Tuesday, August 21, 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
Rays defeat Royals thanks to pitching and replay

Rays defeat Royals thanks to pitching and replay

ST. PETERSBURG — That the Rays defeated the Royals 1-0 on Monday night — Tampa Bay's major-league-leading 51st one-run game — is not surprising. What is a bit unusual is how they did it.With two outs and runners on first and third i...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays journal: Seminole’s Brett Phillips returns home

Rays journal: Seminole’s Brett Phillips returns home

ST. PETERSBURG — Brett Phillips played at Tropicana Field in 2012 when he was a senior at Seminole High and a member of Team Pinellas in the annual Hillsborough vs. Pinellas All-Star Game. He was just weeks away from being picked in the sixth r...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Who says preseason doesn’t count for Bucs?

Who says preseason doesn’t count for Bucs?

TAMPA — Monday was a beautiful day out at One Buc Place.Sunny. Blue skies. Hot, but not a thousand degrees like it has been in recent weeks around here.The Bucs were finally back home after spending most of the past week in Nashville. And despi...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rodney Page’s takeaways from Monday’s Rays-Royals game

Rodney Page’s takeaways from Monday’s Rays-Royals game

Replay played a big role in the game. The Rays got their run in the second when an out call at first was overturned. Then in the fourth, Kevin Kiermaier was picked off second with no outs after a replay showed his hand came off the base.Ryan Yarbroug...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Head-on crash kills three, injures two children in Zephyrhills

Head-on crash kills three, injures two children in Zephyrhills

ZEPHYRHILLS — Three people were killed and two children were seriously injured in a head-on collision that took place Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place about 7 p.m. on County Road 54, west of Chantel Drive.Elv...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Tampa Bay Catholics react: ‘Terrible and horrible,’ ‘betrayal,’ ‘deep disappointment’

Tampa Bay Catholics react: ‘Terrible and horrible,’ ‘betrayal,’ ‘deep disappointment’

ST. PETERSBURG — The fallout from a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing the molestation of more than 1,000 children by at least 300 Roman Catholic priests that was covered up by church officials for decades has reverberated among Tampa Bay paris...
Updated: 6 hours ago
More manatees have died in Florida so far this year than in all of 2017. Blame Red Tide.

More manatees have died in Florida so far this year than in all of 2017. Blame Red Tide.

ST. PETERSBURG — The number of manatee deaths in Florida this year has already exceeded the total for all of 2017. Blame Red Tide, which is suspected of killing more than 100 of them.So far, 554 manatees have died in 2018, with four months left to go...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Bulls snubbed in preseason AP poll

Bulls snubbed in preseason AP poll

Less than two weeks before their season opener, the Bulls finally have a gaudy accessory to complement their new Adidas uniforms.The ol' chip on their shoulder pads.USF received no votes in the Associated Press preseason poll released Monday, marking...
Updated: 8 hours ago
After parents object, Pinellas halts active shooter training videos for younger kids

After parents object, Pinellas halts active shooter training videos for younger kids

After a torrent of complaints, the Pinellas County school system is scrapping its plans to show a video to elementary school students in preparation for state-mandated active shooting drills to begin soon.The reaction came from parents after the dist...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Yes, that’s a crocodile on a pool noodle. No, the human didn’t get it back.

Yes, that’s a crocodile on a pool noodle. No, the human didn’t get it back.

A little over a week ago, Key Largo resident Victor Perez was looking out toward the bayside canal behind his house when he spotted an unusual sight."I’m on my balcony," said Perez, "and all of a sudden, I see this noodle and there’s a crocodile hang...
Updated: 9 hours ago