Voters in eight cities in Pinellas will go to the polls, or mailboxes, in March to decide a handful of local races for mayor and city council or commission seats.
Nine cities canceled their elections because of a scarcity of candidates, but in Belleair Bluffs, Gulfport, Kenneth City, Oldsmar, Seminole, South Pasadena and Tarpon Springs, the races will go on.
Election Day is March 12. For information about how to pick up a mail ballot or find a polling place, go to vote pinellas.com. Here are the races close to home.
Kenneth City voters have a choice among four familiar faces for the two open seats on the Town Council. One is an incumbent and the other three are former council members.
Incumbent Troy Campbell is seeking his second council term. Campbell, 44, is a computer systems analyst at Florida Blood Services who currently oversees the Kenneth City Police Department.
Al Carrier is a native of Maine who moved to Kenneth City in 1995. He attended electronics schools with the Air Force, Northwest University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is retired and is a member of the Elks and the Knights of Columbus. He has been vice president of the Kenneth City Homeowners Association.
Joanne DeSimone is a native New Yorker who once served on the Redington Beach City Commission in charge of the finance and building departments.
Wanda Dudley is a native of Pennsylvania. She teaches at Westgate Elementary School in St. Petersburg.
The two top vote-getters will take office.
Council member Doug Bevis is running unopposed for mayor, creating an opening on the City Council that three candidates have come forward seeking to fill. All are political newcomers. Gabby McGee, 26, works for Cisco Systems Inc. and hopes to bring more businesses to Oldsmar. Dan Saracki, 53, owns Impact Grafx Inc. and wants to attract more retailers and housing developments. And Suda Yantiss-Colon, 50, owns Weddings by Suda and Sudagraphics Inc., and wants the city to invest in art-focused youth programs.
Seminole voters will have a choice of four candidates for two open council seats.
Incumbents Thom Barnhorn and Jim Quinn are running for re-election. They are facing challenges from Tom Christy, who is making his fourth run at the council, and newcomer Matt Nilssen.
The campaign has not been the usual quiet fare typical of Seminole elections. Christy has accused Barnhorn and Quinn of being "failures" at their council jobs. Nilssen inquired early on about withdrawing from the race but did not do so. Since then, he has not appeared at candidates' forums nor raised money, leaving the seriousness of his campaign in question.
The two top vote-getters will take office.
An attempt to extend commissioners' terms from two to three years failed last November, so two commissioners — Suzy Sofer and Jack Nazario — are on the ballot this March. Only one candidate, George Lawton, has put his name in to challenge them. Sofer, who is vice mayor, and Nazario were first elected in 2009. The top two candidates will take office.
Four candidates are vying for an open seat on the City Commission, which Vice Mayor Chris Alahouzos is vacating because of term limits. Tim Keffalas, 58, who ran unsuccessfully in 2011, is on the ballot again and has spent more than $4,000, most of it his own money, to reach voters through a TV commercial and robocalls. Other candidates include Jim Bouldin, 59, a newspaper consultant; David Banther, 30, the chief financial officer of his family's consulting firm; and Tommy Frain, 22, who works at a restaurant in Holiday.
Mike Yakes has been the mayor of Gulfport since 1991, and on the City Council since 1986. But after more than two decades of city politics, he has decided not to seek re-election.
Two candidates are hoping to replace him: Sam Henderson, the city's vice mayor, and Bob Worthington, a former City Council member.
Henderson, 41, moved to Gulfport from Ohio with his wife and daughter in 2006. He works in the special collections department of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg Library, where he is enrolled as a master's student in the Florida Studies Program. Henderson first ran for City Council in 2009, beating an incumbent, and again 2011, when he was unopposed.
Henderson described himself as the "environmental candidate." Maintaining city services during a tough economy remains the city's No. 1 challenge, but as property values rebound, there may be some room for improvements. Henderson said he wants to spruce up the city's waterfront and make it easier for bicyclists to find Gulfport once they turn off the Pinellas Trail.
"The trail just kind of dumps you off," he said. "What I want to do is extend that trail spur into downtown."
He and Worthington disagree over what to do about Clam Bayou, some of which has been cleaned up with aid from the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The part of the bayou closest to Gulfport is still polluted.
Henderson said he hopes to use money from the Restore Act — funding awarded by BP following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill — to get a matching grant to restore the bayou.
Worthington agrees the bayou is in bad shape, especially at low tide, but he said the city has bigger problems, like pipes that need replacing and roads that need repairing.
"Sam has been more about, 'Let's do some pretty things that people can see,' and I'm more of a guy that says, 'No, let's fix the sewer pipes,' " Worthington said. "That's the main difference."
Worthington grew up in Gulfport and has lived there for all of his 65 years. He built space shuttles for Honeywell for more than three decades before retiring in 2001. He was elected to the City Council in 2004 and served for six years before stepping down.
Mayor Larry Crowley, who is seeking re-election, faces challenger Dan Calabria. Crowley was appointed mayor in November of 2012, filling the seat after voters sent former Mayor Kathleen Peters to the Florida House of Representatives. At the time, the two options to replace Peters were Crowley, a city commissioner, and Calabria, who had also applied. The City Commission unanimously backed Crowley.
Now Calabria, who has been involved in politics for many years, is trying again. He is running on a platform of no tax increases or pay raises for elected officials and a promise to give $1,000 of his salary to the South Pasadena Scholarship Fund every year.
No offices are up for grabs, but there are five referendum questions for voters. They are:
1. Should Treasure Island increase the maximum building height by 2 feet citywide, allowing developers to compensate for flood safety requirements that they build the first floor of buildings 2 feet higher?
2. Should the city increase density up to 24 residential units per acre as part of a mixed-use development project in the core district of the downtown redevelopment district?
3. Should the city increase density up to 60 hotel or motel rooms per acre in the core district of the downtown redevelopment district?
4. Should the city increase density up to 15 residential units per acre in the Gulf Boulevard District of the downtown redevelopment district?
5. Should the city increase density up to 60 hotel or motel rooms per acre in the Gulf Boulevard District of the downtown redevelopment district?
Times staff writer Anne Lindberg contributed to this report. Anna M. Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779.