The popular platform this month in Redington Beach is healing the wounds. The bitter squabbles that have racked Town Commission meetings produced a surge of candidates in the non-partisan races for mayor and two available commission seats. The candidates promise to bring peace to city politics.
Four-year Commissioner Charlene Palin and longtime resident Peter Farnum are vying for mayor. Mayor Ramona Updegraff, accused by fellow commissioners of trying to usurp their authority, decided not to run again.
Palin, 48, says she is running on her experience. She notes that Farnum, a town resident for 36 years, only recently started attending commission meetings.
Farnum, 44, says he has gone to every one since commissioners barred him from speaking at a town meeting nine months ago.
"For the past three years, we have been literally ripped apart with our small-town politics," said Farnum, a former administrator with the state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. He now owns a consignment shop in Seminole and lives on earnings from investments.
Palin says she wants to protect measures approved by voters last year prohibiting the Town Commission from tampering with the city's limits on construction height and density. She says a suit pending against the city threatens the limits.
Farnum said Palin "is constantly scaring people into thinking someone can do something about that," when only the voters can.
Six people are running for two at-large commission seats. The two with the most votes will win.
Incumbent Scott Wilson, 47, a resident for 14 years, doesn't think a voter backlash against the rowdy commission will run him out of office. Wilson, director of public affairs for Peoples Gas Co., was appointed to a vacant seat 18 months ago and was unopposed in the last election. His first act as a commissioner was to suggest ousting Updegraff.
"I think the voters are discriminating enough to recognize that if someone's doing the job, they ought to keep them in the job," he said.
Trudy Nakamoto, 43, a member of the town's planning board, is making her second try for a commission seat.
"I'm trying to stop all the in-fighting," said Nakamoto, who owns and operates the El Morocco Motel with her husband. "I think you need to have a commissioner who can think for (himself) and doesn't go along with the crowd. If you look at the voting, the same people always vote together."
Most of the remaining candidates are familiar faces in this town of 1,700 people.
Ann Terese "Terri" Madison is a community activist known for an annual Christmas light display at her home on Redington Drive. Madison, 38, has lived in Redington Beach seven years. She serves on the Code Enforcement Board, the Redington Beach Association board of governors, the Town Hall Renovation Committee and the Redington Beaches Mothers Guild.
James "Nick" Simons Jr. co-owns Beach Service West, which rents cabanas, umbrellas and other beach equipment on the Pinellas coast. Simons, 43, has lived in the area since 1955.
Candidate Esther A. Clancy makes her living from real estate sales and investment income.
Nicholas B. Kordas is a mental health counselor at the Pinellas County Juvenile Detention Center. Kordas, 30, moved to Redington Beach from New York City in 1988.
Most candidates say the commission's well-publicized shenanigans prompted them to run for office.
"It's the way they carry on their business that had me upset," said Madison, who owns a bridal shop in Madeira Beach. "Half the time, they don't even want to hear public comment."
Kordas said, "The present Town Commission needs an infusion of someone who can get down to town business rather than worrying about political in-fighting."
And Simons said he, too, wants to bring "a little harmony" to commission meetings.
_ KAREN DATKO