The holidays are over. Time for North Pinellas city election campaigns to kick into high gear. Time, too, for residents of Dunedin, Oldsmar and Safety Harbor to start educating themselves about the choices they will see on the ballot March 10.
In the biggest of those cities, Dunedin, the potential for change in City Hall is great because four of the five seats on the City Commission are up for grabs. Eight candidates have qualified and the ballot is set.
Mayor Bob Hackworth will be leaving his post, and two experienced city commissioners, Dave Eggers and Deborah Kynes, are competing to replace him. It promises to be a lively mayoral campaign, as both are well known and capable individuals with decidedly different approaches to governing.
Commissioner Julie Scales is running for re-election and drew as an opponent Michael Quill, who has previously sought a seat on the commission. Ron Barnette and Tony Scruton, both previous candidates, are vying for Seat 2 on the commission, and Dave Carson and John Tornga are running for Seat 3.
Given the challenges facing all local governments, it is rather surprising that so many people filed to run in Dunedin. This is the first election cycle since the rules changed in Dunedin and candidates now must run for specific seats. Previously, all candidates ran on one slate, and the top vote-getters were elected to the open offices. The change appears to have been a positive one. More candidate choices and healthy competition at election time are good for the community.
Depending on the outcome of the March 10 election, Safety Harbor's City Commission could have a new majority. Seven candidates are running for three commission seats.
Incumbent Joe Ayoub will have to defend his seat against two well-informed challengers, Robin Fornino and Karen Skiff. Incumbent Mary Lynda Williams is facing her first election, because she was appointed, not elected, to fill a vacancy on the commission last year. She will face Barbara Ewert. Two political newcomers, Nancy Besore and Glen Caristinos, are vying to replace departing Commissioner Nadine Nickeson.
Oldsmar will have an election March 10, but one seat is already filled because only one person, who is no stranger to city government, wanted it. Yes, Jerry Beverland is back.
Beverland, who has been either a commissioner or mayor for parts of three decades, replaces Greg Rublee, who resigned Dec. 31 and moved out of the country. Beverland wins a three-year reprieve from retirement.
Another Oldsmar City Council veteran, Janice Miller, is leaving because of term limits, so voters will have to fill her seat. Two candidates qualified to run for the seat: Sara Normandeau and Doug Bevis.
Two smaller North Pinellas communities, Belleair and Belleair Bluffs, also will have elections March 10.
All the candidates deserve the congratulations and thanks of their communities for volunteering to run for office. Serving as a public official during a recession is no fun. Residents of these cities can demonstrate their appreciation by educating themselves and taking advantage of the opportunity to vote March 10.