Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Politics

Pasco voters cast ballots in five cities

Voters in five Pasco cities went to the polls Tuesday to select mayors and city council members.

In New Port Richey, Pasco's largest city, a veteran of city politics won the mayor's seat over an opponent also well-known to local voters.

Former Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe defeated Bob Langford, who also served several years on the City Council.

Marlowe, 60, served two terms on the City Council before taking a year off to spend time with his family and focus on his downtown business, Gulfcoast Networking. He said he wants to focus on running meetings efficiently and stepping up work sessions during which the council can brainstorm ideas on economic development and other pressing issues.

Marlowe also said he wants to focus on launching New Port Richey's business incubator and redevelopment efforts for the historic Hacienda Hotel.

He thanked Langford for running a "clean campaign" that focused on the issues and expressed excitement over getting to work.

"I'm in shock a little bit. I'm really, really excited," Marlowe said. "I think we have a lot of interesting things we can do ahead."

• • •

In Port Richey, incumbent Mayor Eloise Taylor won a narrow re-election contest against political newcomer Kathy Todd, 47, a U.S. Navy reservist.

Taylor, a 71-year-old lawyer, won a special election in 2012 after the resignation of former Mayor Richard Rober and previously served as Port Richey's mayor from 2000 to 2005. She said the city has had an unprecedented run of stability that she wants to continue.

Taylor said she plans to focus on the city running an efficient water utility, a renewed effort at dredging and improving infrastructure.

"It was a tight, long race. I am extremely gratified and honored to serve another term for the city. And I will not disappoint them in the trust the voters invested in me," she said.

• • •

Incumbent Dade City Commissioner Scott Black coasted back into office, winning with about 80 percent of the vote Tuesday.

He had an opponent for only the second time since being elected to the commission in 1990. Angie Herrera, 54, a center manager for Catholic Charities, mounted a campaign funded primarily by the family of Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez.

Black was critical of a vote by the commission — unadvertised and held during a workshop — to split the dual role of longtime finance director-city clerk Jim Class into two jobs. Black was on the losing end of the 3-2 vote approved by Hernandez, and Commissioners Jim Shive and Eunice Penix.

Black pledged during the campaign to continue sensible growth in the city while protecting its small-town lifestyle.

Hernandez won re-election unopposed.

• • •

In Zephyrhills, retired school administrator and football coach Alan Knight ousted incumbent City Council member Jodi Wilkeson.

Knight, known as "Coach" in the town where he has lived his whole life, was making his first run for office. He edged Wilkeson, an architect, collecting about 56 percent of the vote.

Knight said he was "very pleased and very humbled" by the victory and pledged to immediately put his efforts into his top priorities: supporting the city's workers, restoring Hercules Aquatic Center to a public park and overseeing controlled growth of the city.

Funeral home owner Gene Whitfield ran unopposed and was elected mayor. Incumbent council member Kenneth Burgess also did not draw an opponent and will begin another term.

• • •

The closest race of the night happened in Pasco's smallest town.

In St. Leo, population 1,419, just 115 residents voted. But the election brought a change to the town commission, as Ray Davis ousted longtime commissioner Donna DeWitt, a sister at Holy Name Monastery.

The new makeup of the commission holds major implications for the future of the town. Davis, 77, and two other commissioners live in the gated Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club community, where a small percentage of homes lie within St. Leo's boundaries. The rest are in unincorporated Pasco County, a situation that has saddled town residents of Lake Jovita with extra taxes for, they argue, no extra services.

Davis, who edged DeWitt by just four votes, said he ran to bring more representation for his neighborhood to the board. A bill being considered by the Legislature could allow Lake Jovita to de-annex from St. Leo. If it fails to pass, however, the new majority on the commission could potentially act to dissolve the town.

On Tuesday, Davis said he plans to continue the push to de-annex but has no desire to break up St. Leo.

"Our interest has always been to de-annex, but let me make it clear it is not my intention to try to dissolve the town," Davis said.

Incumbent Commissioner James Hallet and former Commissioner Richard Christmas won seats unopposed.

• • •

In neighboring San Antonio, three candidates also won unopposed: current Commissioner Elayne Bassinger, retired businessman Dennis Berberich and Anne Kibbe, a professional development director at Saint Leo University and a local artist.

Times staff writer Molly Moorhead contributed to this report.

 
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