Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Open Pinellas commission seat drawing much interest

Just one day after Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala announced she would not seek re-election, the crowd of candidates — and potential candidates — that has emerged to succeed her has grown to include nearly a dozen people.

Latvala's District 4 seat, which she has represented since 2000, covers most of North Pinellas, folding into its boundaries Dunedin, Safety Harbor, Oldsmar, Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor and East Lake. The district is heavily Republican ­— by the end of last year, registered Republicans outnumbered Democrats by nearly 18,000.

Six people had announced their intentions to run, including: Republicans Scott Fisher, Timothy Keffalas and Wanda Kimsey; Democrat Jack McAdoo; and two people running with no party affiliation, Marcus Harrison and Dusty Showers.

But on Wednesday, several more people said they were seriously considering a bid. The group includes a Palm Harbor dentist, a former Republican county commissioner, a young Republican lawyer and a former Democratic mayor of Dunedin.

Only one is certain that he plans to run.

That would be Johnny Johnson, 57, a Palm Harbor resident and retired pediatric dentist who led the fight in 2012 to restore fluoridation in Pinellas County. A narrow majority of commissioners voted in 2011 to stop adding fluoride to the county's drinking water, a decision that shocked Johnson and turned him into an activist. A Republican, he has never run for office before.

He announced his intentions to seek the District 4 seat on Wednesday night at a meeting of a group of local dentists where he was introduced by Commissioner Latvala.

"I want to be a part of this new county commission that's working together so well," Johnson said, adding that the 2012 election had "restored my faith in the political process."

Neil Brickfield, 50, who sat on the opposite side of the fluoride debate, is also contemplating a run.

"I'm definitely thinking about it," said Brickfield who was elected to a countywide commission seat in 2008. Four years later, he became one of two Republicans to lose re-election, an unusual turn of events in a county that typically rewards incumbents. At the time, Brickfield said he believed his opposition to fluoride cost him the election.

"I acknowledged on election night that that was a bad decision and the voters punished me for it and I think the voters and I are even-steven," he said on Wednesday. He is now working as the director of the Pinellas County Police Athletic League.

Another former elected official, Bob Hackworth, 58, said he is giving the idea of running some thought.

A Democrat and a former mayor of Dunedin, Hackworth ran for Latvala's commission seat in 2010 and lost. But the family publishing executive said that he is still drawn to the idea of public service. "The opportunity to represent that district is something I'm interested in," he said.

The son of former Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst is also thinking of making a bid. Brian Aungst Jr., 29, is a lawyer with the firm Macfarlane Ferguson & McMullen in Clearwater, where he lives. He is the legal counsel for the Pinellas Republican Party and was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the Juvenile Welfare Board.

"When I initially heard that Commissioner Latvala was deciding on whether she would like to run for re-election, I began thinking about this seat," Aungst said. "It's appealing to me because it's personal to me, it's where I grew up; it's where I live; it's where my 1-year-old daughter is being raised.

Aungst said he's given himself until Valentine's Day to make a decision. For everyone else, the official deadline is June 20.

Anna M. Phillips can be reached at [email protected].

Open Pinellas commission seat drawing much interest 01/29/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 11:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning approaches decision time for Mikhail Sergachev

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mikhail Sergachev had dinner with his host family from juniors Monday.

    The Lightning has to decide, as early as this weekend whether Mikhail Sergachev will stick in the NHL or return to juniors for another season. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
  2. Tampa man charged in hit-and-run crash that killed bicyclist on I-4 exit ramp in Tampa


    TAMPA — A 44-year-old Tampa was arrested and charged Wednesday in a hit-and-run crash that killed a bicyclist earlier in the day.

    Christopher Jerimiah Cole, 44, of Tampa was driving this silver Mercedes on Wednesday when it struck a bicyclist on the exit ramp from eastbound Interstate 4 to southbound U.S. 301, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Cole kept driving, troopers said. The bicyclist, a 45-year-old Brandon man, died at the scene. His name was not immediately released because troopers were working to notify his family. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  3. Quarterbacks, head coach targeting Vernon Hargreaves; 'I'm not producing,' he says


    Eli Manning gathered his receivers together during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and informed them of the weakest link of the secondary he planned to target that afternoon.

    Quarterbacks this season have a 128.7 rating when targeting Vernon Hargreaves. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Rick Baker's radio ad said Rick Kriseman missed NAACP event---but he didn't.


    A radio ad narrated by St. Petersburg civil rights activist Sevell Brown and paid for by a political-action committee supporting Rick Baker asserts that Mayor Rick Kriseman "couldn't be bothered to show up" for a recent NAACP event.

    Rick Kriseman didn't skip recent NAACP event, but Rick Baker radio ad claims he did
  5. Demolition begins on wing of Channelside Bay Plaza, making way for Water Street Tampa (w/video)


    TAMPA — The original developers of Channelside Bay Plaza at first wanted the name of the complex to include the word "Garrison." That would have fit, because the center turned out to be fort-like, inwardly focused and unwelcoming.

    A pedestrian bridge in the southwest wing of Channelside Bay Plaza was demolished in Tampa on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. [Gabriella Angotti-Jones  | Times]