Commission seats go to Shelly and Irwin, squeezing out one
Town Commissioner Tom Shelly and business owner Patricia Irwin were elected to seats on the commission, beating out a third candidate, Brad Ackerman.
Two incumbents squeak back in, one newcomer joins them
Incumbents David M. Dumville Jr. and Mitch Krach were narrowly returned to office in a close four-way race and will be joined by newcomer Leslie Ford Notaro on the City Council. Krach was the top vote getter, receiving 159 votes for 28 percent of the 565 ballots cast. Dumville and Notaro received identical totals: 139 votes or 25 percent each. J. Clarke McNeace was edged out by 11 votes. During the campaign, the two incumbents stressed their business experience and their involvement in the construction and opening of a new city hall-community center. Notaro, a lawyer, ran on her experience and desire to help the city find new revenue.
Vice mayor loses as Barkley and Shimkus take two seats
City Commissioner Joe Barkley (263 votes, 36 percent) and business owner Taylour Shimkus (241, 33 percent) won seats on the City Commission, beating out Vice Mayor Hunt K. Brand (221, 30 percent). In addition, four of five charter amendments passed comfortably. The exception was the amendment dealing with candidate petitions, which was defeated.
Experience carries Gibson and Jonson to victory on council
Political experience triumphed as City Council member Paul Gibson won re-election to Seat 5 and former two-term council member Bill Jonson won Seat 4, besting a field of three other contenders. Meanwhile, voters also rejected a proposed amendment to the city charter that would have changed the way Clearwater hires external auditors.
In crowded field, Hastings takes seat on 12-vote margin
With a 12-vote margin, challenger David C. Hastings squeaked by incumbent Judy Ryerson to win the Ward 1 seat on the City Council. Hastings, an accountant, won a crowded five-candidate race with 500 votes, or 28 percent of the total 1,782 ballots cast. Ryerson received 488 votes (27 percent). The remaining three candidates divided the rest of the votes: David Steinke, 317 (18 percent); Stanley P. Solomons, 305 (17 percent); and Rosalie "Roz' Barbieri, 172 (10 percent). In 2003, voters eliminated runoff elections. In the previous 12 years, close contests in three elections required a runoff. In each case, the candidate with the most votes in the general election won the runoff.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH
Mayor Johnson returns on message of harmony, vision
Mayor R.B. Johnson overwhelmingly won re-election to lead the City Commission. Johnson, who was first elected mayor in 2008 and had served on the City Commission since 2000, won 72 percent of the vote, garnering 768 out of 1,067 ballots cast. He campaigned on his ability to lead a harmonious commission and his desire to follow through on implementing a USF visioning study for redeveloping the city's commercial district. He also pledged to "keep the county's feet to the fire" in providing money to put utility wires underground along a portion of Gulf Boulevard. His opponent, Don House, had called the USF plan "a dangerous thing for the city." Two unopposed commissioners, Joanne "Cookie" Kennedy and Daniel J. Torres, were automatically returned to again serve two-year terms of office.
One year later, mayor is really mayor and old guard is gone
It's official. Teresa Zemaitis is the real mayor of Kenneth City now that residents decisively voted to retroactively change the town charter to allow public employees to serve as mayor. Zemaitis, who teaches reading to sophomores at Dixie Hollins High School, won the mayor's seat last March in a landslide election. But because the charter barred any public employees from serving as mayor, she was given the title of mayor pro tem until voters could decide whether to retroactively change the charter. The change, which was approved by 440 (62 percent) of the 709 people who voted on the issue, allows any public employee, except those who work for Kenneth City, to serve as mayor. Voters also completed the purge of the old guard that they began last year when Zemaitis defeated then-Mayor Muriel Whitman. The remaining member of the old guard, Al Carrier, came in fourth in a field of four for the two open council seats with 203 votes (16 percent). Winners of the two council seats were incumbent Wanda Dudley, who led with 406 votes (32 percent) and Joanne DeSimone, with 346 votes (27 percent), edging Ron Neuberger (328 votes, 26 percent).
NORTH REDINGTON BEACH
Blocker back on commission in vote for continuity
Although turnout was relatively low, 284 voters here returned Curtis L. Blocker to his second term of office on the Town Commission. Blocker's 72 percent of the vote was a sharp contrast to the 112 votes garnered by his opponent, John W. Messmore. Fewer than 40 percent of the town's voters cast ballots. Both candidates pointed to the town's low property taxes, low crime rate and beautification projects as reasons to live in North Redington Beach. Commissioner Jerry Knight was unopposed for re-election.
Ronecker and Miller returned to office; truth pays for Norris
Voters handed Mayor Jim Ronecker three more years and returned former City Council member Janice Miller. Business owner Linda Norris won a three-way race for Seat 4, after she publicly disclosed brushes with the law and a nearly 20-year struggle with alcohol. "It feels great. I didn't know how people would take my past. It ended up being a good thing," she said.
Two political newcomers sweep onto commission
Voters showed a sharp preference for two of three political newcomers running for the Town Commission. David Will was the top vote getter with 215 or 44 percent of the 493 votes cast. Tom Dorgan came in a close second with 209 (42 percent). Poul Madsen received 69, or 14 percent. Will, who has served on the town's Board of Adjustment, stressed the importance of keeping residents informed and getting them involved. Dorgan, a computer programmer, described himself as the "finance candidate" and said he looked forward to "giving back" to the town.
Barnhorn and Quinn bring familiarity to council seats
Voters here, who were confronted with a herd of candidates for two open seats on the City Council, decided to stick with familiar faces. They elected Thom Barnhorn to retain the seat he was appointed to last spring when Patricia Hartstein left the council. Barnhorn had lost his seat in the March election. Barnhorn led the pack with 1,033 votes — 29 percent. Also elected was James Quinn, familiar to voters because of his unsuccessful campaign for the council last year. Quinn polled 770 votes, or 21 percent. The other candidates were Christopher Burke, with 483 votes (13 percent); Tom Christy with 370 (10 percent); Bill Smith with 323 (9 percent); Randall Hendricks with 318 (9 percent); and Arden Ford with 293 (8 percent). All except Ford were newcomers to Seminole politics. Ford had signed up to run once before but dropped out early, citing personal and business concerns. Tuesday's election will be the last March election for Seminole. Among the eight charter changes that overwhelmingly passed, was one moving the election to November.
ST. PETE BEACH
Mail-in voting is a winner, as is new approach to development
The city's mail-in ballot was a success on two fronts: generating some of the highest voter participation of any of the beach communities and validating the city's effort to establish new development rules. The referendum election was also the latest round in a battle between two rival citizen groups: Citizens for Responsible Growth and Save Our Little Village. CRG started the fight by winning voter approval of new charter rules that require resident-approval of any changes to the city's comprehensive plan, particularly changes affecting building heights and development and density. SOLV, a more development-oriented group, then used CRG's rules to get voter approval for a new comprehensive plan opposed by CRG. Tuesday's referendum was the result of a 2008 settlement between the city and SOLV. Under that agreement, if SOLV was successful in getting voter approval in 2009 for its comprehensive plan (it was), the city would then submit a new community redevelopment area plan to voters. Tuesday, a solid 66 percent of voters (1,818 out of 2,754 ballots cast) approved the CRA plan that designates a list of projects eligible for a possible $60 million in property tax-generated funding if and when those funds become available. According to the supervisor of elections, up to 50 percent of voters in at least one precinct mailed in their ballots for Tuesday's election.
Archie becomes first black mayor; Alahouzos keeps seat
David O. Archie was elected the city's first black mayor. "(The election) continues to tell me about what Tarpon Springs is about as a whole," he said. Commissioner Chris Alahouzos, 59, maintained his seat, and newcomer Jeff Larsen won a seat. Tarpon voters also approved nine charter questions that ranged from required approval from residents before the city can dismantle its Fire Department to requiring certain city officials to reside in the city within one year of being hired.
Staff writers Anne Lindberg, Rodney Thrash, Demorris A. Lee and Mike Brassfield and correspondent Sheila Mullane Estrada contributed to this report.