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County Commission | Republican primary

The candidates

Seat 1 candidates bring similar backgrounds, contrasting views

Neil Brickfield says he'll never go along to get along.

Jane Gallucci says she is a "bottom line'' woman and has been dubbed "the questioner.''

Both are eager to fill the place of Republican County Commissioner Ronnie Duncan, who decided not to go for another term in Seat 1.

Now Republican voters must choose in Tuesday's primary between Gallucci, a 12-year School Board veteran, and Brickfield, a former Safety Harbor city commissioner who owns a firm that, among other things, helps others get elected to local office.

Both have raised about $40,000 and have served on numerous local boards and committees.

But each claims to have the most valuable experience.

Gallucci, 59, touts her years on the School Board.

"I have overseen a budget of over a billion dollars with 15,000 employees in my career with the school district,'' she wrote in an e-mail to the St. Petersburg Times. "What successful business experience has Neil had? His janitorial business, political consulting business or his lobbying business? His experience on the Safety Harbor Commission was short-lived and dealt with a small town budget and policies.''

Brickfield, 45, said it's too simplistic for his opponent to say she has "all this wonderful experience with large budgets when the documented results of the School Board spending our tax dollars are dreadful."

"My experience is starting and running a small business where I had to compete for customers and directly supervise over 50 employees and subcontractors,'' he said. "My experience as a City Commissioner is overseeing a budget and working on transportation, zoning, public safety and infrastructure. My results are successfully supporting a family of five and reducing tax rates four times.''

Both also differ on whether Brooker Creek Preserve should be pristine conservation land or be used in a pinch as a water source.

Brickfield is on the citizens' advisory committee for the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, an organization that works to protect and restore Tampa Bay.

He said he's against pumping water out of Brooker Creek Preserve, saying, "I think a preserve should be just that.''

He said part of the problem is that "the county doesn't have a definition of preserve'' and supports a charter amendment that would protect the land.

Gallucci wants to keep the water option open, but she says if the preserve is tapped, it should be done carefully.'

"I don't think anything should be done to harm the preserve,'' she said. "But we (may) need water. The wells are there only if we need them.''

Gallucci was pursued by the Friends of Brooker Creek, a group that raises money, coordinates volunteers and offers education programs to ensure that the preserve remains a natural wilderness.

She joined its board almost four years ago. But she doesn't attend meetings.

"It's nice to have powerful people on the board,'' said Barbara Hoffman, vice chairwoman of the Friends of Brooker Creek Preserve. "People listen to them. They have connections. They know how government works.''

She said the Friends knew Gallucci's time was committed to the School Board, so they didn't mind that she attended only a few meetings in the beginning and is now kept informed of the group's activities mostly via e-mail.

The Friends used Gallucci's powerful voice when ballfields were slated to be built on the preserve. They thought an alternative site could be a piece of land the School Board owns at East Lake Road and Keystone Road and called on Gallucci for help.

"She said, 'Let me call (County Commissioner) Susan (Latvala),' '' Hoffman said. "One phone call from our board, and it was happening. We were very, very happy about that.''

Both candidates have owned small businesses for years.

Brickfield owned a company called Black Tie Janitorial Services that he sold in November 2005 because he said he wanted to explore other opportunities.

One of them was to start Brickfield & Associates, a consulting firm that advises clients on government issues and campaigns.

Gallucci and her husband own Xerocost Copier Center.

When it comes to goals, the two candidates' lists look similar.

Brickfield's include consolidating government to cut costs, solving traffic issues, working toward treatment rather than jail for the mentally ill, pushing a countywide effort to solve the affordable housing crisis and ensuring public safety.

Gallucci also wants to tackle affordable housing and road congestion. She wants to begin working on the budget immediately "and make those tough decisions, cutting millions out of the budget.'' Although she believes luring businesses to the county is an investment in the community, she said "we've got to produce our own economic development.''

Eileen Schulte can be reached at schulte@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

Seat 1 candidates bring similar backgrounds, contrasting views 08/23/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 25, 2008 2:51pm]
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