LARGO — With two City Commission seats and the mayor's office up for election, 2012 was shaping up to be an interesting year in Largo politics.
Until this week.
The candidate qualifying period ended Monday, and as the clock struck 5 p.m., Mayor Pat Gerard and Commissioner Curtis Holmes were automatically re-elected. No one signed up to oppose the two incumbents.
There will be one commission race this fall, though. Commissioner Gigi Arntzen is not running for re-election after two terms. Two men qualified to run for her seat: James Robinson, 35, an employee of Largo Feed & Pet Supply, and Robert Hunsicker, 69, a semiretired electrical engineer who ran unsuccessfully against Commissioner Harriet Crozier in 2010.
To qualify, candidates must have lived in Largo for at least one year before the date they would take office, they have to be registered to vote, and they have to get 200 petition cards signed by city residents.
Commission elections are nonpartisan. Commissioners are elected citywide and serve four-year terms with a salary of $13,125.46.
Gerard, who automatically won a four-year term as mayor with a salary of $19,688.19, was surprised at the dearth of candidates.
"I don't know if it means people don't care or they're just happy with the way things are," she said. "Not that I'm disappointed for myself."
Gerard, 62, is also chief operating officer for the social services agency Family Resources Inc. She was first elected mayor in 2006 and re-elected in 2009. (Mayoral and commission terms used to be three years.) Before that, Gerard served as a city commissioner from 2000 to 2006.
Holmes was also surprised that no one tried to run against him. He expected local liberals to take issue with his strong fiscally conservative stance.
"I thought I would draw a whole field," he said. "I was ready to rock and roll. Now I'm glad I didn't spend any money."
The 62-year-old insurance agent was a regular critic of city management at commission meetings before running unsuccessfully in 2007. He ran again in 2009 and won.
If candidate Hunsicker is victorious Nov. 6, Holmes could have a kindred spirit on the commission. When asked what his priorities would be as commissioner, Hunsicker responded with a line that sounded like it was written by Holmes:
"I want to refocus the city's priorities on the basics: police, fire and solid waste," he said.
Hunsicker, like Holmes, feels Largo's Police Department is underfunded, and that the Recreation, Parks & Arts Department gets too much money.
He'll be opposed by Robinson, a political newcomer who said he wants to work to spend city funds responsibly while also keeping the city recreational offerings he and his family enjoy. Robinson emphasized that he isn't motivated by a particular ideology.
"I just really care about this city. I work in it, I live in it, I spend 90 percent of my time here," he said.
The commission opponents have only met once and didn't have any mud to sling when asked about each other this week. Hunsicker did note, however, that the 6-foot-3, roughly 300-pound Robinson has a significant size advantage.
"I wouldn't want to arm wrestle him for the job," Hunsicker said.
Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or [email protected].