No challenger so appointed commissioner automatically elected

Robert Murray secured a new term as Largo City Commissioner on Friday.

Murray, who was sworn into office just three months ago, was automatically elected because no one challenged him by the filing deadline.

"I'm hoping it's because of my background and people thinking I'm doing a good job," said Murray, 54, who was appointed to replace former Commissioner Andy Guyette.

Before his appointment, Murray, a senior flight mechanic for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, was active in city boards and committees for three years. He also regularly attended City Commission meetings during that time.

While Murray was automatically elected, voters will decide one other commission seat. Largo/Mid-Pinellas Chamber of Commerce treasurer Joseph Falanga will challenge incumbent Commissioner Mary Gray Black, who began her current term in 2005.

Black, 69, a retired Belleair Beach city clerk, previously served on the commission from 1975 to 1984 and from 1989 to 1991.

Falanga, 52, who owns Pak Mail at Largo Mall, said he likes Black personally but is "opposed to a lot of her voting record when it comes to business."

Specifically, he said, she did not support a tax incentive program in June for a business to locate and expand in the community.

Falanga has served on the Largo Planning Board and Charter Review Committee and now serves on the Finance Advisory Board.

Black could not be reached for comment.

Murray, who earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, is currently pursing an online doctorate degree in business administration from Northcentral University in Arizona. He's also an online adjunct assistant professor for Embry-Riddle.

Murray said he wanted to give back to Largo because he has lived here 30 years and used so many services like the library and recreation centers while raising his sons.

Before his appointment, Murray served as chairman of the city's Finance Advisory Board and on Largo's Neighborhood Advisory and Charter Review committees.

"I took a real interest in the city operation and found it fascinating," Murray said.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.

>>Fast facts

Largo's Nov. 4 election

Commission CANDIDATES:

Seat 1: Mary Gray Black, incumbent, and Joseph Falanga

Seat 2: Robert Murray (automatically elected)

TERM: Three years, no term limits

ANNUAL SALARY: $12,620

No challenger so appointed commissioner automatically elected 08/02/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 4, 2008 4:32pm]

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