Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Politics

Candidates line up for city elections in Pasco

Two incumbents in Port Richey and Dade City will face challenges in the April 8 city elections, while in New Port Richey two former colleagues on the City Council will face off for the mayor's seat.

Port Richey Mayor Eloise Taylor, 71, won a special election in 2012 and is seeking her first full term. She previously served as mayor from 2000 to 2005.

Her opponent will be political newcomer Kathy Todd, a Navy reservist, who said she is running to challenge recent water rate spikes enacted by the City Council, as well as concern over crime she believes is on the rise in the city.

The council recently approved a water rate hike that has brought outcry from some residents, mostly over irrigation bills. Taylor, who could not be reached for comment, has said in recent weeks she would be open to looking again at the new rates.

Todd, 47, said she is concerned over the impact the increased rates will have on seniors.

"Our water rates are too high, and our water quality is terrible," she said. "I just feel the people deserve better."

In Dade City, longtime Commissioner Scott Black is being challenged by Angelica Herrera, whose financial statement said she is a center manager for Catholic Charities. Neither candidate could be reached for comment, but Black, 49, recently grabbed headlines when he opposed holding an unadvertised vote during a commission workshop that split the position of longtime city clerk/finance director Jim Class, who later resigned.

Also in Dade City, Mayor Camille Hernandez won a third term unopposed as qualifying ended Tuesday at noon.

In New Port Richey, two familiar faces will be running to replace outgoing Mayor Bob Consalvo, who decided not to run for a second term. Former Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe will face off against former City Council member Bob Langford.

Marlowe, 59, served three terms on City Council before opting not to run for his seat again last year in order to spend time with his family and concentrate on his downtown business. But he said he is excited to serve the city again to continue economic redevelopment. Langford could not be reached for comment.

"I think I would be a stronger mayor, but I believe both of us have the city's best interest at heart," Marlowe said upon learning Tuesday he would be campaigning against his former colleague.

Langford, 71, who served nine years on council, said he decided to run when he saw the seat was going to be won unopposed. He too said, if elected, his main focus will be continued economic redevelopment.

"I just feel like people should have a choice," he said.

In Zephyrhills, a retired educator will try to unseat incumbent Jodi Wilkeson, and two other candidates will go in unopposed.

Alan Knight qualified to seek Seat 2. Knight, 68, a part-time tour guide at Cracker Country, is a former coach and principal at Zephyrhills High School. He served more than 30 years in the Pasco County School District and also was principal at Schwettman and Irvin education centers. Most recently, Knight has served as chairman of the city's parks and recreation board, which persuaded the council to buy the Hercules Aquatic Center from the school district.

Wilkeson, 55, began her first term in 2008 and ran unopposed in 2010 and 2012. She is president and founder of WDA Design Group Inc., a Tampa architecture and interior design firm. She also qualified to seek another term.

Gene Whitfield, who with his wife owns and operates Whitfield Funeral Home and Cremation Services, will go in unopposed as mayor. Incumbent council member Kenneth Burgess also did not draw an opponent for Seat 4 and will begin another term.

In St. Leo, an incumbent on the Town Commission also has an opponent. Sister Donna DeWitt, who has served on the commission since 1996, was challenged by Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club resident Ray Davis.

The race may have an impact on continued efforts by Lake Jovita residents to de-annex from the town. Davis, 77, said residents in the subdivision — where most homes lie in unincorporated Pasco County — are underrepresented and paying the majority of taxes in the town without obtaining services in return. He refused comment on the de-annexation issue.

DeWitt said she is running again because she loves the city and sees a great future even if Lake Jovita residents leave. She voted in recent weeks to approve sending a bill to Tallahassee, which, if approved by the legislature, would allow Lake Jovita to de-annex.

"I voted for it because I didn't want them to take the step they were discussing which was dissolution of the town," DeWitt said Tuesday. "I believe in the town. I believe in preserving the town, so that's why I'm running.

Also Tuesday, incumbent St. Leo Commissioner James Hallet and former Commissioner Richard Christmas won seats unopposed.

In neighboring San Antonio, three candidates also won unopposed: current Commissioner Elayne Bassinger, retired businessman Dennis Berberich, and Anne Kibbe, a professional development director at Saint Leo University and local artist.

Times staff writer Lisa Buie contributed to this report.

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