PORT RICHEY — The three candidates vying to be Port Richey's next mayor offer voters a diversity of options.
Robert J. "Bob" Breedlove, a newcomer to Port Richey politics, will face off in a special nonpartisan election on Tuesday against former City Council member Dale G. "Doc" Massad and Kathy Todd, a candidate for mayor for the second time. The three are seeking to fill the open seat following the death of Eloise Taylor in July.
Breedlove, 61, has positioned himself as the "new face" on the local government scene, though he says his service on the city's Planning and Zoning Board and his career experience in land surveying give him solid footing to lead the city forward.
"I have a lot of experience in construction, road building, drainage, water and sewer infrastructure," he said. "It's all of the civil categories the city is currently struggling with."
A resident of Port Richey for a little more than three years, Breedlove previously served as an elected official on the City Council in Acworth, Ga. In addition to currently working as a land surveyor for a Tampa company, he is a life and health insurance adviser.
Breedlove said that while overall he believes the city is headed in a direction he wants to maintain, there are some issues on which he would focus if elected — among them are getting a grasp on what it will take to improve drainage and water systems, and launching a Neighborhood Watch program to combat crime. He said he also is concerned with dwindling reserves in the city budget and the use of Community Redevelopment Agency funds for things such as employee salaries instead of redevelopment.
"I think the budget is going to be the biggest issue next year," Breedlove said. "Any time you see dwindling reserves, you get nervous. You've got to have a way to cover contingencies."
Todd, 49, a police officer in the Navy Reserve, is making her second bid to be mayor after losing in 2014 to Taylor. If elected, she told the Times, she plans to be a highly accessible mayor to the people.
"I'm going to have an office at City Hall with an open-door policy. I am going to be there all the time, and I want to hear the people's opinion about what's important, whether it's water quality, taxes, drainage," she said.
Todd said she also would be a vigilant observer of the budget, which she believes has been mismanaged by City Manager Tom O'Neill.
She said she would poll the public regarding O'Neill's job performance.
An additional focus, Todd said, would be on improving drainage and water quality, and finding a solution to the continued purchase of large quantities of water from New Port Richey due to saltwater intrusion in the city's wells.
"There is so much mismanagement and wasteful spending," she said. "I don't think our taxes need to be raised. I think if we spend the money right we won't need to."
Todd said she is also committed to fighting crime in the city and hopes to promote closer relationships between the Port Richey Police Department and the New Port Richey Police Department and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
"It's always seems like there is this battle of the borders, which I think needs to change," she said.
Massad, 64, may be the best known of the candidates to Port Richey voters. The retired doctor served several years on the council, first appointed to fill a vacancy in 2000. He then lost his seat in a coin toss in the general election to break a tie. Massad ran again and won in 2002, but lost a re-election bid in 2004. Two years later, he ran and won again, but lost a re-election bid in 2008.
Massad, who serves as chairman of the city's Port Authority Board, has long been an advocate of dredging the city's waterfront canals and continues to push the project, which has long been tabled due to a lack of funding options.
Still an advocate for dredging, Massad said he also has deep concerns over the budget and drainage infrastructure, which he said has been marred by flooding. He has been critical of the planning for beautification efforts along the waterfront while bigger problems exist.
"They plant flowers; we ask for drainage," he said.
Regarding the city's reserves, he said: "They're dangerously low, without any question."
In the past, Massad has been a controversial figure in Port Richey politics, serving on the council during heated debates over dissolving the city and at one time advocating for disbanding the Police Department. He said he is not seeking now to dissolve the department, but remains critical of it, citing a scandal last year involving the city's police impound lot during which then-Chief Dave Brown resigned.
"I think it's been pretty well tainted," Massad said of the department, which since the impound lot scandal has experienced an administrative overhaul.
Meanwhile, Massad has declined to comment on an Aug. 6 incident in which Port Richey police were called to his house by a woman living there who claimed intruders had come into the home.
For nearly an hour, Port Richey police looked for the people Massad said had entered his house — people he believed to be in his air-conditioning return or in his attic. Massad talked about a sleepless night of partying, and the woman who made the call admitted to using cocaine, according to a police report.
Police found no one, and Massad denied any illegal drug use on his property. Police said no drugs were visible in the home, and the department closed the investigation.
Massad told the Times that he would not let the incident stand in the way of his mayoral campaign.
"I'm running because a lot of people asked me to run," he said. "I have a platform to bring to the table the solutions I think are important for the city."