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Gulfport council member Michele King won't run again

GULFPORT — A familiar name will be conspicuously absent on the March 8 election ballot in Gulfport.

Michele King, a real estate agent who has been on the City Council for six years, has decided not to seek re-election.

Several factors entered into the decision, said King, who makes no bones about how much she loves Gulfport and serving on the council.

A family illness, she said, made her realize what's important in her life. And dealing with a small group of community activists who always have her in their sights isn't one of those important things.

"I don't want all that bad stuff floating around my head anymore … all that negativity circling me all the time," King, 63, said.

Part of the battle between King and some of the city's vocal constituents has been over Clam Bayou and how to get it cleaned up. King has always been opposed to dredging the estuary, something neighboring residents have fought for.

King talked about her accomplishments and changes she has seen during her six years on the City Council.

"Gulfport has come a long way. We have a downtown that is relatively full. We managed to keep our businesses down there," she said.

The city co-sponsors or pays for many of the events that bring people to Gulfport.

"As long as you have people coming downtown, you are going to keep businesses downtown. We managed in the worst economic times that I've ever been through to keep a downtown. Many small cities haven't.

"This is a city people love, except a handful of people who think they can do it better. Most of the people in the city think the City Council is doing a good job."

In a letter King sent to the local weekly newspaper, she said, "In my opinion, Gulfport's next step is the redevelopment of the 49th Street corridor. Without helping new good business to thrive in that area Gulfport loses its ability to grow. We need to embrace new techniques and programs to bring good paying jobs to Gulfport and the 49th Street corridor is the perfect place to begin.

"My sitting on council jeopardizes that redevelopment. It's dumb and it's petty, but it's true. This small group of people that have targeted me for the past four years would rather see the 49th Street plan go up in smoke than agree to a plan that I support."

When asked if she regrets her decision not to run or if she has plans to return to Gulfport politics in the future, King paused before saying, "I loved that job. We'll see what happens. Right now, I don't have plans to get back in or to run for anything else."

The candidates who are seeking King's soon-to-be vacated Ward 2 seat are Avrio Taylor and Barbara Banno. (See box above.)



Barbara Banno

About her: A four-year resident of Gulfport, Banno was born in Queens, N.Y., and grew up in Arizona.

She moved to Florida in 2000. She worked for American Express for 12 years.

"Last year, I gave up the corporate life to run our family restaurant, Stella's Deli, here in Gulfport.

"While a client and operation manager with American Express, I had many opportunities to acquire leadership skills, manage large budgets and pull from many different aspects of a project to get the job done."

Why she decided to run: "Since we opened our doors at Stella's, the city, the community and the citizens of Gulfport have given my family and me so much. I am running for City Council because I want to give back to them by representing the people of this great town, and to continue to make it a great place to live."

Avrio Taylor

About him: Taylor, a psychiatric nurse and married father of three, has lived in Gulfport for more than five years. He said he and his family spent a summer touring Florida before deciding on Gulfport, a place that they thought would provide a healthy environment for the children and employment for him and his wife. "For us, it was the welcoming diversity as well as the attention to artistic flare that were the final winning factors.

"I am originally from Falmouth, Maine, have lived and worked on five continents and in 27 states, and am pleased to make Gulfport our family home," he said.

Why he decided to run: "Between serving in the Peace Corps and studying abroad, I have lived and worked on five continents. I have given to the community in every place that I have lived, and it is important to me to continue contributing. I vote in every election, I serve on Gulfport's Waterfront Redevelopment Advisory Board, and I currently volunteer with the Red Cross Disaster Assistance Team," he said. "I worked with the homeless for eight years in Santa Fe, N.M., and managed a $1.4 million budget for that operation. In all of these places, I have seen a lot of things that work and a lot of things that do not; I want make sure that Gulfport does the things that work."

Gulfport council member Michele King won't run again 01/29/11 [Last modified: Saturday, January 29, 2011 3:31am]
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