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Now sworn in, Teresa Zemaitis turns her attention to Kenneth City's future

KENNETH CITY — Mayor-elect Teresa Zemaitis officially became Mayor Pro Tem Teresa Zemaitis at a special council meeting Thursday.

Getting her there took a landslide election — 70.5 percent of the vote — a lawsuit and appeal, and weeks of legal wrangling. While the legal settlement allows her to take office, it will take voters to approve a retroactive charter change next March for her to become Mayor Teresa Zemaitis. The Neighborhood Times talked with Zemaitis, a teacher at Dixie Hollins High School, the day before she was sworn in about the past few months and her plans for Kenneth City.

How do you feel?

I'm just anxious for this phase to be over. I think everybody is.

What has been the hardest part?

Trying not to take it personally because so many of the residents believe it was personal.

How did your students handle this?

It's a daily question. (One female student would come in daily and ask) 'MISS, are you the mayor YET?'

Ever consider giving up teaching?

No.

Were you ever tempted to drop out?

Early on, when it became clear this was not a regular election. … The reason I stayed in was there would not have been an election. … I'm never one for an unopposed election under any circumstances.

Much of the political situation played out in the Bay Buzz blog on Tampabay.com. The blog items and the stories brought lots of comments. Some were complimentary. Others were pretty insulting. How did you like reading about yourself and finding some people thought you are "hot, hot, hot" while others weren't so attracted?

It was very surreal. … I was always a little amazed when (the comments) would go off into these side issues.

What will your first action as mayor be?

(Look at the budget.) We can't keep dipping into reserves. Even if we don't use it, we rely on it.

Do you think the whole town charter needs to be revised?

It would benefit us to have a review commission (and eventually a professional) really look at it. (During the past months) every time we looked something up (we'd find) contradictions. … It just shouldn't be that complicated.

Some residents say the Kenneth City government should be changed from a council-as-manager form to a council-manager form. What do you think?

I'm an advocate at the very least of doing some research. … I think the city manager could eliminate many of the problems we've had in the past. … I don't think we should look at it immediately. We've got other things we need to do first.

Some residents advocate firing several employees, in particular Town Clerk Nancy Beelman, because they blame her for the election tangle. Are you going to fire her?

I intend to meet with every employee at some point (to) kind of have an informal sit down, see if they're happy with their job, if the management is (okay). … I don't know where anybody got the idea that I'd go in and start with a clean slate. In a small town; that's not feasible.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at (727) 893-8450 or alindberg@sptimes.com.

Now sworn in, Teresa Zemaitis turns her attention to Kenneth City's future 04/25/09 [Last modified: Saturday, April 25, 2009 4:30am]
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