Three seats on the seven-seat Largo City Commission were scheduled for election this year, but voters will find only one commission race on their ballots.
Commission veteran Gigi Arntzen was automatically re-elected when no one came forward to run against her. Mayor Pat Gerard was automatically re-elected when Robert Jackson failed to fulfill the qualification requirements to run against her.
Only Commissioner Rodney Woods, who is seeking a second term in Seat 3, drew an opponent: Curtis Holmes, who frequently speaks at City Commission meetings and has lost two previous runs for a commission seat.
Voters also will be asked to amend the city charter to shorten the 60-day time period commission candidates have to qualify.
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board makes the following recommendation and urges all Largo residents to vote Nov. 3.
Rodney Woods for Seat 3
There are two reasons Rodney Woods should be returned to his seat on the City Commission. First, he has three years of experience dealing with city business and the challenges confronting all local governments in this economy. Second, Woods does his best to be a team player, a unifier, and to work for positive change in Largo.
In contrast there is Holmes, who has no experience in elective office and is a perennial critic of city government. A 60-year-old insurance agent who also sells whoopee cushions, Holmes has a history of demanding investigations and filing complaints against city officials.
Woods made some mistakes in his first term while learning the job of city commissioner, but he has come a long way. In a recent interview, he responded thoughtfully and with specifics to every question about city issues. (Holmes did not respond to a request for an interview and also did not complete a biographical questionnaire the Times asks every candidate for public office to fill out.)
When Woods, 52, who operates a lawn service business, first ran three years ago, it was on a platform calling for more inclusiveness in Largo, where racial discrimination in housing had been documented and there had been several race-related incidents in city departments. Woods wanted the city to create a memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. because he felt a visible symbol of the city's support for diversity, inclusiveness and equal rights was needed. Today, primarily because of Woods' efforts, a bronze plaque honoring the civil rights leader hangs in the public library.
Woods is proud to have served on the City Commission that completed construction of the new library and developed, with much public input, a sweeping strategic plan for Largo. He is pleased, too, with the West Bay Drive redevelopment plan. Together, those plans position Largo to be ready to grow when the economy improves, he said. Woods is an enthusiastic presence at city events, takes advantage of learning opportunities through the Florida League of Cities, and regularly drops in at businesses around town to hear people's ideas.
After months of difficult discussions about the 2010 budget, the City Commission last month decided to dip into reserves to preserve jobs and services. Next year's budget season promises to be even more difficult than this one, with service cuts probably unavoidable. That looming challenge argues for putting an experienced commissioner back in Seat 3.
If re-elected, Woods said he wants to spend more time meeting with residents in annexed areas east of downtown, study whether the Police Department will need more officers because of annexations, see the city sewer system upgraded, pursue curbside recycling in partnership with the county, and continue to try to unify disparate factions in the city.
"I believe if you can bring people together so they are caring about each other, the other things will take care of themselves," he said.
For Largo Commission Seat 3, the Times recommends Rodney Woods.
Candidates not recommended may submit a response for publication. Responses may be no more than 200 words and may not attack opponents. They must be submitted by 5 p.m. Wednesday via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.