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Spring election season in Pasco to be quiet for lack of opposition

All six Pasco cities have elected officials finishing their terms this spring, but only one will hold an election to pick new council members.

The qualifying deadline passed Tuesday with officials in New Port Richey, Zephyrhills, Dade City, San Antonio and St. Leo keeping their seats for another term for lack of opposition. A couple of candidates picked up seats without a fight because two incumbents are not seeking re-election.

Only Port Richey, which has four candidates vying for three seats, will hold an election April 13.

"I was a little surprised the way it all played out," said Brian Corley, Pasco County Supervisor of Elections.

His office could not recall a time in the past 20 years when there was only one municipal election.

Two Port Richey incumbents — dredging activist Perry Bean and nuclear medicine technician Steven O'Neill — have filed for another term. Nancy Britton, a marketing director who lost her council seat in 2008, is looking to get it back, and resident Terrence Rowe is making his first run for office in Port Richey.

The top three vote-getters will land a seat. Their terms will last two years, although the ballot also will include a referendum on whether future terms should be extended to three years.

Phil Abts — who, along with Bean, was one of the newcomers who arrived on the council in 2008 — has decided not to seek re-election. Abts, who works as an insurance agent, has a lawsuit pending against Port Richey: He sued in December after his fellow council members refused to reimburse him for the legal fees he incurred while defending himself against an ethics complaint.

A second municipal race almost occurred in Zephyrhills.

Incumbent Luis Lopez, who joined City Council in 2006, decided Monday evening not to run again. He said his new job with an organization serving abused and neglected children keeps him too busy to serve.

"I have weighed many factors in my life and as a result I have come to this decision freely and without regret," he wrote in a news release.

Timothy Urban, assistant principal at Zephyrhills High School, will assume Lopez's seat, as he was the only other candidate to file for it.

Urban is on the city's planning commission and historic board.

Zephyrhills council member Jodi Wilkeson and Mayor Cliff McDuffie were unopposed. They will serve two year terms.

Up the road in Dade City, no one stepped up to challenge commissioners Bill Dennis and Camille Hernandez or Mayor Scott Black.

Dennis was first elected in 1982 and served eight years before losing to Black in 1990. He was elected again in 1998 and lost to Hernandez in 2006. Last year, Dennis was appointed to replace former commissioner Steve Van Gorden, who resigned in October because he moved out of the city limits. Dennis will serve until the seat's term ends in 2012.

Hernandez caused a bit of a stir recently with the revelation that she has a private well on her property. Officials banned private wells within the city limits in 1982 to protect the city's water supply and utility revenue.

The election would have occurred four days after Hernandez and her husband are scheduled to defend their well in court. The Hernandezes say the well predates the ban. If found in violation, they could face a fine of up to $500 plus administrative fees.

She and Black, an insurance agent, will serve four-year terms.

The New Port Richey City Council will see the return of two familiar faces: incumbent Rob Marlowe and former council member Bob Langford, both of whom filed for seats without opposition.

Langford will take the seat held by Bob Consalvo, who decided not to run for re-election.

Previously the city's longtime parks and recreation director, Consalvo enjoyed just a few months of retirement in 2006 before he was appointed to the vacant council seat, which he retained in the 2007 election.

"My wife and I have a few things we'd like to do travel-wise," Consalvo explained Tuesday. "I'm going to miss it. I enjoyed it, but for now it's time to take a break."

Langford, a music producer, served on the council for three years before narrowly losing the mayor's race in 2006. He will officially return to the council April 20.

He and Marlowe, owner of Gulfcoast Networking, will serve three-year terms.

In St. Leo, Town Commissioners Richard Christmas, Donna DeWitt and Brother James Hallett will again serve two-year terms.

San Antonio Commissioners Richard Gates, Roy Pierce and William Plazewski will serve for another two years.

Staff writer Bridget Hall Grumet contributed to this report. Helen Anne Travis can be reached at htravis@sptimes.com or (813) 435-7312.

Spring election season in Pasco to be quiet for lack of opposition 02/16/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 7:50pm]
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