PINELLAS PARK — Voters here have a choice of three candidates for the open seat on the City Council in Tuesday's election — two who tout their experience and one who seems to have disappeared from the campaign trail.
The three include two first-time candidates, Keith V. Sabiel and Eugene F. Hendry, and an incumbent, Patricia F. Johnson.
Hendry, 28, is a Pennsylvania native who worked for six years with the Pittston department of public works, then for two years as a corrections officer with the Luzerne County prison. After that, he spent two years in security with the Reading Medical Center. He was a parks maintenance worker with the city of Pinellas Park from June 2011 until Oct. 12, 2011, when city records show he was discharged during his probationary period for absenteeism.
He did not show up for the second of two candidate forums and could not be reached for comment for this article but has said he is running to bring some of his ideas to Pinellas Park.
Johnson, 68, has lived in Pinellas Park for more than 25 years. She was first elected to office two years ago to fill the unexpired term of Sandy Bradbury, who resigned to run for mayor. This would be Johnson's first full term on the council.
Although she has served only two years, Johnson says the experience gives her an edge over both opponents.
"Neither one of them have experience in bringing income in. Although Keith (Sabiel) has done budgets, he never knew where the money came from," Johnson said, referring to the council's responsibility to set the budget and to know where the city gets its operating funds. "We're in the best shape we've been in for years."
Sabiel, 58, also trumpets his experience that he gained working as a city employee since 1974. He is currently serving as assistant public works administrator/utility director in the water maintenance division. He is scheduled to retire in June, but must do so immediately if elected.
"My 39 years of experience with the city of Pinellas Park has prepared me for this day," Sabiel said. "I fully understand the operating procedures and functions of the city. My leadership skills, budgetary experience, and my ability to successfully work with all people will allow me to lead our city into the future."
And, Sabiel said, he's very aware of where the money comes from and wants to "work on increasing our revenues and stimulating our economy by attracting new business and creating jobs in our city."
Pinellas Park, with a population of about 49,000, is the fourth-largest city in Pinellas County. It has 513 employees and a $50 million operating budget. It has a council-manager form of government in which a mayor and four council members set policy. They are also responsible for hiring the city manager, city clerk, city attorney and passing the budget. They generally hold two meetings and two workshops a month. Council members serve four-year terms and earn $17,290 a year.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450. Follow @alindbergtimes on Twitter.