SAFETY HARBOR — City Hall was closed Friday for Christmas as qualifying began for the March 10 City Commission election.
But five candidates got a jump on the process by visiting City Clerk Cathy Benson before the holidays and picking up their paperwork.
Among them are three people who are seeking Seat 1: incumbent Joe Ayoub and challengers Karen Skiff and Robin Fornino.
The other two hopefuls are Nancy Besore, who is going for Seat 3, and Mary Lynda Williams, who is asking voters to let her remain in Seat 2. Williams replaced former City Commissioner Kathleen Earle after Earle resigned about a year ago.
Commissioner Nadine Nickeson, the current Seat 3 holder, couldn't be reached Wednesday for comment on whether she intends to run again.
Qualifying closes at noon on Jan. 6.
Ayoub, 32, said he hopes voters give him a chance to continue to keep Safety Harbor a great place to live, work and raise a family.
A certified public accountant and member of the commission for nearly two years, he said he is proud of his efforts to "make a lot of balanced decisions that are in the best interests of the community as a whole.''
Ayoub said his goal is to continue to work toward keeping taxes low, move forward on the library expansion and help produce a fiscally responsible budget all while keeping the "level of services'' as high "as citizens have come to expect.''
"It might not be the most glamorous subject, but it's a big area to focus on,'' Ayoub said.
Skiff, 39, can be seen sitting in the audience at most City Commission meetings. She attends religiously in honor of the late Claude Rigsby, her mentor and friend who served two terms as Safety Harbor mayor.
A security guard at the Pinellas County government complex in downtown Clearwater, Skiff spent the first 15 years of her life in the city and then returned three years ago. She said "being a commissioner was my goal since childhood.''
But there is another reason.
"Longtime local (women) have encouraged me to run,'' she said. "I couldn't refuse. This is the village that raised me.''
Fornino and Besore were not available for comment Wednesday.
Williams, 60, has enjoyed her year on the commission so much that she's ready to serve for three years. She said she finds it very rewarding to give something back to the community.
She has especially liked volunteering for the local nonprofits and serving as Safety Harbor's Florida League of Cities delegate. She said she takes her job "very seriously.''
"I've learned so much,'' she said. "Commissioners are so informed about what's going on in the city. In my opinion, when I make a decision, it is the best decision for the residents and the city. It may not always be the most popular one, but it is the best one for the residents and the city.''
Eileen Schulte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4153.