LARGO — There is one question City Commission candidate Michael Smith says he hears more than any other as he seeks to unseat incumbent Seat 1 Commissioner Mary Gray Black.
The question: "There's an election this year?"
Yes, one City Commission seat is up for grabs in the Nov. 8 city election. (Seat 2 Commissioner Robert Murray's seat would have been up, too, but no one filed to run against him.)
Registered voters in Largo who requested mail ballots started receiving them this week. Voters interested in mail ballots can request them online at www.votepinellas.com, or by calling the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office at 464-VOTE (464-8683).
Anyone who hasn't registered to vote has until Oct. 11 to do so.
The Largo election pits Black, 72, who has held the seat since 2005 and served stints on the commission in the 1970s, '80s and '90s, against Smith, 30, a senior library assistant at the Pinellas Park Public Library.
Voters get their first, and potentially only, chance to see the candidates together in public Tuesday at a Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Black and Smith will each give five-minute statements, then take questions from the crowd. The luncheon ($20 for chamber members, $25 for nonmembers) is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at the Palms of Largo.
The city government will not conduct a televised candidate forum this year.
Black has no other planned campaign events, but said this week she is attending events she is invited to. A former longtime city clerk and administrator for the city of Belleair Beach, Black touts her experience and fiscally conservative ways as reasons voters should award her another term.
"It's looking good," she said of her campaign. "I'm happy with where I am at this time."
Smith is going door to door throughout Largo, introducing himself and asking for support. The Largo native has already earned the support of Largo Professional Fire Fighters, who endorsed the political newcomer last week. A press release from the firefighters' political action committee lauded Smith's "stance on the importance of public safety" as well as his "determination in getting things done and his commitment to working to re-prioritize Largo's budget."
This will be the last odd-year election for Largo City Commission. The Seat 1 winner and Murray, who will each earn an annual salary of $13,125.46, will be the last city commissioners to serve three-year terms. In a 2010 referendum, city voters approved lengthening terms for Largo city commissioners to four years. The three-year term is being kept for 2011 winners so terms end only in even-numbered years, lessening the frequency of elections.
Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or firstname.lastname@example.org.