Well established in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County, incumbent Ken Welch is being challenged by a Republican making his first foray into politics. William "Buck" Walz says he decided to try to unseat Welch, who has been in office since 2000, after his customers at Carroll's Building Materials urged him to enter the race.
|Ken Welch, 47County commissioner||William "Buck" Walz, 33Company operations manager|
|Elected to the commission in 2000, Welch has been twice re-elected. From 1987 to 2001, he was a senior accountant for the Florida Power Corp. (now Progress Energy) and an assistant vice president of St. Petersburg College. He sits on the board of the Florida Association of Counties, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and the Pinellas Homeless Leadership Board, among others. Considered a likely St. Petersburg mayoral candidate in 2010, he decided not to run, citing unfinished business on the commission.||Experience||Walz is the operations manager for Carroll's Building Materials, a supply company in St. Petersburg. He saw the business through the housing crisis, when it suffered from declining revenue and had to lay off some employees, he says. To keep the business afloat, Walz says that he contributed some of his own money. His previous work history includes several years with the Florida Fun Factory and the Concrete Steel and Glass Co. He volunteers with Northwest Youth Baseball and Softball.|
|Bachelor's in accounting, University of South Florida St. Petersburg; MBA, Florida A&M University||Education||Bachelor's in English and geography, Jacksonville University|
|"Pinellas County has 10 major funds that comprise the budget, three of which are forecast to have a deficit over the 10-year forecast. The solution will require a combination of continued efficiencies, service prioritization, consolidation, and stabilization of our revenue base, including millage increases. Service and staffing cuts over the last few years have resulted in the lowest number of county employees since 1985. Simply cutting more staff and services is not the long-term solution."||How do you propose to balance the county's budget in the coming years?||"Our small businesses have been hit the hardest in the past few years. We need to provide an environment that allows small business to flourish. The majority of America is employed by small-|
business owners. Let's give them the tools they need to be successful which will, in turn, make us a strong community."
|"Yes. The sales tax should be put to a referendum so that the citizens of our community can determine our transportation future. Pinellas County must modernize our transit system. Our buses need to run more frequently and with more express routes. The light rail project would create more than 2,000 jobs over 30 years, provide a congestion-proof transit system, support smart growth management, and bring $4.2 billion in new revenue to the county."||Do you support a referendum for a 1-cent sales tax increase for transit improvements, including light rail?||Yes. "We need to restructure our public transportation system. There are a lot of people who depend on our buses every day. We need a more efficient, more self-sustaining system. We will probably never have a system that is funded solely by ridership fees, but we must require the system to maintain a budget and learn to live within it. Our routes and bus stops need to be more accessible. We need to get into our neighborhoods and pick up our elderly."|
|"The county should review and implement a hybrid fire department-based transport system for emergency transport, which better utilizes our firefighter-paramedics who are trained and equipped to provide that service. A pilot project in St. Petersburg alone would have saved over $3.5 million this year. We also need to stabilize pension and benefits costs, and adjust the EMS millage."||How should the county handle the increasing costs for emergency medical services?||"Our firefighters and paramedics are ready to transport. Our equipment and people are outfitted and WANT to transport patients themselves. There are areas that may need a hybrid system in which our firefighters and paramedics work together with an outsourced company for transport. Ultimately, we need to find a way to do three things: 1) give the people of Pinellas County the service they deserve; 2) do what is fiscally sound; 3) render services that keep us out of court."|
|"No, I was one of three county commissioners who voted to maintain the fluoridation program, based on recommendations from county staff, as well as local, state and national medical professionals and scientists. I strongly support fluoridation of our potable water supply."||Do you support the commission's decision to stop adding fluoride to the drinking water?||Yes. "First, I think we have to understand why our elected officials fund a program to put fluoride in our water. There is a specific segment of our population in Pinellas County who does not receive regular dental care. Getting them fluoride is of the utmost importance. That said, is putting fluoride in everyone's water the best way to do that? I believe we need to find a way to get those people the fluoride they need without putting fluoride in everyone's water."|
|Mortgage, car loan||Liabilities||Car loan|
|County commissioner salary||Income||Salary from management job|
|The son of a former St. Petersburg City Council member, Welch grew up in the city and still lives there. He is married and has two daughters.||Personal||Walz grew up in St. Petersburg and graduated from Dixie Hollins High School. He lives in Sheryl Manor with his fiancee and son.|