CLEARWATER — Eight months before candidates can officially file to run, the city's next election has already seen its first shake-up — Vice Mayor John Doran will not run for mayor.
Doran, 64, has said for years that he was interested in running next year to replace term-limited Mayor Frank Hibbard. But on Friday he said he would step away from the race to spend more time with his wife of 44 years, Stephanie.
"I've been sitting down over the last few weeks and taking a long, hard look at what I want the next five years of my life to look like," Doran said. "Life is short, and I want to dance with my wife."
Doran's sudden reversal comes two weeks after his fellow City Council member, George Cretekos, announced he would run for mayor. Cretekos, 64, retired after working 35 years for U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, the longest-serving Republican in Congress and one of the state's most powerful politicians. Young's influence could almost certainly swing a race.
Cretekos, told of Doran's decision Friday afternoon by the Times, was surprised and "at a loss for words." He said he would appreciate Doran's support in the election, and that, if he were elected, he would "look forward to his counsel, his advice and his guidance."
Interestingly enough, Doran's remarks about the contested mayoral seat led to Cretekos' first public announcement. In a conversation with Cretekos, Doran said that he had reached his term limit as a member, and that if he wanted to remain on council, he needed to be elected as mayor. Doran said he did not ask Cretekos to not run for mayor, but he "asked him to consider those facts."
Cretekos acknowledged Doran's statements but would not go into detail.
"When Mr. Doran and I had that conversation … I decided I needed to let people know for sure that I was going to run," Cretekos said. "I told John that the people of Clearwater will decide who's going to be mayor, not he and I."
Doran, when asked how he could make his about-face so quickly, said, "I'm a well-educated person, and I was able to analyze the circumstances fairly quickly."
The announcement makes the mayoral election, for now, an unopposed race, though the qualification period doesn't begin until November. Doran said city critics will likely run as candidates in the election, but added that he believes Cretekos will become the next mayor. The city election will be held early next year, corresponding with the state's presidential primary.
Doran was elected unopposed in 2005, re-elected unopposed in 2008 and appointed vice mayor by the council last year. When his time on the dais ends, he said, he won't haunt City Hall.
"I think the council needs space for governing," he said, "and I plan to give them that space."
Doran works as an estate-planning attorney, a public accountant focused on income taxes and a real estate broker from his office on Northeast Cleveland Street. Instead of campaigning, he plans to enjoy the fall with a couple's vacation to Rome.
"It has gotten to be more and more difficult to juggle everything at once," he said. "Now I can try to lead a normal life."
Doran said he was proud to have been a part of the city's purchase of the downtown Capitol Theatre, opening the seniors-only Aging Well Center and the approval of a red-light camera program, which he hopes will be installed before he leaves office.
Hibbard said Doran's decision took him by surprise, but added that he believed both candidates would serve the city well.
'I respect John. . . . I respect his decision," Hibbard said. "He's obviously put a lot of thought into it."
Cretekos said he was encouraged and humbled by the early support but added he had a lot of work to do. "The election isn't over today," he said. "The election will be over after the people have voted."
Times editor Diane Steinle contributed to this report. Contact Drew Harwell at email@example.com or (727) 445-4170.