SAFETY HARBOR — With Mayor Andy Steingold opting out of the rest of his three-year term to run for an open judicial seat, the Safety Harbor City Commission may hold a special election Nov. 6 to find his replacement.
Nov. 6 coincides with the presidential election. The person chosen by city voters would finish out Steingold's term, which ends in March 2014.
Commissioners will take a final vote June 4 to set the election date.
The commission had several options. It could have decided to appoint a replacement for Steingold, or it could have held a special election in March 2013.
By deciding to hold the election in November, the city would save an estimated $20,000, said City Manager Matthew Spoor. Safety Harbor did the same thing this year when it moved its regular city election from March back to January to coincide with the Republican primary and save the city money.
In January, Steingold, an attorney, told commissioners of his plan to run to replace retiring Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Richard Luce. Steingold said he has always wanted to be a judge and that now is the time to make the move.
"I love Safety Harbor, but things are running smoothly with the city, and I just think now is a good time for me," said Steingold, who, win or lose, must leave his post Jan. 7, 2013.
With Steingold stepping aside, two sitting commissioners have emerged as possible candidates. Commissioner Joe Ayoub, a 36-year-old certified public accountant, said he plans to sign up when the filing period opens July 20. Commissioner Nancy Besore said she has been asked by several residents to run but that she is still giving it some thought.
"I'm considering it, but I have not made up my mind," said Besore, 55, who just ran for re-election in January. "It's an honor for people to say that I should run, but it's a big, big commitment, and I take it very seriously and want to do the very best job possible. I'm in the thought process right now."
Besore, an economics and U.S. history teacher at Armwood High School in Hillsborough County, said she's torn because "I think a lot of Ayoub and would like to see him do it."
Like Steingold, if sitting commissioners file to run for mayor, they must resign from their current seats 10 days before the start of the filing period. If a sitting commissioner does resign to run for mayor, that commission seat would be on the November ballot.
Ayoub is aware he'll have to give up his commission seat but said he plans to run for mayor anyway. He hopes to win the shortened term and then would run again for a full three-year term.
"I'm doing it," he said. "I want to be the mayor, and it just happens that the mayor is leaving, and the timing works out."
Ayoub said that if elected, he would continue the city's current direction.
"The broad vision is to keep the city heading in the right direction," he said. "I would work to provide the level of services that our residents have expected and keep them and make them better."
Ayoub said he would also work to improve the recycling program, keep the tax rate low and find efficiencies in city programs.