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Mike Brassfield, Times Staff Writer

Mike Brassfield

Mike Brassfield has been with the Tampa Bay Times as a reporter and editor since 1998. He currently covers Clearwater and a variety of other subjects. Previously, he covered crime in St. Petersburg as well as Tampa Bay transportation issues. He also has worked as a Times editor in the Tampa and Clearwater newsrooms.

Phone: (727) 445-4151(727) 445-4151

Email: brassfield@tampabay.com

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  1. Ferry service to run from Clearwater Beach to downtown Clearwater

    Tourism

    CLEARWATER — A private company announced Friday that it will begin a ferry service between Clearwater Beach and downtown Clearwater.

    Beginning next Thursday, employees of Clearwater Beach businesses will be able to board Tropics Boat Tours ferries for $3 per trip. They must provide proof of employment.

    Ferries will run between downtown's Coachman Park, the Clearwater Beach Marina and the Clearwater Beach Recreation Center on a schedule that is yet to be determined. Parking is more readily available at Coachman Park than on the beach....

  2. USF St. Petersburg official resigns for mysterious reasons

    College

    ST. PETERSBURG — Just last summer, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg brought in Dr. Han Reichgelt to be part of its leadership team.

    Now he's suddenly out, for unexplained reasons.

    Reichgelt was hired in June as the school's new regional vice chancellor of academic affairs, essentially making him USFSP's chief academic officer. He moved here from a university in Georgia....

    Han Reichgelt has resigned as USF St. Petersburg’s regional vice chancellor of academic affairs.
  3. Spring training kicks off in Clearwater and Dunedin

    Tourism

    Baseball is a game of tradition — hot dogs, peanuts, Cracker Jack, the crack of the bat, the seventh-inning stretch, and rooting for the home team. • Around here, there's a local baseball tradition that's about to return: an annual migration of Northerners arriving to escape the brutal winter weather in Philadelphia and Toronto.

    Spring training opens this weekend in Clearwater and Dunedin. As below-freezing temperatures linger up North, the Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays expect to draw plenty of local and vacationing fans who will be slathering on the sunscreen....

    Philadelphia Phillies players report on the first day of spring training at the Carpenter Complex in Clearwater on Monday. The first home game is against the University of Tampa Spartans at 1:10 p.m. Sunday at Bright House Field. 
  4. How did head of local Down syndrome charity allegedly steal $111,000?

    Crime

    LARGO — Where was all the money going? Some members of the Down Syndrome Network of Tampa Bay had been wondering that for a while.

    Every year the local charity and its members raised tens of thousands of dollars, supposedly to help Pinellas County children born with Down syndrome. But some parents felt it offered little or nothing for their kids.

    Police now say the group's president, 53-year-old Shirley Lawyer of Largo, had been quietly siphoning more than $100,000 from the charity over at least five years....

    Shirley Lawyer, 53, of Largo was arrested on charges that she embezzled more than $100,000 in charitable donations for her own use. She was charged with grand theft and was booked into the Pinellas County Jail.
  5. Clearwater moves forward on downtown apartment complex, public art for Countryside Library

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — Breaking ground on a major new apartment complex downtown. Buying a $62,500 terrazzo floor for the new Countryside Library. Trying to get other cities to kick in money for the county's homeless shelter. Changing up the rules for how stores can light their awnings.

    Clearwater officials are moving forward on a number of fronts. Here's what the City Council has been up to:...

    Clearwater has commissioned Joan Weissman to design a $62,500 terrazzo floor for the lobby of its new Countryside Library. Shown here is a Weissman floor in Asheville, N.C. 
  6. Police: Head of local Down syndrome charity embezzled funds

    News

    LARGO — Every October for 10 years, the Down Syndrome Network of Tampa Bay held a "Buddy Walk," a fundraiser in a local park featuring a mile-long walk, games, clowns, giveaways, food and raffles. It raised tens of thousands of dollars — purportedly to fund programs for children with Down syndrome.

    But last October, the Buddy Walk was canceled.

    "We have had a problem with our nonprofit status," the charity's website announced. "This event is near and dear to our hearts, but is not possible this year."...

     [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  7. Slain Clearwater crossing guard honored posthumously

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — Doug Carey, the Clearwater crossing guard who was killed on the job last year, has been posthumously honored with the 2014 Florida Crossing Guard of the Year Award for bravery and outstanding service.

    Carey's wife, daughter and grandson accepted the award on his behalf from state officials Thursday night at a Clearwater City Council meeting.

    Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos called for a moment of silence to recognize Carey. St. Petersburg Police Chief Tony Holloway, who was Clearwater's chief when Carey was killed, was in attendance, as were several of Carey' fellow crossing guards....

  8. Clearwater Beach's shifting sands: Ritzy resorts replace cheaper motels

    Tourism

    CLEARWATER

    Visiting Clearwater Beach in the 1990s: You drive your family down from Michigan or Ohio, and stay a week or two in your favorite little mom-and-pop motel, renting a room with a kitchenette for $60 a night.

    Visiting Clearwater Beach today: You jet in from London or Berlin or Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. You check into a $600-a-night suite in a luxury high-rise resort. What to do first? Book a massage in the spa? Grab a cabana on the pool deck? Dine on lobster in the four-star restaurant?...

    East Shore Resort owner Billy Day. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  9. Clearwater marking 100 years as a city

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER

    This place officially became a city 100 years ago, back when it was a few hundred pioneer homes huddled around the downtown bluff of what was then called Clear Water Harbor.

    Clearwater's city government was chartered on May 27, 1915. Throughout this year, it's marking the milestone with a wide-ranging slate of events that are intended to get the entire city involved....

    Sunbathers enjoy the scenery at Clearwater Beach in the 1920s.
  10. Clearwater launches plan to revive downtown

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — Downtown Clearwater doesn't have a Jeff Vinik like Tampa has, or a Bill Edwards like St. Petersburg has. There's no multimillionaire white knight who's looking to invest tens of millions downtown.

    Bearing that in mind, city leaders still hope to get the private sector involved as they embark on a laundry list of projects intended to revive Clearwater's historic downtown core....

    One suggestion from the Urban Land Institute is to make Clearwater a major boating center by capitalizing on the Clearwater Harbor Marina, above, and other facilities.
  11. Restaurateur Frank Chivas named 'Mr. Clearwater'

    Business

    CLEARWATER — He had a tough childhood. His father, a commercial fisherman, was lost at sea when he was just 11. He was placed in foster care.

    At age 16, he moved to Pinellas County, where he eventually started a wholesale fish business. Then he opened a restaurant. Then another. Then another. Then another.

    Along the way, he got seriously involved in his community. So, on Wednesday night, restaurateur Frank Chivas was named "Mr. Clearwater" at the 93rd annual meeting of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce....

    Frank Chivas, who owns such restaurants as Island Way Grill, Salt Rock Grill, Marlin’ Darlin, Rumba and the Salt Rock Tavern, was instrumental in bringing powerboat and windsurfing events to Clearwater. [Julie Busch Branaman photo] 
  12. Clearwater opens new fire headquarters

    Blog

    CLEARWATER -- The huge vehicle bay of Clearwater's new main fire station is big enough to hold four fire engines side-by-side. Monday afternoon, it was filled by a crowd of people for a grand opening ceremony.

     

    The three-story, 33,000-square-foot fire station at 1140 Court St. will double as the Clearwater Fire Department's headquarters. Its top floor is administrative offices, its second floor is living quarters, and its bottom floor is for operations....

  13. Huge Wyndham Grand to have ripple effect on Clearwater Beach surroundings

    Tourism

    CLEARWATER

    The gateway to south Clearwater Beach is going through some changes.

    The upcoming construction of a huge, high-end Wyndham Grand resort just south of Pier 60 and the Clearwater Beach Marina will have a ripple effect on the entire beach, of course. It's another sign of the trend of modern, upscale resorts replacing the beach's older mom-and-pop motels.

    But Dr. Kiran Patel's 700,000-square-foot resort will have an especially profound impact on its immediate surroundings. The well-known philanthropist and health care entrepreneur's resort will be built over the next two years on the nearly 3-acre site of a former parking lot at the split between S Gulfview Boulevard and Coronado Drive....

    The Anchor Mini-Mart, far left, the three-story Riviera Motel, the Golden Villa Motel and the Sunrise Resort Motel are some of the surrounding properties that might have their fortunes affected by the Wyndham Grand megaresort being built by Dr. Kiran Patel.
  14. Clearwater's Martin Luther King Jr. center reopening

    Human Interest

    CLEARWATERI have a dream, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said.

    A group of determined neighbors in Clearwater's impoverished North Greenwood area had a dream too — to reopen the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, which closed in 2010.

    After years of effort, they're making it come true. On Saturday, just before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, they're holding a grand reopening ceremony and open house from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m....

    The renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood Center in Clearwater’s North Greenwood area will reopen on Saturday.
  15. Long-delayed Clearwater Beach megaresort to finally break ground

    Tourism

    CLEARWATER — It has long been called the most expensive parking lot in Florida.

    More than a decade ago, high-profile Tampa philanthropist Kiran Patel paid $40 million for 3 acres of prime beachfront property in the heart of Clearwater Beach's tourist district. It was one of the priciest land purchases in Pinellas County history.

    Patel dynamited three aging hotels and hatched plans to replace them with a ritzy "mega-resort." That fell apart when the economy crashed....

    future: A rendering shows the 15-story towers of the 700,000-square-foot Wyndham Grand that is set to open in January 2017, just south of Pier 60.