TARPON SPRINGS — He may be Vice Mayor David Archie to some, but to many children around town, he's their godfather.
Not in the Mario Puzo sense of the word, but because kids tend to flock to him and that's what they call him.
"You should see it: All the little kids, 'Hi, Mr. Archie!' on the school bus, waving to him," said lifelong friend and former commissioner Glenn Davis, 53. "The children really admire him."
No surprise there.
Archie, 54, who will leave the City Commission on Tuesday because of term limits, said he's proudest of the opportunities created for local youth during his tenure: a gym at the community center, expanded Little League fields, a sports complex.
"That's our future," Archie said. "Young people are the key, and everything we do, to me, is an investment in our future."
First elected in 1996 to replace resigning Commissioner Dudley Salley, Archie was re-elected in 1998. He resigned a year later to pursue a spot on the Pinellas County School Board but was reappointed to the commission after losing to Carol Cook.
He left the commission in 2001 because of term limits but ran again and won in 2002 and 2005.
Archie's departure will make Mayor Beverley Billiris the longest-serving commission member. She was first elected in 1998.
Billiris said Archie exhibited common sense, compassion and a pacifying influence on what could, at times, be a contentious board.
"He is the calming light at the end of the tunnel on some evenings," Billiris said. "He's the stability you need in rough waters. He truly has been a leader in every sense of the word. And the bottom line is he's just one heck of a
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Archie said the hardest decisions he's faced over his years on the commission have been those that directly affect residents, sometimes in negative ways.
"Those can keep you up at night," he said.
For instance, he mentioned a recent board decision to demolish a condemned home. The owner had pleaded with the city for financial assistance to repair the structure. But Archie, who voted to move forward with demolition, said he had to consider the effect of his decision on all residents.
In 2005, Archie voted in favor of a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter on the Anclote River.
"I voted for it because of my belief that according to standards the city set forth, they had certain rights," Archie said. "It was a hard decision."
Though it may not have been perceived to be a savvy move for a candidate about to run for re-election, residents voted him back in office, anyway.
"It took guts to do what he did," Davis said.
Archie said he has tried to educate himself and analyze all sides of an issue before he casts a vote.
"I need to have peace with myself after making a decision," he said.
Commissioner Chris Alahouzos said Archie has been a conscientious person going back to their days together as students at Tarpon Springs High School.
"He always puts the people first," Alahouzos said. "He's always trying to put himself into their position and it seems like that's how he makes his decisions."
Archie said he doesn't have any regrets from his years of service but he would have liked to see the opening of a vocational training school in Tarpon Springs during his tenure.
"There's still a need for that up here in north county," he said.
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At Tuesday's City Commission meeting, Archie will be honored for more than a decade of service.
But the Tarpon Springs native said he doesn't have any plans to slow down.
He has plenty to keep him busy at Citizens Alliance for Progress, where he serves as executive director.
The nonprofit community outreach organization in the city's Union Academy neighborhood offers a variety of services, including tutoring, counseling and job placement.
There's more to accomplish through his work with several local boards, including the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast and WorkNet Pinellas.
He's got a Sunday school class to teach and more kids to mentor.
"Maybe I'll even spend some time with my wife," he joked.
And there's a distinct possibility Archie may throw his hat into another ring at some point.
"The School Board has always intrigued me," he said.
Rita Farlow can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4162.