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Newest Gulfport council member aims to tackle budget

GULFPORT — Next month, the City Council's newest member will begin to learn about the city's hard budget decisions as the first iteration of the 2012-2013 spending plan is presented.

"The biggest issue the council will have to address is our falling property values while maintaining service levels," said City Manager Jim O'Reilly, who will present the budget. Last year, the city raised property taxes by about 4 percent.

Dan Liedtke, who narrowly won the Ward 1 seat Tuesday, says he is ready to take on that challenge, using his experience as a business consultant for corporations and government agencies.

He wants the council to refocus on "matters that will help lead us down a road of long-term and sustainable prosperity."

Liedtke hopes to develop new and greater revenue from the city's casino, recreation center and theater by changing the way they operate.

David Hastings lost his bid for re-election by a mere nine votes. A recount conducted Wednesday gave Liedtke an additional two votes from provisional ballots withheld from the Tuesday count.

The final tally was 938 votes for Liedtke and 929 votes for Hastings.

One of the issues that may have hurt Hastings was his vote last September to turn over police dispatching to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

During the campaign Liedtke supported making the city's Police Department a protected department under the city charter.

He said he thinks that if voters had had the choice, dispatchers would not have been eliminated.

Jennifer Salmon, who also voted in favor of shifting emergency dispatching to the Sheriff's Office, was not similarly affected in her bid for re-election.

Salmon easily defeated her Ward 3 challenger, James Perry, by more than 60 percent, with the vote tally for Salmon 1,084 to Perry's 695.

Her campaign focused on developing Gulfport as a recognized "green" city, ensuring that city employees affected by department cutbacks can find other jobs within the city, and promoting Gulfport as an art community.

Both Salmon and Liedtke supported creation of a domestic partner registry to assist couples' ability to visit each other in the hospital.

Newest Gulfport council member aims to tackle budget 03/17/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 17, 2012 4:31am]
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