TARPON SPRINGS — Four first-time candidates and one incumbent are running for two seats on the City Commission.
The election will be March 8.
Newcomers Crissy Cladakis and Townsend Tarapani will vie for Seat 1, which is being vacated by Commissioner Robin Saenger due to term limits.
In the Seat 2 race, incumbent Susan Slattery faces two challengers: Jeffrey D. Antous and Timothy Keffalas.
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Cladakis, 38, and Tarapani, 25, each believe they will bring a fresh perspective to the commission.
"I love this town, I love this community and everything about it," Cladakis said. "We need a new generation to represent the city and I'm one of those."
Cladakis has served as a Planning and Zoning Board member for about a year.
A resident of Tarpon Springs since age 1, Cladakis owns and is the lone employee of Angel Scoping and Proofreading Service. The company transcribes court transcripts and proofreads other documents. She also is a part-time retail associate at the women's apparel store Cache at International Plaza in Tampa.
Cladakis has a bachelor's degree in marketing from the University of South Florida and a court reporting certificate from Sarasota County Technical Institute.
Cladakis said she will focus on more development, making sure the roads are improved, residents' safety and environmental issues.
"I bring more to the table," Cladakis said. "I have more experience and have been in the town longer. I know the ins and outs of the town better than Townsend does. I believe he just got out of college."
Tarapani, a licensed Florida Realtor, sees his position as a strength.
"Being two years out of college and educated with a fresh perspective and theory is nothing but a plus," said Tarapani, who graduated from Auburn University in 2008 with a business and economics degree. "It's good to have someone on the commission with a strong business and economic sense and I stand on my experience."
For the last two budget cycles, Tarapani has chaired the city's Budget Advisory Committee.
"That has given me a strong understanding of the financial aspect of the city and how revenue is generated and expenses are paid," he said.
If elected, Tarapani said he will look for ways to ensure that Tarpon remains competitive business-wise with other surrounding communities when it comes to attracting new residents, businesses and industry.
"Tarpon Springs is blessed with rich natural resources," he said, "and it is important for us as a community to enhance and better utilize those resources."
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Slattery, 46, is seeking a second three-year term.
"All I can do is run the best campaign I can and basically it's in the voters hands," Slattery said. "Hopefully, they believed in me in the last three years and they will continue to believe in me."
If re-elected, Slattery said she will continue working on making Tarpon a green city and working to preserve the city's heritage, uniqueness and character. In addition, she said she will push to have a new boat launch near the city's Live Oak Dog Park, something that she said was planned eight years ago.
The city's other boat launch at Craig Park is often crowded and clogs the streets, said Slattery, a Tarpon Springs insurance agent.
"It makes sense," Slattery said. "There is a ton of parking available and it could be a revenue generator with boaters going up and down, past the Sponge Docks to go out and come back."
But Keffalas, 56, said putting a boat launch in the "very environmentally sensitive area shouldn't be a discussion." He also questioned Slattery's efforts to keep a Walmart out of the city. She was a founding member of Friends of the Anclote, the group that opposed the proposed Walmart Supercenter on the Anclote River
"I don't think it is wise for any city commissioner to try and discourage any business to legally come here," Keffalas said.
Keffalas, who has lived in Tarpon Springs for 30 years, also wants to have a discussion about the property that Walmart owns on the Anclote River. The former executive director of the Tarpon Springs Housing Authority, Keffalas said he has a lot of experience that will help with city's growth and direction.
"I want my voice to be heard," said Keffalas, who owns a small business that deals in automobile accessories and artistic photographic products.
Antous, 58, said after working on several political campaigns during the last election cycle, he realized that he had the ability to help people.
"With today's economy and the way it's going, people have enough things to deal with in their lives," Antous said. "I will give some time to individual citizens and try to help them solve small problems. I will bring in small groups and ask 'What problems are they having in the city and what I can do within my reach to help?' "
Antous has lived in Tarpon Springs for 14 years and owns Angel Haven, a gift shop, on Madeira Beach. The store opened in 1999 and for the first two years it was at the Sponge Docks.
"With my business background and having been on the Sponge Docks, I understand how difficult it is for small business owners to make it through the day just to make payroll," Antous said. "We can make it easier to fill some of these empty stores on the docks and in downtown."
Tarpon Springs commissioners can serve only two three-year terms. The job pays $8,000 a year plus some health and life insurance benefits.
Contact Demorris A. Lee at email@example.com or (727) 445-4174.