Sunday, January 21, 2018
Politics

Voters pick incumbents in Zephyrhills, newcomers in New Port Richey

Pasco voters kept two familiar faces on the Zephyrhills City Council and picked two new ones for the New Port Richey council — though one of those seats hinged on just a handful of votes.

Zephyr­hills City Council members Kent Compton and Lance Smith sailed to re-election on Tuesday, each garnering about two-thirds of the vote.

Meanwhile, insurance agent Jeff Starkey won a New Port Richey council seat, clinching 21 percent of the vote in a seven-person race. Starkey, who pledged during the campaign to combat prescription pill abuse and blight on U.S. 19, said Tuesday his first order of business will be to push for a nuisance property ordinance to deal with problem motels on the thoroughfare.

"I think that's going to be a great way to start cleaning the area up," said Starkey, 38, owner of Great Florida Insurance (and no relation to the Starkey family known for development, parks and politics in Pasco). "That's the first thing I would like to see me being a part of on council. I just think it's really going to help our city."

The second open seat in New Port Richey remained too close to call, though. Just nine votes separated Chopper Davis, a 65-year-old sales associate for a financial transaction service, from Rose Mohr, the 65-year-old owner of the Market Off Main. After the initial tally, Davis had 295 votes and Mohr had 286 — a margin so close that elections officials began a recount Tuesday night.

Either way, the outcome will mean two newcomers to the New Port Richey council.

Incumbent Bob Langford, 70, who finished fourth with about 13 percent of the vote, failed to secure another term Tuesday. Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe, 59, decided not to run again.

The Zephyrhills races were all decided by strong margins.

Compton, 48, the council president who works as an assistant state attorney, took 64 percent of the vote for Seat 3, handily defeating Rose's Cafe owner Rose Hale, 45. Smith, 50, the council vice president who works as a self-employed licensed contractor and real estate broker, received 68 percent of the vote for Seat 1 over challenger Manny Funes, 68, a Realtor and retired law enforcement officer who previously served on the council.

"I am truly humbled by all of the support I got, a lot of it unsolicited," Smith said. "It was a total team effort. I'm looking forward to continuing to work with the council."

Zephyrhills voters also overwhelmingly passed measures to extend council and mayoral terms from two years to three, and to allow the vice president to preside over a meeting when the president is gone.

Also on Tuesday, voters in the east Pasco town of St. Leo picked two new city commissioners. James Wells won Seat 2 with 70 percent of the vote, outpacing Gregory Smith and Sean VanGuilder. Robert L. Inslee won Seat 4 with nearly 68 percent of the vote over Bill Hamilton.

Wells and Inslee are both residents of Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club, a neighborhood that has made several attempts over the years to remove itself from St. Leo and the tiny town's tax rolls.

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