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Tarpon commissioners pledge new era of civility

TARPON SPRINGS — It's a pledge that members of the city's new commission hope to never hear again.

Before each meeting, right after the Pledge of Allegiance, Mayor Beverley Billiris would read the three-sentence Pledge of Civility:

"We will be respectful of one another even when we disagree. We will direct all comments to the issues. We will avoid personal attacks."

The ongoing feud and bickering between Billiris and Commissioner Peter Dalacos led to the reading of the civility pledge in 2009.

But Mayor-elect David O. Archie said he doesn't plan to start meetings with the civility pledge because he shouldn't have to remind people who have been elected by the citizens of Tarpon Springs that they need to be civil.

"I'm looking for us to come and look at working together," Archie said. "Lets deal with the issues at hand and leave personalities out of it. Respecting each other's positions as elected officials will help us figure out how to best serve the citizens of Tarpon."

On Tuesday, Tarpon voters elected Archie as their mayor and Jeff Larsen as a new commissioner. Incumbent Chris Alahouzos won re-election.

Archie and Larsen will replace Billiris and Dalacos, who both had to step aside due to term limits.

"The sarcasm will be gone and the name-calling will be gone because I will not be there," said Billiris, who often tangled with Dalacos. "Finally, the board will have some continuity and team vision. I tried to bring the team vision, but he (Dalacos) didn't believe in a team effort."

Dalacos said there is no way to "predict" how the new commission will conduct business. He said rifts could develop over different philosophies on how to get things done.

"We (the commission) are not there as a social club, a group sitting around having beers, playing cards, shooting pool, having a good old time," Dalacos said. "We are there for the best interest of the city. How we interpret what that is, being that we are five different individuals, we are going to have five different interpretations."

But Commissioner Susan Slattery said that when the new commission is seated Tuesday, "all (will) respect one another.

"We are adults, and I don't think it should have to be read at the beginning of every meeting," Slattery said. "We will get along, and we will all be civil."

Members of the new commission say there will be a different tone to the board.

Alahouzos said he is thankful to Billiris and Dalacos for their service to Tarpon Springs. But he's looking forward to the new commission "so we can start working and dealing with the economy and bringing new business to Tarpon Springs.

"Hopefully, there will be no personality issues," Alahouzos said. "We will respectively disagree, but we also will work collectively for the betterment of Tarpon Springs."

Larsen said he'd like to keep the tone of the meetings very positive.

Commissioner Robin Saenger said that Archie and Larsen are great additions to the board. She said she's very comfortable with Archie's leadership and that Larsen brings fresh energy.

Saenger said Billiris and Dalacos are both "very strong personalities."

"That was a sticking point," Saenger said. "But I'd like to see a more peaceful scenario as we move forward."

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at dalee@sptimes.com or (727) 709-6026

Tarpon commissioners pledge new era of civility 03/10/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 9:32pm]
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