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Familiarity breeds favor for incumbent in Largo

There was so little interest in this year's Largo election that two officials _ Mayor Thom Feaster and Commissioner Jim Miles _ were re-elected automatically when no one ran against them.

Only Commissioner Jean Halvorsen, who has served three terms on the Largo City Commission, drew an opponent. Halvorsen, a 63-year-old retired stenographer, will have to beat newcomer Kim Deguise, 29, in the March 8 election to get a fourth term.

When a community is this apathetic about elections, voters often have to choose among less-than-exciting alternatives. That's the case this year in Largo.

Though we frequently have agreed with Halvorsen's votes, she would be vulnerable to a strong opponent. She does not bring inspired leadership to the job. She contributes few creative ideas.

But though we applaud Deguise's willingness to run and her interest in city affairs, she is not ready to hold public office.

Deguise has lived in Largo most of her life. She graduated from high school in 1982 and has held a variety of jobs since then. Six months ago she was hired as a secretary at a private school. Her hobby is attending City Commission meetings and work sessions. She says she has been interested in government since she was in high school, when Tip O'Neill was her idol.

Deguise says she is the candidate with fresh ideas. But we disagree with some of her ideas, such as her proposal that all major, non-essential projects of the city be submitted to the voters for approval. Government by referendum is not necessarily good government.

And many of Deguise's other proposals are poorly developed or without foundation. For example, she says the city should take over the cost of all street paving, but should do it without raising taxes. When asked where the city should get the money, she gives a vague answer that "there are avenues out there."

She says a lot of money is wasted in Largo, but isn't able to back up that statement with solid details.

Halvorsen is a known quantity. She has been a responsible representative for Largo on area boards, including the Suncoast League of Municipalities, of which she is president. And she has voted for progressive programs in Largo, including recycled wastewater expansion, development of Largo Central Park, construction of a multipurpose cultural center and improvements at the Largo Library.

We recommend a vote for Jean Halvorsen for Largo City Commission.

A note about recommendations

This newspaper publishes recommendations to help readers become more knowledgeable voters. The job is not easy, nor is it one we take lightly.

Editors send candidates questionnaires about their backgrounds and positions on the issues. They compare these responses, examine campaign materials and study the candidates through an array of public records and sources. Editors also invite the candidates for private interviews, and they may call on the insights of other people in the community to learn more about the candidates.

The goal is to provide readers with the newspaper's recommendation of who is best for the job and why. We hope these recommendations will entice readers to learn more about the candidates and vote for their choices on Election Day.