Thursday, May 24, 2018
News Roundup

Safety Harbor candidates tout commitment, diverge on experience

BY PIPER CASTILLO

Times Staff Writer

SAFETY HARBOR — The two candidates tout their commitment to the city and their families as well as their involvement with their communities and church. However, the two men, incumbent Cliff Merz, 57, and challenger Spencer Bell, 33, vying for City Commission Seat 2, vary in background and interests.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: In Safety Harbor, former commissioner Nancy Besore faces incumbent Scott Long for Seat 1 Downtown

This is the first time Bell, owner of Bellwether Strategic Government Consulting, a 1-year old business based in the city, is running for political office. However, the University of Florida graduate has a resume that includes stints as the regional director for the Republican Party of Florida, the deputy finance director for the David Jolly for Congress campaign as well and campaign manager for state Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa.

It was last November, during a public meeting discussing the potential hiring of a community development director, that Bell decided to run. After listening to the discussion among the five city commissioners that led to the decision to not add the position, Bell was frustrated. He believed the five men could have worked in a more timely, organized way, he recalled.

"(The City Commission) has a lack and neglect of general adherence to basic Robert’s Rules of order.’’

Bell believes his addition to the commission would ensure it "functions effectively and efficiently,’’ he said. "Instead of having to learn as I go, what I specialize in my business is exactly the definition of a city commissioner.’’

Merz, who received the endorsement of the Safety Harbor Professional Fire Fighters Local 2267 and has been a city commissioner since 2012, believes the current commission’s "variety of backgrounds’’ has served it well.

A Safety Harbor resident since 1998, Merz is a faculty research engineer at University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science in St Petersburg.

"We bring our collective experience to bear when making a decision,’’ he said. "I have worked with engineers and scientists so when it comes to some of the decision making, I bring that engineering background, which I think is valuable.

A strong advocate for Home Rule, in 2014 the father of five received the Florida League Home Rule Hero award. And, along with his current involvement with Leadership Pinellas’s 2018 class, he also helps coordinate the city’s participation in the Pinellas County School’s Executive Internship Program.

"In the last two terms, one of the things I have tried to do is strengthen that connection between the workforce and the community,’’ he said. "Residents are concerned about earning a living and having a dependable job and the more the city can help with that, in different ways, through economic development, or through things like the intern program, the better. ... If we can do this by helping than the people will more likely have the ability to give back, to provide their gifts to us in the community.’’

Both candidates believe city officials need to show caution as they move forward with Safety Harbor’s growth.

Bell would like to see "development dollars be spread north and south and not just in downtown. My perception on development is that there are certain projects that are a high priority, like Waterfront Park and Main Street. They have taken front and center stage, above and beyond all other issues within the city.’’

Merz stressed he has been on the commission for most of the Waterfront Park development.

"And I do hope to have the opportunity to continue with the work on that,’’ he said. "It is a gem for our city.’’

Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] Follow @Florida_PBJC.

Comments
Behind the deal: $52 million boutique hotel coming to Ybor City started with cafe con leche at La Tropicana Cafe

Behind the deal: $52 million boutique hotel coming to Ybor City started with cafe con leche at La Tropicana Cafe

TAMPA — Joe Capitano Sr. invested in the 1400 block of E Seventh Avenue in 1985, never doubting the huge potential of the property for Ybor City.But the deal to build a $52 million boutique hotel on the site didn’t start to come together until six ye...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays journal: Blake Snell, flying Denard Span finally solve Red Sox

Rays journal: Blake Snell, flying Denard Span finally solve Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG — Having lost two straight and nine of 12 times overall to the Red Sox, the Rays needed two things to go right Thursday:First, a strong start from Blake Snell.Second, some early runs against Rick Porcello from an offense that had...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Thursday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Thursday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Home cooking clearly agrees with OF Denard Span. The 34-year-old Tampa product continues to deliver, producing at the plate, running the bases, making diving catches in the outfield, and Thursday, even going over the short sidewall twice in hot pursu...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Bucs’ Ali Marpet: NFL flip-flopping on anthem policy ‘a little bit odd’

Bucs’ Ali Marpet: NFL flip-flopping on anthem policy ‘a little bit odd’

TAMPA — This much is clear: The National Football League is focused on getting rid of kneeling players.That was the league's announcement Wednesday in requiring players to stand during the national anthem before games or possibly have their tea...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays once again will ‘open’ with relievers this weekend

Rays once again will ‘open’ with relievers this weekend

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays weren't kidding about being serious that starting relievers gives them the best chance to win.So much so, they plan to do so again this weekend against the Orioles — in all three games. The plan is for Sergio Rom...
Updated: 3 hours ago
When will the Lightning run out of wait-til-next-years?

When will the Lightning run out of wait-til-next-years?

TAMPA — Disbelief will eventually give way to acceptance.The Lightning isn't there yet.It isn't there yet in a lot of ways.Will it ever be?Just wondering.Really, what guarantees are there?Late Wednesday, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechki...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Deputies: Hours after birth, newborn abandoned in north Tampa

Deputies: Hours after birth, newborn abandoned in north Tampa

TAMPA — An abandoned a newborn baby was found in the University area on Thursday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.A passerby found the baby boy wrapped in a red towel near the intersection of N 18th Street and E 143rd Avenue at ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Driver killed after colliding with dump truck in south Hillsborough

Driver killed after colliding with dump truck in south Hillsborough

WIMAUMA — A 30-year-old man died on Thursday after his sedan crashed head-on into a dump truck, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place at about 6 p.m. on U.S. 301 near Lightfood Road.Gerardo Yslas of Immokalee was driving a 2012...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Thurs., May 24, midday:173952098e_SRit83991Thurs., May 24, evening:146065414e_SRit29962Mega MillionsToda...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

ST. PETERSBURG — An Eckerd College student who was critically injured last weekend during an accidental fall on campus shortly before she was to graduate died today, the school announced.Rebecca Ryan "Becca" Lavin-Burgher would have graduated with a ...
Updated: 5 hours ago