SEMINOLE — Elected officials generally climb the political ladder by starting locally and seeking ever-higher offices.
Former state House member Leslie Waters is poised to do the opposite. Two years after she termed out of office, Waters is about to throw her hat back into the ring — for a seat on the Seminole City Council. Waters picked up an election packet from the city clerk's office Monday.
"I am about 90 percent sure I'm going to complete the paperwork," Waters said Tuesday. "I love Seminole and I hope that my legislative, business and community experience will enhance the good government that is already apparent in (the) city."
Waters' decision to even consider such a run surprised some local political experts, including Seminole Mayor Jimmy Johnson.
"I was a little bit stunned. Just a little bit," Johnson said Tuesday. "I think it would be a unique situation."
Johnson said it's hard to predict how Waters' background might play if she does run and draws opposition.
"She is coming back after being gone, and some people don't accept that. Some people do," he said.
Waters, 61, held the House District 51 seat for four terms, or eight years, before term limits ended her legislative career in 2006. She was replaced by Democrat Janet Long, who had been serving on the Seminole council.
Waters acknowledged that most people seek higher office rather than going the other way. But, she said, seeking local office when she first ran was not an option because she lived in unincorporated Pinellas. Since then, her home has been annexed into the city.
"I like being part of the city," she said.
Waters said she plans to campaign door to door and if elected deliver high-quality and timely city services, low taxes, and frequent and solid communication with residents and businesses.
Since leaving the Legislature, Waters has run her own political consulting business. She considered running again this year for the House District 51 seat when fellow Republican Terry Sanchez abruptly withdrew just weeks before the November election. At the time, Waters said she was more interested in a state Senate seat.
"As of this time, I still have my sights set on returning to the Florida Legislature in 2012," Waters said. The likely target would be the Senate seat now held by Dennis Jones.
But until then, Waters said, a stint on the City Council could benefit both her and Seminole.
"A Senate seat is four years off. ... What better way to learn from the ground up, from the grass-roots up, about local government and the decisions that are made in Tallahassee and how they affect local government," she said. "It'll be a challenge for me to learn local government."
Her experience and contacts, she said, could also help the city protect its interests in Tallahassee and elsewhere.
"It can do nothing but benefit the citizens of Seminole," Waters said.
Johnson said he hopes that if she's elected, she will use her experience and know-how.
"I think she could possibly be a great help," Johnson said.
Waters served in the Legislature from 1998 to 2006, the last year as president pro tem. She was chairman of the House Insurance Committee, of the Transportation and Economic Development Committee, and of several other joint select committees. She served on the Elder Affairs, Colleges and University, Water Resources, Transportation and Appropriations committees.
Seminole has two seats up for grabs in the March 10 election. Tom Barnhorn has announced that he is running for re-election. The other is held by Seminole lawyer Peter Hofstra, who has told city officials he does not plan to run.
Qualifying closes at 4 p.m. Dec. 15. Each candidate must have been a resident and a registered voter in the city for at least one year before qualifying. Candidates must pick up an elections packet from Seminole City Hall and fill out and turn in all documents before the end of qualifying. Candidates have a choice of getting signatures on 40 petition cards and paying a qualifying fee of $15 and a state election fee of $55.62 or paying a $100 qualifying fee and the $55.62 assessment fee.
Seminole has a council-manager form of government. Council members run at large for one of seven seats on the council (six members and the mayor). The election is nonpartisan. Council members serve three-year terms and must attend at least two meetings each month as well as workshops when scheduled.
The council is responsible for setting the budget, hiring the city manager, city clerk and city attorney, and setting policy. Members are paid $5,562 a year.
To get more information or pick up a packet, call Seminole City Clerk Lesley DeMuth at 391-0204, ext. 102, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to City Hall, 9199 113th St. N.
Seminole has about 18,500 residents and an operating budget of about $16.7-million.