Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni says he'll retire next year

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CLEARWATER — After representing residents for 25 years, Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni announced Tuesday that he will not seek re-election to a fifth term in 2018.

His political retirement ends a career that started when he served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1992 to 2000. The Treasure Island Republican was elected to the County Commission's District 6 seat in 2000 and chaired the board in 2005, 2012 and 2015.

"This is the right decision for me," Morroni said. "It's time for me to let someone else sit in this chair."

The announcement came about six months after Morroni, 62, received a clean bill of health after being diagnosed with a rare bone marrow disorder. He beat two earlier bouts of cancer. But his health, he said, was not the reason why he was retiring.

"I'm doing fine," Morroni said. "It's time to go. I've talked it over with my wife."

In July, Morroni announced he would undergo a stem cell transplant treatment for a form of cancer called myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS. Morroni called his diagnosis a secondary effect of the chemotherapy treatment he underwent for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

MDS is a group of closely related diseases that arise when immature stem cells in the bone marrow are damaged, according to the American Cancer Society. As a result, the bone marrow makes reduced numbers of red blood cells that carry oxygen, white blood cells that fight infection, platelets that prevent or stop bleeding, or any combination of the three.

Morroni and his family learned in September that his disorder went into remission. While recovering from the treatment, Morroni started attending board meetings again and handling duties as the chair of Forward Pinellas, the county's agency for coordinating transportation and land use plans.

Fellow commissioners told Morroni they look forward to working with him as he finishes his term.

Commission chair Janet Long joked that it's great to see Morroni acting "fiesty and ornery" as he continues to recover, adding: "We are so proud to be serving with you."

Commissioner Dave Eggers called Morroni a "mentor" and one "of the nicest politicians he has ever met."

Morroni, a Loyola University graduate and a real estate agent by trade, said he made Tuesday's announcement for the 2018 election so other candidates can consider whether to enter the contest.

In 2014, Morroni cruised to victory with 66 percent of the vote in the District 6 universal Republican primary and faced no opposition in the November election.

He called his years on the commission "wonderful." More importantly, Morroni said he is most proud of county workers and the job they do for residents.

"I'm proud of this whole organization," Morroni said. "I want to thank the people of Pinellas County."

Contact Mark Puente at [email protected] or (727) 892-2996. Follow @MarkPuente

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