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Intrigue, upsets and rejection in Pinellas city elections: Dunedin, Kenneth City, Gulfport, Oldsmar, Safety Harbor, Belleair, Belleair Bluffs, Indian Rocks Beach, Seminole, Redington Beach

Teresa Zemaitis learns via a phone call that she has been elected mayor of Kenneth City. She awaited elections results Ron Sneed, center, and her husband, Lenny.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

Teresa Zemaitis learns via a phone call that she has been elected mayor of Kenneth City. She awaited elections results Ron Sneed, center, and her husband, Lenny.

Teresa Zemaitis romped to a landslide victory at the polls.

Now the Kenneth City mayor-elect has to persuade a judge to let her take office.

The race for Kenneth City mayor — which is mired in controversy because of charter language that some think prevent Zemaitis from taking office — was one of the most closely watched of several municipal elections Tuesday.

In some of the other races, East Lake Woodlands residents soundly rejected annexation by the city of Oldsmar; Redington Beach voters again rejected pay raises for elected officials; and Dunedin voters came out in droves to vote in a competitive mayoral race.

But nowhere was the intrigue as high as Kenneth City.

Town officials have ruled that Zemaitis, a teacher at Dixie Hollins High School, is unqualified because she is a public employee. An obscure clause in the town charter forbids any public employee from serving as mayor.

Judge Horace Andrews will hear arguments at 1 p.m. today at the St. Petersburg courthouse. The arguments will revolve around two issues: Is Zemaitis a public employee as contemplated by the charter and, if so, is the charter constitutional?

The charter may not be clear on whether Zemaitis, 40, can be mayor, but voters were: They gave her 70.5 percent of the vote.

Incumbent Muriel Whitman, 83, polled 29.6 percent.

Kenneth City voters were just as clear about change in the council: Incumbent Harold Jividen trailed with 19.3 percent while former council member Ron Sneed came in with 41.3 percent and first-time candidate Allen Schopp got 39.4 percent.

Sneed and Schopp will take the two open council seats.

East Lake Woodlands voters, in the county's first mail-only ballot, gave a blistering thumbs- down to the idea of annexing into the city of Oldsmar, with 91.72 percent voting against it.

In other races:

Belleair: Incumbents Stephen R. Fowler and Stephanie Oddo were re-elected with 40.9 percent and 45.1 percent of the vote, respectively. Brad Ackerman trailed with 14 percent.

Belleair Bluffs: Incumbent Mayor Chris Arbutine Sr. was re-elected with 57.7 percent. Challenger David M. Shimkus polled 42.3 percent. Incumbent Robert P. Russo, who polled 22.9 percent, lost his seat. Challengers John "Jack" Nazario with 37.8 percent and Suzy Sofer with 39.3 percent won two-year council seats. Joe Barkley won a one-year term with 49.9 percent.

Dunedin: City Commissioner Dave Eggers beat fellow Commissioner Deborah Kynes in a hotly contested mayor's race as 6,990 voters turned out, up 75 percent from last year's election. Eggers received 51.1 percent to beat Kynes, who finished with 48.9 percent. In an even closer race, Ron Barnette beat Tony Scruton to win Seat 2 with 50.4 percent of the vote. His opponent, Scruton, got 49.6 percent. In the other races, City Commissioner Julie Scales retained Seat 1 with 68.5 percent over Michael Quill, and David Carson won Seat 3 with 59.2 percent over John Tornga.

Gulfport: Voters appear to have kept one incumbent, Michele King, but opted for newcomer Samuel Henderson to replace incumbent Mary Stull. King beat her Ward 2 opponent Jim Greenwald with about 66 percent. Henderson won about 40 percent of the vote in Ward 4 against his closest challenger, Courtland Yarborough.

Indian Rocks Beach: Voters approved a referendum placing the city treasurer under the supervision of the city manager, with just over 52 percent approving the charter change. Incumbent Terry Hamilton-Wollin was returned to office, while newcomer Phil J. Hanna, who was the highest vote-getter (37.9 percent), will replace retiring Bert Valery on the City Commission. Hamilton-Wollin beat the third-place candidate, Don House Jr., by 47 votes.

Oldsmar: Doug Bevis beat Sara Normandeau, 622 votes to 463, to win Seat 3 on the City Council. Oldsmar voters also approved, by an 871-191 vote, an amendment to the city charter to appoint a charter review committee at least every five years.

Redington Beach: For the third time since the mid 1990s, voters refused to give their elected officials a raise. The referendum was decided by 56 percent margin, though that turned out to be just 37 votes. Only 319 people turned out from a pool of 1,215 voters. The town's mayor and commissioners will continue to be paid $100 and $50 a month, respectively — a salary unchanged for the past 32 years.

Safety Harbor: Incumbents Joe Ayoub and Mary Lynda Williams and newcomer Nancy Besore trounced their opponents and were rewarded with terms on the City Commission. Ayoub got 1,347 votes to win Seat 1 over Robin Fornino and Karen Skiff. Williams retained Seat 2, beating Barbara Ewert, 1,461-822. Nancy Besore won Seat 3 over Glen Caristinos.

Seminole: This city's council will have two new faces in an upset election that saw incumbent Tom Barnhorn defeated. Third-time candidate Patricia Plantamura came in first with 29.9 percent. She was followed by former state Rep. Leslie Waters with 29 percent. Barnhorn was next with 26.5 percent and James Quinn trailed the field with 14.6 percent. Plantamura and Waters will take the two open council seats.

Intrigue, upsets and rejection in Pinellas city elections: Dunedin, Kenneth City, Gulfport, Oldsmar, Safety Harbor, Belleair, Belleair Bluffs, Indian Rocks Beach, Seminole, Redington Beach 03/10/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 12, 2009 8:57am]
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