NEW PORT RICHEY — Judy DeBella Thomas kept her seat on the New Port Richey City Council and will be joined by businessman Bill Phillips, who returns to the council after nearly 20 years, voters decided Tuesday.
DeBella Thomas, Phillips, and longtime government consultant Eric Rhodes vied for two open seats on the council, as council member Ginny Miller decided not to run.
Phillips received 39.84 percent of the vote, getting the most at 349, with DeBella Thomas getting 32.88 percent at 288, and Rhodes coming in third with 27.28 percent at 239.
With the city facing serious economic woes, Phillips said he is looking to hit the ground running to tackle the city's budget problems. Phillips, a national account manager for a Lakeland-based roofing company, is no stranger to the council. He served one term between 1992 and 1994, before running an unsuccessful campaign for the Florida House of Representatives.
Phillips, who has lived in New Port Richey for 24 years, not only served on the council, but also several committees, including the Pasco County Impact Review Committee, the Penny for Pasco Committee as co-chairman, and the Pasco Citizens Committee.
"I look forward to getting on council and having an opportunity to make a difference again," Phillips said. "It's really nice to see a lot of the same faces come back to vote."
DeBella Thomas, 60, a marketing liaison for Advanced Research Institute, a company that conducts pharmaceutical clinical trials, secured her third term on council since first being elected in 2008, and re-elected in 2009.
DeBella Thomas has lived in New Port Richey since 1972. She is former executive director of Greater New Port Richey Main Street, and currently sits on the Pasco Tourist Development Council, as well as the Sixth Circuit Court Judicial Nominating Committee.
DeBella Thomas didn't talk issues with her win Tuesday night, but thanked voters for another term on the council.
"It's an affirmation voters are pleased with my performance and I'm ready to get back on track. We're just going to hit the ground running," she said.
Port Richey voters approve referendum
Meanwhile, in Port Richey, voters passed a referendum 50-27 that will settle confusion over term lengths of incumbents Steve O'Neill, Nancy Britton, and Terry Rowe, who all won seats unopposed.
On qualifying day, city officials scrambled when they realized there was no measure outlined in the city's charter to decide who among the three will serve a one-year term. If there had been an election, the candidate who received the least amount of votes would have received the one-year term.
When all three won unopposed, a referendum had to be drawn up to ask voters to amend the charter to allow for a volunteer among O'Neill, Britton, and Rowe to take the one-year term. Or if there is no volunteer, the three will draw straws. With the measure passing Tuesday, straws will likely be drawn at the council's swearing in and organizational meeting April 16, unless there is a volunteer, according to City Clerk Tammy Schuck.