CLEARWATER — The city's January election is back on schedule after a second candidate qualified at the last minute for next year's mayor's race.
Vice Mayor George Cretekos and political newcomer Christine Marketos-Cuomo will compete for the seat of term-limited Mayor Frank Hibbard on Jan. 31.
Clearwater's other two City Council seats, vacated by Cretekos and term-limited council member John Doran, will go automatically to candidates Doreen DiPolito and Jay Polglaze, whose lack of opposition guarantees them the seat, no vote needed.
The election would have been canceled had Marketos-Cuomo not qualified for the race just before the deadline Friday. Her filing last week and quick turnaround of petitions surprised city leaders, who doubted she could net the necessary 250 signatures in time.
In spite of her quick turnaround, Marketos-Cuomo, 63, remains for most a mystery. She declined three requests for interviews this month and asked that the Times not write about her candidacy until next month, when she returns from visiting family.
What little is known about her comes from "The Saint Amongst Us," her book on her uncle, a Greek Orthodox Archbishop, which was published this year. Born in Massachusetts, she retired in 2008 from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and once directed public-access TV programs.
"I don't know the lady," Cretekos said. "I don't know that she has ever attended a Clearwater City Council meeting. I don't know that she has ever served on a city committee or board. I don't know that she has ever attended a community event. I think we're unmatched."
While Marketos-Cuomo's filing appeared abruptly, Cretekos has established himself as a candidate for months, announcing his intention to run in February, seven months before the qualification period began.
A longtime assistant of U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, Cretekos, 64, joined the council in 2007 to fill in for departing council member Hoyt Hamilton and was re-elected without opposition in 2008.
Cretekos launched his campaign at a fundraiser at the Sheraton Sand Key in September and has the backing of dozens of prominent residents. He added that won't slow his campaigning down.
"I cannot take a chance that just because nobody knows her, I'm going to win. You don't win elections that way," Cretekos said. "We're not going to leave any stone unturned. Mrs. Cuomo is going to be surprised."
Though both will be new to the City Council, DiPolito and Polglaze have served for years on various local civic groups. DiPolito, 45, a general contractor and owner of D-Mar General Contracting, has served on the Community Development Board for six years. Polglaze, 54, is a member of the Clearwater Downtown Partnership and the Clearwater Neighborhoods Coalition.
Born in Long Island, N.Y., DiPolito moved to Clearwater in 1976 and graduated from Clearwater High School. She was a mechanical engineer for 10 years with Honeywell, working on space, guidance and navigation units, before she inherited the family business in 2001.
She has served on boards for UPARC, Lighthouse of Pinellas, the Clearwater Jazz Holiday and the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce. She has two daughters, Stephanie, 23, and Samantha, 19.
Polglaze, who grew up in Largo, began local volunteering by joining the neighborhood Crime Watch in Grandview Terrace and Ambleside. He has worked for the U.S. Postal Service since 1983 and is a father of two.
"They're energized," Cretekos said. "They're going to be terrific."
Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or firstname.lastname@example.org.