NEW PORT RICHEY — Just one week before city elections, at least two candidates got a surprise on Monday.
That open City Council seat they're jostling for? It's for only a one-year term.
"One year?" said council candidate Glenn Hanff. "I thought it was a three-year (term)."
"I was thinking it was two or three," said fellow candidate Judy Debella Thomas. "I didn't anticipate one year."
The third candidate, Susan Clark, did not return a phone message Monday.
Only the winner of this year's mayoral race will serve a three-year term.
So what's going on? After all, voters in 2005 approved changing the city charter to lengthen both the mayoral and council terms to three years instead of two. The council members' longer terms were to begin in 2007, the mayor's in 2008.
The problem is that making the transition is a little complicated. The city is staggering the terms so council members are elected in different years. Incumbent Ginny Miller was elected in 2006 to a two-year term. To stagger the terms properly, the city had to make the next term for that seat one year.
Miller is not running for re-election. Whoever wins her seat next week could run again in 2009. At that point, he or she would be running for a three-year term. The council's last two-year seat — currently held by Marilynn deChant — will also turn into an open, three-year position in 2009.
This information is spelled out in the city charter, but neither Hanff nor Thomas said they ever saw the one-year term on any election materials or heard it from city officials.
According to the latest financial information, Hanff has raised $1,540, Clark $1,400 and Thomas $1,146. Clark has put $500 of her own money into her campaign.
Thomas, who has been involved in city affairs as the executive director of Greater New Port Richey Main Street, said she thought the shorter term could end up being an advantage for her.
"I think I'll be able to hit the ground running," she said. "But I've got to get in. Certainly it won't make a difference if it's one year or two if I don't get in."
Hanff, a medical sales consultant, said the news had some bearing on expectations for his first term.
"With only 12 months, it doesn't give you that much time to accomplish anything," Hanff said.
Later, though, Hanff said he didn't see the shorter term as that big of a deal. Though he is a political newcomer, he says he's got a good understanding of City Hall after meeting with top officials in all the departments.
"I planned on running two terms anyway," he said. "My plan is still the same."
He noted, for instance, that his campaign signs say "Vote for Glenn Hanff" not "Elect Glenn Hanff." His reason? He could use the signs again if he's running for re-election.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at
email@example.com or (727) 869-6247.