Results were mixed in races for three Pinellas fire districts — an incumbent won handily in one race, a newcomer edged out a familiar face in another, and a close vote edged out a long-time incumbent in the third.
David Root, 58, a business development director, retained his seat on the East Lake Tarpon Fire District with about 56.8 percent of the vote. Challenger Sharon Hurst, who works in insurance administration, received about 43.2 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election returns.
Voters in the Lealman Fire District elected Eric Blum, 35, who new to politics, with about 52.3 percent of the vote. Although a political newcomer, Blum has close ties to the Lealman fire board. He dates the daughter of board chairwoman Kathleen Litton and lives in a house owned by Litton and her husband, Mark.
Blum outpaced former fire board member John Frank, 57, who got about 47.3 percent of the vote. Frank was controversial when serving on the board, and was kicked off by other members because they did not believe he lives in Lealman, a requirement to serve.
A bit more than 1 percentage point separated the candidates in the race for Seat 3 on the Palm Harbor Fire District board. The winner with about 50.5 percent of the vote was Debbie Buschman, 43, a fiscal assistant for the Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender's Office.
Buschman defeated Bob Shatanoff, 56, a certified public accountant and former chief financial officer, who had served on the fire commission for 20 years. Shatanoff got about 49.5 percent of the vote.
It was not immediately clear why the vote was so close.
Both support fire-based transport, or allowing firefighters to take emergency patients to the hospital. But the two differed slightly on the issue of consolidation. Buschman was against it, saying she believed it would cause a delay in response times. Shatanoff said he opposed countywide consolidation but would support the merger of departments or districts that were unable to generate enough revenue to survive.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450.