From consultant to candidate
Clearwater resident Shawna Vercher has been working behind the scenes in local and state politics for years. She sums up her expertise like this: "communications and messaging and outreach, and when necessary, crisis management."
Now Vercher says it has become necessary for her to take on a new role: that of the candidate. The Democratic strategist has filed to run for the open District 67 State House seat, currently held by State Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, who is term-limited.
While Hooper and much of the local GOP establishment are backing Republican candidate Chris Latvala, son of Pinellas state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, Vercher is betting that the district's voters have had enough of the current Tallahassee cast and, by extension, their children.
"People are starting to tune out," she said recently. "Florida has become the punch line for a lot of national comedy, but I know from traveling the state there are a lot of amazing things happening here."
Vercher's name has been in the news in the past several years owing to a lawsuit brought by the former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who was a client of her publishing company, and claimed she failed to turn over any of the revenue from his book, Personal Foul. Vercher has written a book about the experience, called A Fearless Voice: How a National Scandal Made Me an Advocate for Building a Better America.
Room for one more?
President of Florida Wine & Spirits Carl Folkman ran for the District 4 seat on the Pinellas County Commission back in 2010 and lost in the Republican primary to Commissioner Susan Latvala. Now that Latvala is retiring, Folkman is giving it another go. He recently filed to run for the North Pinellas seat for a second time, making him the 11th candidate to declare his intentions to run.
The Crystal Beach resident, who ran as a Republican in 2010, is now running with no party affiliation.
For the second year in a row, the city of St. Petersburg passed an external audit with no major blips.
Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C., an accounting firm, performed this year's annual independent financial audit for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.
The Government Finance Officers Association also awarded the city a certificate of achievement for excellence in financial reporting for the 2012 budget.
The city's 2013 adopted budget was $473.7 million, $11.7 million more than the year before. The increase was attributed to several things, including rising wages, higher health care and pension costs and increased fuel costs, according to a report presented Thursday in a budget committee meeting.
Council members said they were pleased with the report and praised Finance Director Anne Fritz.
"Two years in a row of a clean audit ... I want to say out loud, you've done a tremendous job," City Council member Charlie Gerdes said.
Remembering fallen officers
It has been three years since St. Petersburg lost three police officers in the line of duty. Since then, the city has held memorial ceremonies and installed a waterfront monument. Next week, council member Steve Kornell plans to suggest another way to pay tribute. He would like to have a moment of silence during the council meeting closest to the anniversary of the officers' deaths. He also would like to display a photo of the officers, according to a new business item on week's meeting agenda.