Youth, enthusiasm and roots in the community are the strengths Woody Brown will bring to his new role as mayor of Largo. Brown, 43, a two-term city commissioner, won the post Aug. 15 when no one filed to run against him. Largo has had steady leadership for eight years under Mayor Pat Gerard, who is running for the Pinellas County Commission and will leave the mayor's post in November. Since Brown didn't have to campaign, he should start his tenure by meeting with residents to share his ideas for the city and hear their input.
Raised in Indian Rocks Beach, Brown graduated from Largo High School, went away to college, and returned to Largo in 2001 to start a chiropractic practice on Main Street and raise his family. He works downtown, so he knows well the challenges of that area, but Brown has served in a variety of roles that helped him get to know other parts of the city too.
He was president of the Largo Rotary Club, is a member of the Largo Mid-Pinellas Chamber of Commerce, and served on the city's Recreation Parks & Arts Advisory Board. His experience on that board led him to run for the City Commission in 2007, when he garnered 74 percent of the vote in a contest against Curtis Holmes, a frequent city critic who later won a different commission seat. Brown had two challengers when he ran for re-election in 2010, but he still pulled in 46 percent of the votes cast to keep his seat.
A review of Brown's tenure shows that his votes can't necessarily be predicted and that he isn't afraid to be the lone voice on an issue. In March he opposed canceling a city sign ordinance that requires businesses to replace pole signs with monument signs, after the commission learned hundreds of businesses were not falling in line. The next month, he was the only commissioner to vote against rezoning the Missing Links Driving Range — a rezoning requested by the property owner so a gas station could be built there. Those might appear to be anti-business votes, but Brown also has favored offering incentives for companies that promise new jobs and creating a city food truck ordinance.
Brown will take over at a time when changes loom for Largo.
Four other seats on the seven-member City Commission were scheduled for the Nov. 4 election. Seat 6 was filled automatically when no one challenged former Largo police Chief John Carroll. Depending on who wins the other three seats, a new commission majority could be created.
Though City Manager Mac Craig, 77, apparently has no immediate plans to retire, that could change during Brown's tenure as mayor.
And the city is growing, expanding rapidly through annexations and needing to find ways to efficiently serve those new neighborhoods. Like other Pinellas cities, Largo also will be grappling with changes to the county emergency medical services, deciding how to manage redevelopment that has already begun, and facing the environmental and transportation challenges that come with growth.
Brown is an enthusiastic booster of Largo, a progressive thinker, and, as the father of two sons, deeply vested in seeing the city thrive. As mayor, he will have a great opportunity to lead through this time of change.