Republicans and Democrats each have one countywide primary election for the Pinellas County Commission. The Aug. 26 primary winners each will face an opponent in the November general election. Both of these commission seats are open because the incumbents are not seeking re-election.
Jane Gallucci for Republicans
District 1 (countywide)
Former Safety Harbor City Commissioner Neil Brickfield and Pinellas School Board member Jane Gallucci have each shown leadership skills and a strong work ethic in office. Gallucci has more experience and offers a less partisan, more moderate approach to governing.
Gallucci, 59, of Clearwater is a former school guidance counselor who has been on the School Board since 1996. Brickfield, a 44-year-old public affairs consultant, was a Safety Harbor city commissioner from 2000 to 2004. The winner will face Democrat Paul Matton in November and fill the seat now held by Ronnie Duncan.
As a Safety Harbor commissioner and in an unsuccessful run for the County Commission in 2004, Brickfield proved to be a hard worker and relished a good fight. He has a strong grasp of the details of Pinellas government. But his partisanship and willingness to throw sharp elbows would not be welcome on a commission where collaboration is critical and most issues are more practical than ideological.
On the School Board, Gallucci has gained experience with large budgets and countywide issues. While other members of the board often veered off course into micromanagement, Gallucci understood her role was as a policymaker. She honed her leadership skills as chairman of the School Board and president of both the state and national School Boards Association. She also has served on the Pinellas Planning Council, where she became familiar with growth and development issues throughout the county. She did her homework and rejected pettiness and gamesmanship.
Gallucci's instinct is to seek input from others and conduct business openly. She supports the county's affordable housing initiatives and agrees there is a need to consolidate fire and emergency medical services if all parties help design the new system. To promote job growth, Gallucci wants to identify occupations that need workers and encourage the school system to graduate students with national certification in those fields.
In the Republican primary for Pinellas County Commission District 1, the Times recommends Jane Gallucci.
Darden Rice for Democrats
District 3 (countywide)
Democrats have two credible candidates from St. Petersburg in the countywide primary for District 3: former City Council member Rene Flowers and civic activist Darden Rice. The winner will face Republican Nancy Bostock, a Pinellas County School Board member, in the November general election and succeed Bob Stewart.
Rice, 38, would be a breath of fresh air on the commission. The Southeast project director of Oceana, an international ocean protection group, has a strong record of advocacy through her work with the Sierra Club and St. Petersburg's Council of Neighborhood Associations. Her grass-roots connections would be welcome on a commission that too often appears isolated from its constituents.
Flowers, 43, served two steady if unspectacular terms on the St. Petersburg City Council from 1999 to 2008. She joined a group of other council members to create a more business-like, collegial atmosphere after years of petty infighting. On the council and as chairman of the Florida League of Cities, Flowers was a forceful advocate for affordable housing. She also stresses her expertise with government budgets in an era of declining tax revenues and her ability to work cooperatively to meet common goals.
While both Democrats are solid candidates, Rice would bring new energy and particular experience and sensibilities to environmental and development issues that the commission has been lacking. She has worked to create strong protections for the Brooker Creek Preserve, and she also has a good grasp of other areas that should dispel any concerns that she is a one-issue candidate. Rice wants to make mass transit a higher priority and set higher goals for affordable housing. She supports pursuing consolidation of fire and medical services, and she is open to exploring how the county could use the resort tax or other sources to help pay for a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. She is a quick learner who can work effectively outside her comfort zone and a more well-rounded candidate than when she unsuccessfully ran for the St. Petersburg City Council in 2005.
In the Democratic primary for Pinellas County Commission District 3, the Times recommends Darden Rice.
Opportunity to reply The Times offers candidates not recommended by the editorial board an opportunity to reply. Candidates for County Commission should send their replies no later than 5 p.m. Monday to: Philip Gailey, editor of editorials, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731; by fax: (727) 893-8675; or online at: www.tampabay.com/letters. Replies are limited to 200 words.