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Two Kenneth City officials want charter change to go before voters

Who could lead Kenneth City?

Allen Schopp (rhymes with soap) and Ron Sneed are scheduled to be sworn in at a special council meeting at 7 tonight in the Community Hall, 4600 58th St. N. Afterward, the four members of the council are scheduled to choose a vice mayor. Here's a bit about each council member.

Albert Leonce Carrier 73, is the current vice mayor. He was born in Mexico, Maine, and moved to Kenneth City in 1995. He attended electronic schools with the U.S. Air Force, Northwest University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is retired. He is in his second stint on the Kenneth City council, having termed out after previous council service. He has served on the Board of Adjustment and has been vice president of the Kenneth City Homeowners Association. He is a widower and has one son and three grandchildren.
Wanda L. Dudley, 51, was born in Montrose, Pa., and moved to Kenneth City in June 1983. She is a graduate of Eckerd College and teaches at Westgate Elementary School in St. Petersburg. She is working toward a master's degree in teaching reading at the University of South Florida. She has been president and secretary of Northwest Youth Baseball. She is married and has four children.
Allen Schopp, 60, moved to Kenneth City 17 years ago from Illinois. He is an Army veteran who served in Vietnam. He has worked as a certified paramedic, a volunteer police officer and a firefighter. He is retired from the military. He owns and operates Gulf Coast Marketing LLC and the Dartman LLC. He is married and has a daughter serving in Iraq.
Ron Sneed, 49, is a native of Battle Creek, Mich., and moved to the area in 1982 and to Kenneth City in 1993. He attended Kellogg Community College in Michigan. He coaches kids soccer and owns Residential Remodeling Solutions. He is a member of Warehouse 727 Church in St. Petersburg. He is married and has two children.

KENNETH CITY — At least two members of this town's council say they have heard the voice of the voters and want to give Teresa Zemaitis a chance to serve as mayor.

But it's uncertain that Zemaitis will ever get that chance, despite the wishes of council members Wanda Dudley and Ron Sneed. They favor giving voters a chance to change the city charter.

A preliminary legal analysis by new town attorney John Elias indicates that Zemaitis might be allowed to assume the office she won with 70.5 percent of the vote only if she wins her legal appeal. Elias has been the Kenneth City attorney for one week, and he said his opinion might change as he does more legal research.

Zemaitis, 40, is a public schoolteacher who was ruled unqualified under an obscure clause in the charter that bans all public employees from serving as mayor. A judge decided last week that the charter clause is constitutional. Zemaitis plans to appeal.

It appears clear that Zemaitis will be able to assume the mayor's seat if she wins her appeal, which could be a matter of weeks. Her attorney, Bruce Howie of the American Civil Liberties Union, said he plans to ask for the appeal to be expedited.

What's less clear is what happens if Zemaitis loses. A citizens group is gathering signatures on a petition to force a referendum to change the charter to eliminate the language concerning public employees. Dudley and Sneed have said they want voters to decide and a third council member, Allen Schopp, has signed the petition.

The final council member (the mayor's seat is vacant), Al Carrier, did not return a phone message asking for comment but appeared on 970 AM radio Tuesday morning to say the charter would not be changed and a mayor would be chosen by the council at tonight's meeting.

But it is unclear if the council will be able to select a new mayor tonight. The agenda includes the appointment of a vice mayor, who would likely act as mayor. It is unclear what would happen if the council deadlocks on the appointment of a vice mayor. And Zemaitis has indicated she will ask a judge to order the town to hold off appointing a mayor until after her appeals have been exhausted.

Sneed said he favors appointing Dudley as vice mayor. More than 20 residents have asked him to do so, he said. "They like the way she educates herself and prepares herself for council meetings," Sneed said. "I have to say I pretty much agree with them. She's a pretty bright lady."

Dudley is also a public school teacher and, as such, cannot assume the mayor's office. Her appointment to vice mayor, however, is apparently permissible. Because she could not become the permanent mayor, she would be a placeholder until Zemaitis' appeals have a chance to work their way through the court system or the charter is changed.

That way, if Zemaitis wins her appeals, she could take the mayor's seat. If she doesn't but the charter is changed, Dudley might be able to then step into the mayor's seat, opening up a council seat. The council could then appoint Zemaitis to the open seat.

Two Kenneth City officials want charter change to go before voters 03/17/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 4:43pm]
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