SEMINOLE — Voters here have plenty of choices in the race for City Council with a herd of six men running for two open seats.
Among the candidates are some familiar faces and some political newcomers.
The two most familiar to Seminole voters are Bob Matthews and Thomas J. Christy.
Matthews, 69, is the one incumbent in the race. He's a business owner who, with the exception of eight months in 2006-07, has served on the Seminole council since 1990. Christy, 63, is making his fifth bid for a council seat, having run unsuccessfully in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. He served on the Tonawanda, N.Y., City Council from 1990 to 1995.
Two other candidates are likely more recognizable to members of the business community than they may be to the average voter. They are Roger L. Edelman, 72, and Vincent C. Trovato, 67.
Edelman is president of the Chamber of Commerce. Trovato is a past president of the Chamber and of the Seminole Mall Merchants Association. He is an optician and owner of Seminole Optical and Elegant Eyewear who also served as a deputy with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. His wife, Christine, is a former senior accountant for the city of Seminole who now serves as the Treasure Island city finance director.
Both Edelman and Trovato, like the remaining two candidates, are making their first run for public office. The other two are Michael R. Fisher, 40, and Joe Haynes, 50.
Fisher is a businessman who has lived in Seminole for 16 years. He is married and has three children. Haynes is a pediatric pharmacist at All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine who voluntarily annexed his property into the city in December 2012. He served as chairman of the city's Charter Review Board this year.
Whoever is elected Nov. 4 will serve on a council that will oversee some of the biggest changes to Seminole in recent years. City Manager Frank Edmunds is retiring in January and, if a successor has not been chosen before the election, the winners will help pick his replacement. The new council will also be responsible for ushering in the redevelopment of Seminole Mall.
A developer has proposed razing the existing structure and replacing it with a city plaza concept that would include a 12-screen movie theater with 1,262 seats and 24 businesses ranging in size from about 2,000 square feet to the cinemas with 56,998 square feet. Those businesses would include a fitness center, retail stores and restaurants. The developer has also suggested the city — and perhaps the county and state — should provide some sort of financial incentive for developing the 39 acres. One possibility the developer has proposed would be a rebate of property taxes.
The new member, or members if Matthews is not re-elected, will also serve on a council that has becoming less collegial. For a council that has long prided itself on civility, members have recently become more argumentative with each other. They recently voted to censure Patricia Plantamura for what they perceive as disruptive behavior. Plantamura has, in turn, accused the others of bullying her and of violating the state public meetings law.
Seminole, with about 18,000 residents, has a council-manager form of government. The mayor and six council members are responsible for passing a budget, setting policy for the city and hiring the city manager. Council members serve three-year terms. They generally meet at least twice a month and earn $5,562 a year.
They are elected at large and the two top vote-getters will take office.
Contact Anne Lindberg at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450. Follow @alindbergtimes.