PORT RICHEY — A curious thing happened Tuesday when the qualifying deadline for city elections passed.
Three Port Richey City Council members won new terms without opposition. And officials realized an election would be needed anyway.
Council members Nancy Britton, 53, Steve O'Neill, 50, and Terry Rowe, 57, all kept their seats. Due to a provision in the city charter designed to gradually convert all seats to three-year terms, however, Port Richey will need to hold a referendum April 10 to determine which members get which terms.
The charter language assumed the top two vote-getters in 2012 would get three-year terms and the third finisher would get a one-year term.
"But without an election there would obviously be no way to determine who received the least amount of votes," City Clerk Tammy Schuck said.
O'Neill had volunteered to take the one-year term, but a legal review found the city must hold a referendum. Whoever gets the least votes April 10 will get the one-year term.
Officials scrambled to set an emergency council meeting for 9:15 p.m. Tuesday to set the language for the referendum, which is due to Pasco elections officials by 5 p.m. today, Schuck said.
Here's how the races in other Pasco cities are shaping up:
New Port Richey
Council member Judy DeBella Thomas and three challengers will vie for two seats, with the top two finishers April 10 winning three-year terms. Council member Ginny Miller decided not to seek another term.
DeBella Thomas said she wants to continue having input on critical issues like the re-development of the Hacienda Hotel and marketing the city's recreation and aquatic center.
Also running is Denise Houston, a 55-year-old community activist and former retail manager who says her 20 years in New Port Richey gives her grass roots credibility.
"I just have real concerns about the financial future of our city and feel it's my time to contribute," she said.
Bill Phillips, 55, a New Port Richey council member from 1992-94, now an account manager for a national roofing company, said his time on the council, as well as staying involved in local issues such as pushing for the Penny for Pasco sales tax, gives him experience needed on the council.
"With some of the challenges over the next couple of years it was time for me to get back on the council and make a positive impact," he said.
Rounding out the field is Eric Rhodes, 85, a retired government consultant, who pointed to his background working with government entities to steer their budget and personnel issues.
"I really feel like I want to do my part to help the city rebound from some of the difficult times we have faced," he said.
Commissioner Curtis Beebe, who has been busy with his Pearl in the Grove restaurant, decided not to seek re-election.
"It was only a time thing," said Beebe, 49. "We've been experiencing success with the restaurant, and I intend to focus my time and energy on that."
His decision created an open Seat 3 that drew two candidates: Jim Shive, 54, a former Dade City utilities worker who lost to Beebe four years ago; and local Realtor Jeanie Germaine, 57, who is making her first run for office.
Commissioner Bill Dennis, 80, who is serving his third stint in Seat 4, also drew a challenger: Clyde Carter, a 54-year-old assistant reverend at St. John's Missionary Baptist Church.
Commissioner Eunice Penix, 71, who has been on the board nearly 20 years, won another four-year term unopposed.
When the qualifying deadline rolled around at noon, City Council incumbents Jodi Wilkeson and Ken Burgess kept their seats without any challengers.
When their new two-year terms officially begin in April, it will be Wilkeson's third and Burgess' first full term. Wilkeson, 51, president and founder of an architectural and interior design firm who serves as council president, was first elected to the council in 2008.
Tuesday's win is actually the second time Burgess, 53, has taken the seat without appearing on a ballot. Burgess, a Zephyrhills High School teacher and coach, filed to run for the seat last summer after council member Tim Urban moved back to his hometown of Brooksville. When no other candidates filed, Burgess joined the council in July.
Additionally, two candidates qualified Tuesday to run for the mostly ceremonial mayoral seat being vacated by longtime Mayor Cliff McDuffie.
Burgess' boss, Zephyrhills High principal Steve Van Gorden and former city Planning Commission member Michael Payne, who owns a local pest control business, are vying for the position.
Van Gorden, 36, is a former Dade City commissioner who stepped down part way through his second term when he moved back to Zephyrhills. His second term would have expired this year. Payne, 53, who stepped down from for the Planning Commission last fall when he became fed up with the rest of the panel's decision to back a proposal seeking brownfield status for a large part of the city, isn't entirely new to politicking. In 2008 he ran for the same seat Wilkeson won.
Three incumbents hope to keep their seats on the City Commission amid challenges from two candidates.
Mayor Roy Pierce, 62, and Commissioners Heiskell B. Christmas, 49, and Richard Gates, 68, are each seeking an additional two-year term. Also vying for those seats are Timothy Franke and Elayne Bassinger.
The top three vote-getters will win a seat. The commissioners then choose a mayor from their ranks.
Three incumbents won two-year terms on Tuesday when no one filed to run against them. They are town commissioners Donna DeWitt, Richard Christmas and John Gardner.
Times correspondents Lisa A. Davis, Christy McLaughlin and Robert Napper contributed to this report.