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Port Richey voters pick O'Neill, Britton and Rowe for City Council

PORT RICHEY — Incumbent Steven O'Neill will join former member Nancy Britton and political newcomer Terry Rowe on the City Council for the next two years, voters decided Tuesday.

The vote changed two of the council's five seats, tossing out Perry Bean, who came in last with 183 votes. Council member Phil Abts chose not to run.

Rowe, 55, an eight-year resident and unemployed furniture repairman active with the city's Port Authority, earned the most votes with 348.

Vice Mayor O'Neill, who earned 341 votes, will enter his third term, becoming the longest-serving member now on council.

Britton, who earned 252 votes, will enter her second term since losing her seat in 2008.

Voters seemed to side heavily against dissolution, supporting an amendment enforcing a four-fifths council majority on dissolving the city with 63 percent of the vote.

The vote on an amendment lengthening council terms from two to three years was much closer — it won 211-210.

O'Neill, Britton and Rowe will sit alongside second-term Mayor Richard Rober and first-term member Bill Colombo, who face re-election next year.

Bean, a stay-at-home father and software engineer, blamed low turnout and "self-interest groups" for his loss.

"We're two steps backwards," Bean said. "The council will have a complete and total change of direction, and you can't get anything done that way, but that's what we do."

Bean, 44, will serve as the incoming president of the Port Richey Rotary Club but said he has no plans to stay involved in city politics.

"I'm not going to be another one of those ex-council people that show up at every council meeting to take potshots at the people in charge," he said. "I've got plenty on my plate."

Britton, 51, a 24-year resident and account executive with Amedisys Home Health Care, did not respond to calls after the election. O'Neill, as he has in recent months, did not reply to messages Tuesday.

Abts, a vocal critic of what he calls the city's corrupt political core, chose not to run for a second term. His and Bean's final meeting begins tonight at 7:30.

Tensions between Abts and the council peaked last year when his request that the city pay his legal fees for defending an ethics complaint was denied. A civil suit he filed against the city in December is ongoing.

"You can't beat City Hall," Abts told a resident from the dais at a meeting last week. "Not even when you're on the council."

Tuesday's turnout sagged relative to recent elections. Only 433 residents, about 23 percent of the city's 1,887 voters, turned in ballots. In last year's election, when Colombo swept the race against Amy Scott, nearly 28 percent voted. Two years ago, the turnout was 30 percent.

Port Richey was the only city in Pasco County to hold an election this year, as candidates in New Port Richey, Dade City, Zephyrhills, San Antonio and St. Leo ran unopposed.

Drew Harwell can be reached at dharwell@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6244.

Port Richey voters pick O'Neill, Britton and Rowe for City Council 04/13/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 8:59pm]
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