GULFPORT — Two City Council incumbents, first elected in 2010 with no opposition, find themselves in challenging races this year.
Voters also must sort through five referendum questions that will affect how the city operates — from synchronizing procedures with state laws to setting rules for selling municipal property and spending large sums of money.
Incumbent David C. Hastings and Dan Liedtke are vying for the Ward 1 council seat.
Incumbent Jennifer Salmon faces James E. Perry for the Ward 3 council seat.
The candidates' top issues include safeguarding city services and quality of life, generating additional revenue, overseeing the transfer of police dispatchers to the Sheriff's Office, and improving the city's waterfront and marina.
Hastings says voters should re-elect him because he can provide expert finance advice in a time of continuing budget shortfalls.
"We have several more years of challenges to maintain the services we have without overtaxing the residents," he said.
He defends the actions he has taken on the council, and says one of the hardest lessons he has learned in the past two years is that he can't please everyone.
"I will continue to make the best decisions possible for the city and Gulfport residents," Hastings said.
Salmon similarly defends her track record and says she has learned the importance of listening to residents on all sides of issues.
Her top priorities are developing Gulfport as a recognized "green" city, ensuring that city employees affected by department cutbacks can find other jobs within the city, and promoting Gulfport as an art community.
"We need to figure out how to Gulfport can to continue to be a full-service community," says Salmon. "We can do this by continuing to focus on reducing recurring costs."
Perry, Salmon's opponent, says he and Liedtke, who is running against Hastings, are "not happy" with how the City Council is running the city.
"I want to make sure the Police Department stays in Gulfport," Perry said. "I want to make sure the city stays safe."
He has called for "no loitering" signs to be posted and ensuring that vacant buildings are maintained.
Perry says he wants to be the "voice of the residents" and will ensure that "young and old are treated fairly."
Liedtke says the council needs to refocus on "matters that will help lead us down a road of long term and sustainable prosperity."
He says that if elected, he will emphasize developing more revenue from the city's assets, including the casino, recreation center and theater, by changing the way they operate.
He would extend mooring stays at the marina, consider allowing live-aboard boats, and reduce new regulations affecting residents and tourists alike.
"There is a lot less liberty in Gulfport than in previous years," Liedtke says. "There is no smoking on the beach, red-light cameras are taking pictures of tourists, we have a special magistrate instead of code issues going to court."
The first three referendum questions on the ballot deal with setting rules, including whether referendum elections or supermajority votes by the council should be required for the sale of properties either vacant or used by the city for parks or other programs.
Currently, the city's charter prohibits the sale of any city-owned property, according to City Manager Jim O'Reilly.
The fourth question allows candidates to appoint poll watchers and challengers at each precinct, as is allowed by state law.
The fifth referendum question would change the charter rules regulating spending large sums on major projects. The change would specify that a referendum vote be required only if property tax money is involved.
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THE JOB: Council members must live in their districts but are elected citywide for two-year terms at an annual salary of $7,200.
• Precinct 210, Trinity Church of the Nazarene, 1000 55th St. S.
• Precinct 211, Most Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, 5800 15th Ave. S.
• Precinct 212, Gulfport Recreation Center, 5730 Shore Blvd. S.
• Precinct 217, Gulfport Recreation Center, 5730 Shore Blvd. S.
• Precinct 218, Gulfport Presbyterian Church, 5313 27th Ave. S.
• Precinct 240, Most Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, 5800 15th Ave. S.
• David C. Hastings, 64, incumbent, has lived in Gulfport since 1999. The Virginia native earned a bachelor's degree in accounting from Virginia Commonwealth University. He is a CPA and operates his own business. Previously, he worked for Peat Marwick Mitchell in Richmond, Va. Hastings was elected to the City Council in 2010 and is running for his second term. Previously, he served on the city's employee pension and planning and zoning committees. He is a senior patient advocate for the Oral Cancer Foundation, president of the Pasadena Yacht and Tennis Club Master Association, and serves on the Boca Ciega High School advisory board for Project Lead the Way. He is married.
• Dan Liedtke, 42, has lived in Gulfport for almost nine years and is a native of South Dakota. He owns DRL Consulting, a business and IT consulting firm primarily working with corporations of more than 4,000 employees. Previously, he worked for the Chief Administrative Office of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the U.S. Department of Defense. He also worked with Hillsborough County, Hillsborough County schools, Fairfax County schools, Denver schools and the AARP. This is his first attempt at public office. He has not served on any city boards or committees, but is a member of the Pasadena Yacht and Tennis Club Master Association, the Kipps Colony Estates Homeowners Association, and the Pasadena Community Church council. He is married.
• James E. Perry, 55, was born and raised in Gulfport, graduated from Boca Ciega High School and attended PTEC. He owns J Perry Cabinets and Finished Carpentry. This is his first attempt at public office and says he is continuing the tradition set by his father and mother, who served on the council in the 1960s and 1990s, respectively. He has not served on city boards or committees. Perry volunteered as a coach and umpire for the Gulfport Little League for 15 years. He is married.
• Jennifer Salmon, 52, incumbent, has lived in Gulfport since 2000, moving here from Tampa. The Pennsylvania native has also lived in Vermont, Massachusetts, Washington and Oregon. She is a graduate of Middlebury College and the University of Washington, earning degrees in American literature and librarianship, and earned a doctorate in aging studies at the University of South Florida. She and her husband, Don, work from home in research and software development. Previously, she was a librarian and researcher in aging studies. Salmon was unopposed in 2010 and is now running for her second term on the council. Previously she served on the city's Senior Citizens Advisory Committee, founded Gulfport Progressives, which helped to pass the city's human rights ordinance, and designed the Keep Gulfport Great budget survey in 2009. She volunteered at Gulfport Elementary School and Gulfport Growing Greener events, conducted Gulfport Communities for a Lifetime focus groups, and is a member of Crime Awareness and the Gulfport Sea Scouts. She is married.