Sunday, June 17, 2018
Politics

Crowded field vying for Pinellas commission seat in 2014

Plug Dusty Showers' name into Google and here's what you will find: row after row of pictures of a smiling man wearing a large pink bra.

Some bras are frilly, others plain; some were sent to him in the mail by fans. They're a gimmick the 42-year-old wildlife trapper from Oldsmar has used for years to raise money for breast cancer.

Showers is now turning his attention to a different race — he recently filed to run for the District 4 Pinellas County Commission seat in 2014.

He is one of four candidates who have already announced plans to challenge Commissioner Susan Latvala, who has represented the North Pinellas district, covering Palm Harbor, East Lake, Oldsmar, and Tarpon Springs, since 2000.

The crowded field includes two Republicans, Jack Fisher and Tim Keffalas, Democrat Jack McAdoo, and Showers, who has no party affiliation.

In interviews with the candidates, several said they decided to run out of concern that North Pinellas is being neglected by the County Commission, especially when it comes to transportation, which could become a major issue in 2014 when a referendum on a sales tax increase to pay for mass transit is likely to appear on the ballot.

Voters "want someone at the north end that really cares to be involved, and they don't feel they're getting that," said Keffalas, 58, a Tarpon Springs small business owner who has twice run for City Commission there. If elected, Keffalas said he would open a north county office, at his own expense, where residents could bring their problems to him.

Fisher, 54, who lives in Palm Harbor, works as an analyst for AmeriLife, an insurance marketing group. He said too much of unincorporated residents' tax money is going to the county's general fund, rather than to projects in their neighborhoods. The "last straw," he said, was when the commission recently approved a stormwater fee to pay for flood control and water quality improvements. Many residents didn't see that fee coming, he said, and might not be able to afford it.

Many of the commissioners "have been in office for so long, it's almost as if they think everybody is making a lot of money. I feel they've lost touch with us," he said.

The only Democrat in the race so far, McAdoo, 52, lives in Palm Harbor, and is president of Catch 22 Entertainment LLC. He said north county is sorely in need of "a new voice." Although the court rejected term limits, voters wanted them, he said, and commissioners should leave after eight years. For Latvala to serve another four — for a total of 18 years in office — would be "extreme," he said.

Showers said he felt compelled to run because of his involvement in the animal rights community, which has recently been pushing the commission to adopt a policy of spaying and neutering stray animals. He also appears to have been energized by last year's debate over fluoride. He hasn't chosen a side, he said, in what became the central issue in the 2012 elections that resulted in two Republican county commissioners losing their seats to pro-fluoride Democrats.

Since announcing his decision to run on Facebook, Showers has asked his friends to weigh in on fluoride. He said he has read studies showing it causes cancer, and others that say it doesn't; he doesn't know which to believe. Latvala, his opponent in the race, has been a vocal supporter of fluoridation.

Anna M. Phillips can be reached at [email protected]

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