EYEING THE LOCAL GOP: The word among the insiders is that at least two gubernatorial candidates _ Jim Smith and Ander Crenshaw _ have talked about the possibility of having a Pinellas County person as their lieutenant governor running mates.
And the two names at the tips of their tongues? Sheriff Everett Rice and County Commissioner Barbara Sheen Todd.
Both would give the Republicans a strong foothold in the Tampa Bay area, as well as a possible lock on Pinellas' still-strong GOP mechanism.
Rice would bring a law-and-order spin to the ticket, not a bad commodity in this year of crime, dead tourists and early releases of prisoners.
Todd is coming off her year as president of the National Association of Counties, where she has worked and hobnobbed with all kinds of elected leaders, including President Clinton. She would bring that background and strong experience in government funding and health care issues.
FRED'S ARMY HEADQUARTERS UPDATE, OR, IF THIS IS MONDAY, FIRE THE GUY: Clearwater City Commissioner Fred Thomas is angling to fire the director of the Jolley Trolley corporation only a couple of months after Thomas was singing the man's praises.
The trolley, which shuttles people among the downtown, Island Estates, Clearwater Beach and Sand Key, has been controlled by a private company since the start of the year. Getting it from under the control of the PSTA was a big Thomas priority.
The city subsidized the operation to the tune of $360,000. Thomas touted the management structure as one that would eventually stand on its own without public money.
Thomas now says executive director Don Waldt hasn't met expectations and hasn't provided financial information. And by hiring full-time employees and giving them insurance, Waldt put the operation $50,000 behind its projections, Thomas said.
So at a Clearwater Beach Association board meeting last week, Thomas helped remove a Jolley Trolley board member who said he wouldn't vote to can Waldt. The beach association wants answers to some questions about the Jolley Trolley.
The palace coup could be complete tonight at a regular Jolley Trolley board meeting. Look out.
YOU CAN'T TRUST ANYTHING YOU READ IN THE PAPER, MA: Seminole City Council member Darrell DiGrazia invited his mother, Joyce, to last week's council meeting so that she could evaluate his actions personally instead of relying on newspaper accounts.
As the meeting dragged toward its third hour, his mother approached a reporter working in the back of the room. If the reporter worked for the Seminole Beacon, the local weekly paper, she said, she wanted to complain that the paper had misspelled her son's name in a recent story.
When she found out she was talking to a Times reporter, she said, "Oh, you know how to spell it." Then, after a slight consideration, she added, "Sometimes I wish you didn't."
FRED'S ARMY HEADQUARTERS UPDATE, PART DEUX: Clearwater city officials are drooling all over themselves at the prospect of a big insurance company buying the decrepit old City Hall Annex. Commissioner Thomas is probably frothing the most.
Anyway, Thomas came up with a theory recently to try to give Clearwater an edge in the negotiating process to bring the company to town. It goes like this: If the city builds a new office building and then leases it to the company, the city is, in essence, buying a building and then gradually selling it. That means the city's negotiations would be subject to looser open government laws related to buying a building, rather than the tighter disclosure laws dealing with selling property, Thomas said.
The idea was that the city could negotiate in private rather than having all their dealings show up in the newspaper.
Thomas had the city attorney's office research his idea. Would it work?
The answer came back last week: "In a word," wrote City Attorney Al Galbraith, "no."
_ Reported by staff writers Wayne Garcia, Ned Seaton and Wilma Norton.
"My condolences for having to bear Fred Thomas _ the poster child for Citizens for Justifiable Mayhem Inc."
_ Dick Roebelt of St. Petersburg, closing a Feb. 23 letter to Clearwater Mayor Rita Garvey