for commission.
Lister, 35, admitted giving up the economic development liaison spot was a difficult decision.
"I really debated whether to continue that instead because I was really enjoying it,’’ he said. "Honestly, my interest in running for City Commission came after attending commission meetings over the course of the last couple years. I saw a bit of a lack of leadership and focus on the big elements of moving our city forward. I think I have the tools and skill set to add to the current leadership team.’’
Lister says a major priority for him will be "to continue working on economic development,’’ he said. "I think one of the things I’ll bring to the table is recruiting anchor businesses that will thrive in Safety Harbor.’’
He also added that he expects city leaders will continue to consider whether or not to hire a fulltime economic development director. Before they do that, however, they should fill some vacant staff positions, specifically, the plans reviewer and inspector, he said.
"There is a critical hiring need when it comes to this position in order to keep things moving forward,’’ he said. "Safety Harbor is going through a lot of change right now with numerous projects underway. We want to keep it all moving forward.’’
Lister applauds the commission’s recent work with Bay to Bay Properties on the site plan and development agreement for the mixed-use project on the corner of Main Street and Second Avenue N, incorporating residential, retail and business uses.
"I am a big fan of traditional Main Street and a huge supporter of that project. I think it speaks to the type of growth that a lot of residents are seeking,’’ he said.
Zodrow, 48, has been a commissioner since 2014 and makes no qualms about his concerns on environmental issues.
"If I had to pick one thing, I believe it was the creation of Waterfront Park that was a big reason why I wanted to become a commissioner in the first place years ago,’’ he said. "At the time it was just getting started, and I wanted to help make sure it was done right.’’
Specifically, Zodrow is pleased city officials agreed to consider his plan for a living shoreline instead of a man-made seawall.
"Seawalls are bad for the bay, they are maintenance heavy and expensive, and many people didn’t realize how valuable an environmental alternative living shoreline was. I’m proud of that and bringing new concepts like this to the city.’’
Unlike Lister, Zodrow is opposed to the Bay to Bay project.
"I’m not against development. I absolutely want the downtown to thrive,’ he said. "But it needs to be done in a compatible way. For example, the residential part will be 24 units. I would have been happy with 12. I felt it was not compatible with the other residences next to it. I voted against it, and I felt the project was too intense for a 1-acre piece of property.’’
Zodrow would like to also continue his work advocating for more green space as well as keeping tabs on stormwater issues.
"I want to continue my work to ensure that development projects do not have stormwater issues. You do not want such issues in Tampa Bay,’’ he said. "And, I hope to see the city continue to preserve more green space. It is one of the things that brings people to the city.’’
Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] Follow @Florida_PBJC.