Kenneth City mayor faces challenge from council member in upcoming election

KENNETH CITY — While most voters will be going to the polls on Jan. 31 to choose a Republican presidential nominee, voters here will be selecting a mayor.

They'll have a choice between incumbent Teresa Zemaitis and challenger Joanne DeSimone, who has served on the Town Council for the past two years.

Voters will also have a chance to change the town charter to allow a charter review commission to be appointed at least once every five years beginning this year.

Zemaitis said she's running "because there's more work to be done and there are important issues coming up that I feel competent to handle, like negotiating the police officers' contract."

Another issue on the horizon, she said, is a county committee to discuss potential rules for certain types of annexations.

DeSimone said she decided to run for mayor rather than running for re-election to the council because "I couldn't sit and have nothing be accomplished as a council member again. I can make a difference."

Her goals as mayor would be to help the town come together and heal more, to have more people become involved with Kenneth City government and provide programs for seniors. She also advocates hiring at least one more employee for the public works department to make sure needed work is done.

Both are campaigning on their records.

Zemaitis said she has delivered on promises she made during her 2009 election campaign: Correcting and updating the town's accounting system, moving town funds to different banks to get higher interest rates, annexing 33 properties to bring in an extra $24,000 a year in property taxes, re-establishing the library and recreation reimbursement programs. Overall, Zemaitis said, she has reduced the town's budget by about 9.5 percent, or about $202,500, to about $2.2 million.

DeSimone said she, too, has improved the town during her time in office. Among her accomplishments, she said, are organizing the town's first Christmas holiday light pole and seasons greetings displays, organizing the Christmas tree lighting ceremony, hosting a volunteer appreciation brunch for those serving on town boards and committees, making government participation available to all residents by creating an application form for those who are interested in serving on a town board to fill out and organizing the first townwide yard sale.

DeSimone says she bought 25 reusable signs for the yard sale. The total cost was $193.75 but she said she paid all but $75 out of her own pocket. The rest came from the town.

The two have major differences over the handling of problems in the Kenneth City Police Department. Zemaitis had the sheriff investigate the department because of citizens complaints. The investigation was done without the knowledge of the council, which Zemaitis said was necessary because she had no support from other council members and because it would have been counter-productive to let the police know they were being investigated.

DeSimone said that overstepped Zemaitis' authority.

Reach Anne Lindberg at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

Kenneth City mayor faces challenge from council member in upcoming election 01/21/12 [Last modified: Saturday, January 21, 2012 3:30am]

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