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Seminole mayor keeps seat; nine candidates vie for City Council

SEMINOLE — Voters here will have plenty of choices in the March election with a herd of nine candidates stampeding for a place on the City Council — apparently the largest number to ever run in a Seminole election.

The mayor's race is another story. Jimmy Johnson won a second term Monday when no one showed up to run against him. Earlier in the day, Johnson had said, "I sure got my fingers crossed" that he would remain unopposed. He was thrilled to get his wish.

"What a joy and privilege it is to serve the people of Seminole as the mayor," he said. "I'm extremely pleased. … The people believe in me."

He added, "Thank you, Seminole, keep smiling."

Johnson, 66, was a store manager with Kmart from 1967-1997. Ten of those years, he served as the manager of the Seminole Kmart. His experiences there made him decide to settle in the city. He became executive director of the Seminole Chamber of Commerce in 2000 and later was elected to the City Council. Johnson won his first term as mayor in 2007.

Since then, he has become a well-known spokesman for organ transplants. He received a new lung in 2008 after being diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable lung disease.

He is a graduate of the University of South Florida with a degree in personnel management, and a U.S. Air Force veteran. Divorced, he is a native of Fayetteville, N.C., and has two daughters and one grandson. His term as mayor will be up in 2013.

Johnson said he was amazed at the number of candidates who came out for the two open seats on the council. He said he did not believe that number had ever come out for an election in the city's history.

They will be running for seats currently held by Dan Hester and Thom Barnhorn. Hester is not running for re-election, but Barnhorn, 53, is. The two top vote-getters will be elected.

Among the other eight are political newcomers as well as some familiar faces.

They are Christopher Burke, 45, a Largo police officer; Thomas J. Christy, 58, a regular at City Council meetings who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in New York state; Arden Ford, 70, a businessman who briefly ran for the council once before but withdrew because of family issues; Allen L. Godfrey, 57, the city's former public works director: Randall Hendricks, 62, a political newcomer to city politics; James Joseph Quinn, 70, back for a second attempt at a council seat; Bill Smith, 42, an employee of Progress Energy; and Jardelina Souto, 62, who served on the city's charter review commission.

Seminole has a council-manager form of government that provides for daily management by a council-appointed city manager. The seven-member (including the mayor) council is responsible for policy issues and passing the budget. The six council members serve three-year terms and are paid $5,562 each year. The mayor serves a three-year term and earns $9,300 annually. Members meet twice a month and hold workshop meetings as necessary. Seminole has about 18,700 people.

Reach Anne Lindberg at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450. Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.

Seminole mayor keeps seat; nine candidates vie for City Council 12/15/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 3:15pm]

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