TARPON SPRINGS — Attorney Francis Matthew King believes he has the ability to lead the city to grow in a smart direction while focusing on its small businesses and historic character.
That's why King, known to most folks as "Matt," has entered the race to be Tarpon Springs' next mayor.
"Tarpon Springs needs to focus on preserving its character and uniqueness," said King, a 33-year-old father of two. "There's a lot to be gained for the city through tourism dollars. One of the things that makes the city unique is its culture and history."
Candidates are starting to line up, even though the election is nine months away. On March 10, Tarpon Springs voters will go to the polls to select a mayor and two commissioners.
King will be aiming to replace Mayor Beverley Billiris, who won't be running because of term limits after serving two three-year terms.
Commissioner Peter Dalacos also will be leaving because of term limits after two three-year stints as the Seat 3 commissioner. Jeff Larsen, who chairs the city's Planning and Zoning Board, has announced his candidacy for that seat.
Commissioner Chris Alahouzos has filed to remain in Seat 4 another term.
King is the chairman of the Tarpon Springs Board of Adjustments and a member of the Tarpon Springs Area Historical Society. This is his second attempt at elected office in the city. In 2005, he was defeated by David Archie for a commission seat.
Meanwhile, City Clerk Irene Jacobs will present options on July 8 to the charter review committee that could allow residents to change when the mayor and commissioners are elected.
Jacobs said electing officials on even years and at the same time as Pinellas County holds its general election would be a cost saver.
Currently, there is a city election every three years. The mayor and commission Seats 3 and 4 are on one election cycle. The next election, commission Seats 1 and 2 are up for grabs. The next election for those two seats is scheduled for March 2011.
In 2008, it cost Tarpon Springs $26,000 to hold its election. According to a cost analysis supplied by the county, if Tarpon Springs were to hold its election the same time the county does, it would cost $10,105 for 17,767 registered voters.
That figure does not include costs for legal advertisements, reprinting and mail-in ballots.
"With these tough budget times, all departments are looking at ways that cities can save money," Jacobs said.
The charter committee, which convenes every five years, will decide if an election cycle change makes the March 10 ballot. Tarpon Springs voters would then make the ultimate decision.
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4174.