Building economy, improving parks are major issues in Zephyrhills election
ZEPHYRHILLS — The four candidates for two open seats on the City Council agree that economic development — more businesses bringing more jobs — should be a chief concern to city leaders.
Improvements to city parks and recreational opportunities for all ages also have their attention.
Incumbents Kent Compton and Lance Smith face challengers Rose Hale and Manny Funes, respectively, in the April 9 election. Charlie Proctor retains his seat automatically since no one filed to run against him. Danny Burgess also has no challengers in his bid to be the new mayor.
Voters will also be asked to decide if they want the terms of council members and the mayor to be extended from two years to three so the terms can be staggered to avoid the possibility of losing a majority of members in one election.
Hale, a downtown business owner and political newcomer, sees a position on the city council as an opportunity to "be part of the solution." She believes the council needs to be more proactive in preparing for future growth. Compton, who currently serves as council president and interim mayor, touts the city's low tax rate and high level of service — as evidenced by consistently high marks on annual citizen satisfaction surveys — as some of the accomplishments he's played a part in.
He also wants to see the city continue efforts to attract new businesses and support existing ones through partnerships with the chamber of commerce and the Pasco Economic Development Council.
Smith, the council's vice president, and Funes, a former councilman, agree on some major issues — namely, working with the county to improve County Road 54 and improvements to parks. Funes believes more lighting in Zephyr Park will help address the city's drug problem; Smith advocated adding another police officer position in the current budget to assist with the same issue.
But their race hasn't been entirely harmonious. Funes recently accused Smith of fraud in dealings with the city several years ago when Smith's company won a bid to build a spec building as part of an effort to bring new business to the city. When the economy soured, the project was stopped, although Smith's company was paid for its work. Smith, who was not on the council at the time, denies Funes' allegations, which prompted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to start an investigation more than a year ago. It's still open.
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Background: Elected in 2006, he serves as council president and interim mayor. A 20-year city resident, he is an assistant state attorney in Dade City. He has served on the board of directors for the Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce and the Daybreak Rotary Club, worked on the city's economic development and charter revision committees, and is a member of the Municipal Association of Pasco County. He is a graduate of Leadership Pasco.
Top issues facing the city: Pursuing economic development opportunities; keeping taxes low and service levels high; improving and maintaining quality parks and recreation facilities, developing a park in the north end of the city, along with bicycle and running trails through the city and surrounding areas.
Background: Lifetime resident of Zephyrhills and small business owner, works as a self-employed licensed contractor and real estate broker. His current stint on the council began in 2009; he previously served in the 1990s. He is the vice chairman of the Pasco County MPO, incoming president of the Rotary Club of Zephyrhills and serves on the Florida Hospital Foundation Board and the school advisory committee for Woodland Elementary. He has previously served on the city and county planning commissions and as past presidents of the Kiwanis Club, East Pasco YMCA and Main Street Zephyrhills.
Top issues facing the city: Filling department head vacancies in the fire and public works departments; improve city parks, create partnerships with the school district and state and county governments; continue economic development efforts in conjunction with the chamber of commerce, Main Street and Pasco Economic Development Council; continue pursuit of improvements to County Road 54 and U.S. 301, adding sidewalks and trails alongside local roads and connect existing trail segments to local parks.
Background: An 18-month resident of the city, she owns Rose's Café in downtown Zephyrhills and has previously worked in other retail management positions. She is active in Main Street Zephyrhills, the Chamber of Commerce, The Women's Club of Zephyrhills and the Sunrise Domestic Violence shelter.
Top issues facing the city: Improving schools and recreation facilities to entice new businesses and families to locate in Zephyrhills; job creation and economic development, to include incentives to help local businesses prosper.
Background: Realtor with Prudential Tropical Realty; retired law enforcement, U.S. Air Force veteran and former teacher. A 30-year resident of the area, the last seven in the city; served on the council from November 2008 to April 2011. Active in numerous community and civic organizations including the Miss Zephyrhills Pageant, the Neighborhood Care Center and Letter Carrier's Food Drive, the Samaritan Project, Meals on Wheels, and the Pregnant Care Center, along with leadership roles in the Rotary Club of Zephyrhills Daybreak and the East Pasco Association of Realtors.
Top issues facing the city: Keeping taxes low while still providing professional service; installing more lights in Zephyr Park to deter drug dealers and create a more family-friendly atmosphere; work with the county to widen County Road 54; explore leasing Hercules Park; encourage a working relationship between the city, the chamber of commerce and the East Pasco Association of Realtors to address the issue of vacant buildings in the city.
• Election day is Tuesday.
• Four candidates are running in Zephyrhills, two incumbents and two challengers.
• Voters will also be asked to decide if they want the terms of council members and the mayor to be extended.