TEMPLE TERRACE — By a narrow margin, residents on Tuesday voted out the City Council member who most visibly supported the developer of the stalled downtown project.
Mary Jane Neale said her support of Vlass Temple Terrace probably cost her re-election to a second four-year term to Eddie Vance, 46, regional vice president of Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union. Vance and community activist Grant Rimbey each had more votes than Neale in the race for two spots on the five-member council. Neale received 4,590 votes to Vance's 4,942. Rimbey drew 5,394 votes.
"I gave them a good fight, and I'm proud of what I did,'' Neale, 75, said. "Temple Terrace can't lose. They're all good guys."
Residents also elected former two-term City Council member Frank Chillura as mayor. Chillura, 44, who owns MC Management, a property management firm, defeated civic activist Cheri Donohue, former executive director of the Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce. He received 5,839 votes to Donohue's 5,028. Chillura replaces Joe Affronti, who finishes his second and final term as mayor.
"I'm very humbled,'' Chillura said.
The mayor acts as the voice of Temple Terrace, representing the city at events and conducting council meetings. But the mayor can vote only to break a tie.
"The fun part's over; now the real work begins,'' said Rimbey, 49, project manager for Elements Architects.
Rimbey, Vance and Chillura all say they want to work with Vlass to complete the $160 million Downtown Temple Terrace project, an office, retail, residential and cultural complex on the east side of 56th Street from Bullard Parkway to the Hillsborough River.
Chillura said that now that the election is over and the same people will be in place for the next couple of years, "Now we can get in gear.''
The newly elected officials have said they want the residential buildings on the north section of the project to closely conform to the vision the city incorporated into the 2009 contract. Vlass has said such a plan — buildings with residences above stores — will be hard to make succeed, especially since the developer has had trouble drawing high-quality retailers.
"Everyone wants to see us move forward but move forward in the right direction,'' Vance said.
During their campaigns, the new mayor and council members also stressed the need to improve schools in the community in order to attract permanent residents to a city where the renter population is estimated at 47 percent.
The Hillsborough County School Board makes those decisions, of course, but the new city representatives say a fervent lobbying effort may help make changes. A main complaint among Temple Terrace parents is that many of their children are bused to schools outside the city instead of attending schools in their own community.
Philip Morgan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3435.