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Quiet town has lively politics

Politics in this bedroom community northeast of Tampa are usually about as quiet as the image the city strives to maintain. But this year is a little different.

With the mayor stepping down, three candidates are vying for the city's top job, while seven candidates are running for three seats on the City Council.

"With three vacant seats and no incumbents running for them, it seemed like a good year to get involved," said Frank Musolino, 39, a political newcomer who was the last to enter the council campaign. "I felt like it was a time for new ideas."

Bob Woodard is the one candidate for mayor _ a part-time job that pays $1 a year plus up to $100 a month in expenses.

The other two mayoral candidates, Fred Whisenhunt and Frank Ferreri, now serve on the five-member council. They said they decided to run for mayor because Edward B. Simmon, who has held the office for eight years, is prevented by the city charter from seeking another term.

Council member Jim Whittemore decided against seeking re-election, creating the third opening on the council. The part-time job pays $1 a year and $50 a month for expenses.

Typical of the city's low-key approach to politics, council candidate Fran Barford, a 48-year-old occupational therapist, has spent the most among all 10 candidates: $1,047 through Oct. 12, according to campaign reports.

In addition to Musolino and Barford, the other council candidates include Vernon Taylor, 42, who works for VET Enterprises, a sales and marketing company; Maxine LeCompte, 56, a former city zoning inspector who now works for the University of South Florida; Frances Bianco, 65, a homemaker running on an environmental platform; Jim Falsone, 53, now retired from his job as a sporting goods store manager; and Bob Owen, 61, president of Florida College and a council member from 1968-82.

"I think there are no burning issues this year," said Woodard, 62, who is vice president of Florida Wilbert Inc., a burial vault manufacturer, and president of Jackson Vault Service, which serves cemeteries and funeral directors. "We're very concerned with the development of the I-75 corridor and its effect on our city."

Though he has never run for political office before, Woodard is well-known locally, having served with virtually every civic and social organization in the city in the past 28 years.

In 1987 he won an outstanding citizen award from the Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce. The award since has been renamed the Bob Woodard Award. Many people around town refer to Woodard as "Mr. Temple Terrace."

Whisenhunt says his experience on the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission and the Hillsborough River Interlocal Planning Board make him the most qualified to serve as mayor.

"I'm the only person who's dealt with the politicians we're going to have deal with over the next four years," said Whisenhunt, 64, a pharmaceutical sales representative for G.

D. Searle who has lived in the city since 1954 and served on the council for 12 years.

With growth occurring all around the city of 17,250 people, the biggest challenge facing the new mayor and council members will be to preserve the city's residential character, each candidate said.

Related issues of annexation of adjacent areas of the unincorporated county and the revitalization of the "downtown" business district near Busch Boulevard and 56th Street must also be addressed. Also on the ballot Tuesday is a referendum on whether to annex a county area of about 900 homes and apartments that includes about 1,700 people.

"The area next to Temple Terrace is slated for the highest development in the county," Whisenhunt said. "We have to mitigate the effects on transportation and determine how to accommodate all the people who are going to flood into our city."

Ferreri, 57, owns the Metropolitan Pharmacy in Ybor City and has lived in Temple Terrace 32 years. A 10-year member of the council, Ferreri wants to see the city continue the status quo.

"I think everyone wants to see Temple Terrace going in the present direction," Ferreri said. "We have a nice, safe place to live and raise kids in. That's what we want to maintain."