TAMPA — Former City Council member Joseph Caetano has filed papers to run for the north Tampa seat he lost three years ago.
Caetano, who lives in the Grand Hampton subdivision in New Tampa, represented District 7 on the City Council for one term starting in 2007. On Tuesday, he attributed his loss in 2011 to the district's 14 percent voter turnout — the lowest in the city that year.
"There's no excitement up in New Tampa when somebody's running," Caetano said. "That's why I filed early, so I can start early."
Council member Lisa Montelione, who now represents District 7, said she plans to run for re-election and probably will launch her campaign in the next couple of weeks. Getting opposition came as no surprise for her.
"It's unrealistic to expect that any of us are not going to draw opponents," Montelione said. "I was just waiting to see who it's going to be."
The last time he ran, Caetano finished third with 19 percent of the vote in a four-candidate primary. In the runoff, Montelione went on to defeat the runner-up, Charlie Perkins, a neighborhood activist known for creating a pimplike character called "White Chocolate" when he hosted a notorious show on local public access television in the early 2000s.
District 7 includes newer and still-growing gated communities in New Tampa, older neighborhoods like Forest Hills and Terrace Park, plus the areas around the University of South Florida and Busch Gardens. But to Caetano, City Hall focuses disproportionately on downtown projects like the Riverwalk, which he said he has no plans to use.
"I think the city is concentrating on downtown too much," said Caetano, 80, a former hair salon owner and a contractor who does renovation projects.
As a council member, Caetano said he would advocate for the construction of a new fire station, including a police substation, to serve New Tampa, drainage improvements to ease flooding in the southern part of District 7 and the addition of safety features to County Line Road.
"We need streetlights and sidewalks there," he said. "I see people skateboarding on the road."
Montelione, 53, who works as the business manager for a construction firm that specializes in green projects, said she has focused on all three areas.
As vice chairwoman of the Metropolitan Planning Organization and chairwoman of its livable roadways committee, she said she has worked to add sidewalks and bike lanes to local roads and to build relationships with officials in Hillsborough and Pasco counties, both of which share jurisdiction with Tampa over County Line Road.
She said she also has talked with members of Mayor Bob Buckhorn's administration about its long-range plans for a New Tampa fire station and has lobbied for drainage improvements in the district.
"I've found (storm water) ponds that they didn't know we had," she said. "I have a good track record. I think I work really, really hard. Everybody knows I absolutely love what I do."
With Caetano's filing, every council member up for re-election except for Mike Suarez has drawn an opponent for city elections in March.
In September, now-retired police Sgt. Borthland R. Murray filed to run for the east Tampa seat held by Frank Reddick. In May, businessman Kent King filed to run in the South Tampa district represented by Harry Cohen. In June, community activist Paul Erni filed to run for the citywide District 3 seat represented by Yvonne Yolie Capin.
Two council members, Chairman Charlie Miranda and Mary Mulhern, are scheduled to leave their seats due to term limits.
No one is yet running to replace Mulhern. Miranda's South and West Tampa seat so far has drawn three candidates: air-conditioning company owner Tommy Castellano, vintage watch retailer Guido Maniscalco and civil engineer Jackie Toledo.
Contact Richard Danielson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times.