SAFETY HARBOR — Seven candidates have qualified to run for City Commission seats in the March 10 election.
Incumbent City Commissioner Joe Ayoub is trying to hold on to Seat 1 by facing challengers Robin Fornino, who ran unsuccessfully for a commission seat last year, and Karen Skiff.
Vice Mayor Mary Lynda Williams will battle Barbara Ewert to for Seat 2, and Nancy Besore will try to best Glen Caristinos for Seat 3, currently held by Nadine Nickeson.
Nickeson decided not to run again, saying "it's been 11 years, time to pass the torch.''
"I had been looking for someone to run,'' Nickeson said. "I was really pleased when these candidates stepped forward.''
Ayoub, 32, has served on the commission for two years.
He said he is running for re-election because he believes Safety Harbor is a great city and that it is headed in the right direction and he wants to keep it that way.
"We are facing tough economic times and I want to work hard to watch our spending dollar by dollar, keep a fiscally responsible budget and keep our taxes low while providing the level of services to our citizens that they have come to expect,'' Ayoub said.
"I want to accomplish this while balancing the preservation of our city's small town charm with a vibrant downtown and responsible growth.''
Fornino, 50, a financial adviser, said she's running again because she's got a lot of new ideas about how the city should be run.
"I think the commission needs to be more responsive and inclusive of residents' opinions,'' she said. "I don't understand the justification for the decisions the commission makes.''
Skiff, 39, is a security officer at the Pinellas County Government Complex in downtown Clearwater. She said she is running "for heritage sake.''
"I'm not against progress, but let's preserve and respect our heritage as well,'' she said.
Williams, 60, was elected after former City Commissioner Kathleen Earle resigned last year. She said she wants to continue to be the "voice of the residents.''
"I feel I can make a difference because I am unbiased and I have no political agenda,'' she said. "As a 30-year resident of Safety Harbor, I've seen many changes — they all haven't been bad. (But) I want to preserve the uniqueness of our city.''
Ewert, 45, a seven-year resident of Safety Harbor, is a physical therapist and rehabilitation manager for People First. Several years ago, she owned a business called Galleria 509, which leased property in the Galleria on Main Street.
"I love Safety Harbor,'' she said. "I want to serve and be informed of the different processes. I want to inform those who cannot serve today.''
Besore, 52, a 17-year resident of Safety Harbor, is a history teacher at Armwood High School in Seffner. She graduated from Stetson University's College of Law and has passed the bar exam.
"I decided (to run) after I had to go before the commission in protest of a proposed development,'' she said. "When it went my way, I was just so thankful. I wanted to give back, I wanted to be there.''
Caristinos, 42, is a partner in a company called Spa Pedicab. He also operates one of the vehicles, taking tourists from the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa to downtown businesses.
He has lived in Safety Harbor for three years. He is a trustee for the Safety Harbor Museum of Regional History and is a member of the Downtown Business Council among other groups.
"I want to continue to help residents be more aware of our organizations within the city and to help local organizations help each other,'' Caristinos said. "I want to have even-keel growth. If we're not growing, we're dying.''
Eileen Schulte can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153.