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Dunedin City Commission | Seat 3

This nonpartisan race pits a one-term incumbent who says he hasn't finished what he started against a political newcomer who says it's time to introduce some "new blood" on the dais. Commissioner Dave Carson touts his experience as a business owner, serving on various city boards, and history working with budgets and city policies. Heather Gracy says she wants to protect for future generations the city's parks, cultural facilities and other amenities she believes Carson opposes. Keyonna Summers, Times staff writer

David Carson, 57

Small business owner

Heather Gracy, 41

Homemaker

Nonpartisan
Carson was born in Illinois but has lived in Florida since 1982 and in Dunedin since 1998. The Carson Pest Control co-owner says community members, who observed his deep interest in local, state and national politics and his work on multiple city volunteer boards and civic groups, encouraged him to run for City Commission. Elected in 2009 and nearing the end of his first commission term, Carson says he has applied the same logic to his city votes as he does at his business: He treats tax dollars as if they were his own. His priorities include fixing city flooding problems, boosting tourism and fiscal discipline. Experience Gracy moved with her family from Michigan to Dunedin in 1987 and graduated from Clearwater Central Catholic. After spending several years moving up the ladder at Franklin Templeton Investments, the married stay-at-home mom quit and turned her focus to community volunteerism. Gracy says a desire to preserve Dunedin's charm for future generations prompted her to challenge Carson, who has cast a number of votes she disagrees with. Her campaign priorities include expanding parks, adding bike lanes to city streets and instituting fairness in funding for community events and private organizations.
Some coursework in police science at Illinois Central College, 1973 to 1975 EducationAssociate of arts degree from St. Petersburg Junior College, 1990; bachelor's in English from Florida State University, 1992
Carson says he is in favor of helping the museum, which he says is in danger of otherwise closing. He has supported an annual contribution of more than $100,000 to the art center but "can't support" donating an extra $500,000 — a request he believes is likely to come up again — at this time because of the tough economy. The city manager recently proposed giving the Dunedin Fine Art Center $500,000 and the Dunedin Historical Museum $200,000 as part of a larger "quality of life" package aimed at attracting tourists, businesses and new residents. Thoughts?Calling the art center and museum "cornerstones" of Dunedin's landscape, Gracy said at a recent candidate forum that she supports the city manager's proposal. The art center and museum, she said, are economic drivers. The proposed quality-of-life funding would "reward them for their successes and also reduce the long-term risk the city has in continuing that long-term support," she said. She later said in an interview that she wants to hear more from the community and from city staff on how they would go about paying for this.
Carson, a baseball fan whose company provides pest control services for the stadium, says he "definitely" wants the Blue Jays to stay. Depending on what the team requests during contract negotiations, "we're going to have to ask for support from the state and county because we won't have $25 million it may require to keep them." The Toronto Blue Jays' lease expires in five years. What do you suggest to keep them or to make up for the economic loss if they leave?Gracy, a baseball fan, says the Blue Jays "put Dunedin, I think, on the Tampa Bay map." She says the team generates a lot of city revenue and is important to quality of life, therefore it would be a "terrible" economic loss if they left. If an agreement can't be reached, Gracy says the city should pursue another team. "It's important to keep those dollars flowing right here in Dunedin," she says.
Carson doesn't anticipate that property values will drop much more. But even if they do, he says, Dunedin is in great financial shape. "We don't need to raise taxes. We don't need to make any more cuts, if we maintain the budget disciplines. We still have excessive reserves that can carry us for a number of additional years of declining revenues," he says.Given the decline in property values, would you consider raising property taxes or cutting from the budget? If you support budget cuts, what specifically would you cut?"As reflected in Dunedin's budget for 2013, leading with cost efficiencies is key when faced with revenue shortfalls. Exploring options like leveraging equipment and services with neighboring communities could be cost-beneficial. Let's finally define what economic development means in Dunedin so that the city can count on a sustainable tax base," Gracy says.
"It's making sure that we are ready when developers and investors come to town, that we have our codes and ordinances and height restrictions in place. So, when they do come to town, they find a friendly environment and have the tools in place to complete (the process) in a timely manner."What specific ideas do you have for spurring economic development?Gracy says Dunedin should focus on creating urban hubs, where residents can walk from their homes to nearby stores, parks and entertainment or, if needed, easily access mass transit. To the extent that Dunedin is able to connect homes with public amenities, "I think will spur the commercial development," she says.
Home, two commercial properties, assorted retirement accountsAssetsHome and one residential rental property
MortgageLiabilitiesTwo mortgages
Revenue from Carson Pest Control and A-Cee Enterprises, which rents out commercial space to other businesses; commissioner salary of $8,000IncomeOne Dunedin rental property and stock investments/dividends
Wife, MarthaPersonalHusband, Andrew; three daughters, ages 14, 11 and 4
dave4commission.comWebsite heathergracy.com
[email protected]Email[email protected]

About the job: Dunedin city commissioners serve four-year terms and are paid $8,000 a year.

Dunedin City Commission Seat 3: Dave Carson, Heather Gracy, nonpartisan

This nonpartisan race pits a one-term incumbent who says he hasn't finished what he started against a political newcomer who says it's time to introduce some "new blood" on the dais. Commissioner Dave Carson touts his experience as a business owner, serving on various city boards, and history working with budgets and city policies. Heather Gracy says she wants to protect for future generations the city's parks, cultural facilities and other amenities she believes Carson opposes.

Dunedin City Commission Seat 3: Dave Carson, Heather Gracy, nonpartisan 10/17/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 3:45pm]
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