GULFPORT — You won't see Bob Worthington's name on the March 9 ballot.
The city's Ward 3 representative has decided to call it quits.
"I want to take some time off to do some fishing," he said.
The lifelong resident of Gulfport became known as the go-to guy on the council when it came to environmental issues. And the battles he has waged concerning those issues are the things he's most proud of.
"I haven't won any of them," he said with a laugh, "but I have brought notoriety to Gulfport around the state."
He hasn't won the battles, but he hasn't lost them either. They are ongoing — and he plans to remain active in environmental issues even after his council term expires.
"I fought against near-shore oil drilling — you've got to do that, oil drilling will never bring in the dollars tourism does.
"I worked on the mooring field. I'm in favor of it 100 percent," he said.
And he has been a major force in attempts to get Clam Bayou cleaned and restored.
"It can never be brought back to the way it was when I grew up. Part of it has been artificially filled in. Some of that land can never be reclaimed, but the bayou that's left can be cleaned up," he said.
Worthington, 62, remembers a lot about the Gulfport of his youth. He remembers when he could walk across Boca Ciega Bay to Fort De Soto during low tide and he remembers seeing giant manta rays in the water off Gulfport, before the Bayway was built.
And yet, it's the economy — and not the environment — that Worthington says is the most pressing issue in Gulfport. "We have to keep the shops filled; we have to keep people coming to Gulfport; we have to balance the budget," he said.
"We have special events just about every weekend but it wasn't always that way. It took a long time to come about. It started around 1990 when I was on the very first Waterfront Redevelopment Committee," he said.
"It's been a collective issue of so many people. It's wonderful because we've been able to sit down and work together on scheduling."
He said it's important to the city that the spirit of cooperation continues. "It's valuable to think outside the box and use some common sense," Worthington said.
His strength as a council member depended on those things.
"I would talk to everybody. Some won't do that," he said.
Worthington retired from Honeywell in Clearwater in 2001 after working there 37 years. He said he did such secret space shuttle work as an engineering aid that when he retired he had to sign an agreement not to talk about it for 50 years.
He and his wife have two sons, both St. Petersburg firefighters, a daughter, who is a teacher, and "a passel" of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Where does Worthington plan to spend his newfound free time fishing after his term expires March 16?
His favorite spot is, not surprisingly, Boca Ciega Bay, where he said you can catch snook, trout, redfish and flounder — if you know where to go. But he also likes to go to a little town called Horseshoe Beach, an isolated fishing village that reminds him of the Gulfport of his youth. It's about 180 miles north on the Gulf of Mexico, west of Gainesville.
"It's a small town with about 200 people and no bars — and cell phones don't work there."