As beach communities gear up for the March 10 elections, the driving concern will be how to balance city budgets without sacrificing core services amid declining property values and tax income.
Candidate slates are complete in Gulfport and Treasure Island, where multiple candidates are running against incumbents or for open seats in the former, while candidates are unopposed in the latter. Candidate qualifying is still open in St. Pete Beach, Madeira Beach and Indian Rocks Beach.
In seven other beach communities, no elections will be held this spring because sitting officials are unopposed.
But there will definitely be an election in Gulfport, where seven candidates will vie for two commission seats.
Ward 2 incumbent Michele King is opposed by Jim Greenwald and Chrisan Herrod, while Ward 4 incumbent Mary Stull is opposed by Pam Prell, Courtland Yarborough and Sam Henderson.
One issue for the next Gulfport commission will be selecting a new city manager to replace Tom Brobeil, who resigned recently because of health concerns. The current commission is seeking the help of an outside recruitment firm in the search for a city manger.
The next Gulfport commission also will face finalizing development rules for the city's overlay waterfront district.
Treasure Island, so far alone among the larger cities, will not have an election. Qualifying for candidates ended Friday at noon.
Commissioner Robert Minning (District 3) will move up to become the city's new mayor. Current Mayor Mary Maloof opted not to run for re-election.
Minning's seat on the commission will be filled by candidate Carol Coward, whose husband, Chuck, served as the city's city manager from 1997 to 2004. District 1 Commissioner Phil Collins was unopposed for re-election.
The mayor serves a three-year term and is paid $7,800 annually, while commissioners serve two-year terms with a salary of $5,400.
Madeira Beach is one of the few beach communities that is in relatively good financial shape with a strong reserve fund. Unlike previous years, 2008 was markedly free of intense political battles.
The city's candidate qualifying period ends at 4 p.m. this Friday. Two commission seats are up for election this year. Candidates must qualify by district, but are elected at large. Commissioners serve two-year terms at a monthly salary of $400.
So far, Commissioner Nancy Oakley (District 3) and Vice Mayor Steve Kochick (District 4) are unopposed for re-election.
In St. Pete Beach, warring factions are certain to renew their battles over differing views on how redevelopment regulations will affect the city's future.
Seats held by Linda Chaney (District 2) and Harry Metz (District 4) are up for election this year. Commission candidates are elected by district to serve two-year terms at a monthly salary of $400. Candidates have until Wednesday to turn in qualifying papers to the city clerk.
Chaney is running for re-election, but Metz is not. Both are allied with Citizens for Responsible Growth, a political action group that opposes the development-related referendum that passed last spring and was sponsored by a rival political action group, Save Our Little Village.
The qualifying period for commission candidates in Indian Rocks Beach begins Monday and ends Friday. Commissioners are elected at large, with the highest vote-getting candidates winning the available seats. Commissioners serve two-year terms at a monthly salary of $323.23.
Two seats are open this year. Incumbent Terry Hamilton Wollin has indicated she plans to run for re-election. Incumbent Bert Valery said Friday he does not plan to run.
Indian Rocks Beach voters will be asked to change their charter, removing the city treasurer position from being responsible only to the commission to reporting directly to the city manager.
Here is the election rundown for the rest of the beach communities:
Redington Beach: Mayor Nick Simons and Commissioners Fred Steiermann and Mark Deighton will automatically be re-elected to two-year terms. Voters will be asked, however, to decide how much their elected officials will be paid. Under the town's existing charter, the mayor is paid $100 a month and commissioners earn $50 a month. If the referendum is approved, those monthly salaries would increase to $500 and $300, respectively.
North Redington Beach: Mayor Bill Queen and Commissioners Richard Bennett (Seat 1) and Gary Curtis (Seat 2) will be automatically re-elected to two-year terms at monthly salaries of $500 and $300, respectively.
Redington Shores: Mayor Jody Armstrong did not run for re-election; the post will be filled by Bert Adams, who is the District 1 commissioner and vice mayor. Adams' seat, which was not up for election this cycle, will be filled by appointment after the March election.
District 2 Commissioner John Branch was not opposed and will automatically be re-elected. District 4 incumbent Bob Holthaus did not run for re-election, and will be replaced by qualifying candidate Lee Holmes, a former commissioner who had no opposition for the seat.
The mayor serves a three-year term, while commissioners serve two-year terms at respective monthly salaries of $800 and $650.
Indian Shores: Mayor Jim Lawrence, who was unopposed, will be automatically elected to a three-year term at a monthly salary of $900.
Belleair Beach: Mayor Lynn Rives and council members Rob Baldwin, Kathleen Mortensen and Stan Sofer will be automatically elected to new two-year terms. All were unopposed. Elected officials in Belleair Beach are unpaid.
Belleair Shore: Unopposed Mayor John Robertson and Commissioner John E. Hayes Jr. will be automatically elected to new two-year terms. The positions receive no salary.
South Pasadena: Unopposed Commissioners Bruce Howry and Larry Crowley will be automatically elected to new three-year terms at a monthly salary of $511.34.