SAFETY HARBOR: SEAT 1
The race for Seat 1 is by far the most heated, with William D. "Don" Fletcher Jr. and Jill Cincotta squaring off to fill the position from which Commissioner Linda Adkins is retiring.
When it comes to the issues, Fletcher and Cincotta consider themselves polar opposites _ especially concerning downtown.
Cincotta acknowledges she is "pro-business," having been involved extensively with downtown redevelopment efforts. She is a co-founder of the Downtown Partnership, a past president of the Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce and the co-owner of Unique Engineering and International Auto Parts. Boosting downtown's image is a priority to her.
Fletcher, however, thinks Cincotta's view is too narrowly focused. He thinks the $2-million the city has committed to streetscaping _ one phase of downtown redevelopment _ could best be spent on infrastructure improvements in some of the older downtown neighborhoods.
Fletcher said his business experience as the president of family-owned Florida Dredge and Dock gives him an edge. In addition, he said, the fact that he was appointed to serve as a commissioner last year by a divided City Commission speaks well of his ability to remain neutral and get along with different people. Fletcher filled Commissioner Dan Pohto's position for one month while he ran for county tax collector. Pohto was re-elected in 1993.
Cincotta said her longtime volunteer experience qualifies her well for the commission. In addition to her downtown work, Cincotta was activities director for the Safety Harbor Museum, and she coordinates the annual Christmas Luminaire program. Though she has never held public office, Cincotta worked extensively on the campaigns of her husband, former Commissioner Sal Cincotta, who died in August after a long illness. He was a commissioner from 1989-91.
As a commissioner, Cincotta said, she would propose cutting commissioners' travel budgets. She thinks the city could save at least $100,000 a year by renting its own yard waste grinder rather than paying to have yard waste sent to St. Petersburg.
Maintaining a balanced budget without a tax increase is one of Fletcher's priorities, he said. He also is interested in enacting some of the city's proposed stormwater improvements and boosting infrastructure.
Cincotta has caught heat for some aspects of her campaign, which she said is "about issues, not personalities."
When the Times reported that she pleaded guilty to a felony shoplifting charge in 1985, Cincotta called it an attempt by the opposition to "cloud" her campaign through the newspaper. She has been linked to a "whisper campaign" with candidates Fran Barnhisel and incumbent Pamela Corbino. Some say the three want to fire City Manager Pamela Brangaccio _ a charge Cincotta denies.
Additionally, she admits calling candidate Bill Rupp to ask him to drop out of the race so that Barnhisel would have a better chance to win.
Cincotta said that she did not make the call maliciously and that she later apologized, but Rupp said her request was presumptuous and out of line and made him "furious."
One issue on which the candidates agree is that the current level of city services should be maintained. Concerning the library project, Cincotta said she wants to see it completed correctly. Fletcher said he approved of the City Commission decision to fire the library contractor.
BACKGROUND: Cincotta and her 2-year-old daughter, Chloe, live at 2500 Rajel Ave. She is a Clearwater native who recently was widowed. Her husband, former Commissioner Sal Cincotta, died in August after a long illness. A former ophthalmic technician and low-vision specialist who has lived in Safety Harbor since 1981, Cincotta now is a "full-time mother," she said. Cincotta co-owns Unique Engineering and International Auto Parts on Main Street. Cincotta is a former chamber of commerce president and director and Safety Harbor Museum activities director and is a member of the city's Downtown Redevelopment Board and Downtown Partnership, among other civic affiliations. Cincotta attended St. Petersburg Junior College. She was active with her husband's political career and often spoke for him at commission meetings while he was embroiled in a public records dispute with Commissioner Linda Adkins. The Cincottas eventually prevailed. She is not accepting campaign contributions.
ASSETS: Home, two businesses.
INCOME: Social Security, late husband's life insurance benefits, certificates of deposit.
William D. "Don"
BACKGROUND: He lives with his artist wife of almost 20 years, Ivy, at 600 Fifth Ave. N. He is a Safety Harbor native and has been president of Florida Dredge and Dock Inc., a family-owned dredging company, for 15 years. Fletcher was appointed to the commission for one month last year to serve out Commissioner Dan Pohto's term after Pohto lost a bid for tax collector. Fletcher also has served on the city's Charter Review Committee. He has two sons and is raising his 11-year-old niece.
ASSETS: Home, business.
INCOME: Florida Dredge and Dock, Coastal Marine Construction Inc., Manatee County Port Authority, stocks.
SAFETY HARBOR: SEAT 2
Experience takes on an outside threat
This is a classic race between an incumbent and a newcomer. Vice Mayor Pamela Corbino is trying for her second commission term, while businessman Paul Marron, who never has held public office, is challenging her. Marron said he decided to run because Corbino initially had no opponent.
Corbino, who considers herself fiscally conservative, said she has enjoyed serving Safety Harbor citizens, which is one of the main reasons she is running again. Corbino said she has made sound decisions that benefit all citizens during her tenure.
Marron, who has not sat on any of the city's public boards or committees, said his strength is that he has no political ties and can offer an "open and objective" view on the commission.
Marron said he thinks some city services could be cut to meet budget goals. He has proposed reducing trash pickup from twice weekly to once weekly during the winter. He also wants the city to move forward with the streetscaping project and drainage improvements. Although there are few areas in the city left to build, Marron said the city should encourage commercial development.
Corbino supports downtown redevelopment and said she is encouraged by the coalition of residents and business owners committed to the project. She thinks the onus for the project should not be with the city. Corbino said the city should help encourage businesses to come to Safety Harbor.
Corbino has been critical of City Manager Pamela Brangaccio, saying that Brangaccio has not always done a good job of providing essential information to her. She also has accused Brangaccio of trying to set policy _ a job of the commission.
Corbino's attempt to change the method of evaluating the city manager's position sparked rumors that she, Seat 1 candidate Jill Cincotta and Seat 3 candidate Fran Barnhisel planned to oust Brangaccio. Corbino denies the charge. Marron has said that from what he can see, the city manager is doing a good job.
Concerning the library, Marron said he hopes the matter is resolved soon. Corbino and Mayor Kent Runnells are the only commission members who cast "no" votes in firing the contractor. She called the project "a big mess," and has said that the city, the contractor and the architect all share blame for it.
BACKGROUND: Corbino and her husband of 23 years, Gerard, live at 12 Fern Court in the Fernbrooke subdivision. In 1972, Corbino defeated incumbent George Costage. The Ferriday, La., native received an undergraduate degree in business and office education from Northeast Louisiana University in 1970. A business teacher almost her entire career, Corbino currently teaches computer courses at Safety Harbor Middle School. Appointed vice mayor last year, Corbino favors maintaining the city's small-town atmosphere and keeping taxes low. She was involved with the Business Educators of Pinellas County for five years and is a member of the Safety Harbor Kiwanis Club. Corbino also is the 1994 chairwoman of the Legislative Forum and Education Day with Leadership Pinellas. Corbino has two teenage sons.
INCOME: Pinellas County School Board, City Commission, certificates of deposit.
BACKGROUND: Marron is an East Orange, N.J., native making his first run at elected office. He lives at 3088 Hillside Lane. A former emergency medical technician, Marron moved to Canada with his wife, Mary Kay, in 1980. He moved back to Safety Harbor in 1991. Marron received his paramedic/EMT certificate from St. Petersburg Junior College in 1980. While living in London, Ontario, Marron graduated from the Canadian Jewellers Institute. He served on the board of directors of the London (Ontario) Better Business Bureau and was treasurer of the London Western Toastmasters. Marron worked at Littman and Bond Jewelers locally. He recently opened Cruise Line Vacations, a travel business that he operates from his home. Marron has a son and daughter.
INCOME: Cruise Line Vacations.
SAFETY HARBOR: SEAT 3
Field wide open
Seat 3 is the crowded race, with three candidates who never have held public office. Business manager and retired nurse Fran Barnhisel, retired police Officer William "Bill" Rupp and freelance photojournalist Sandra "Sandy" Huff are vying for retiring Commissioner Kathleen Bambery's seat.
Barnhisel, who manages her husband's downtown dentist office, is active with the Downtown Partnership and said people should realize that downtown redevelopment is more than "making Main Street pretty." Barnhisel encourages participation from residents for the long haul.
Huff wants to see an "artists' colony" downtown, complete with a sidewalk cafe and more pink Spanish deco-style buildings like Syd Entel's Main Street art gallery. An avid environmentalist, Huff wants Safety Harbor to preserve and create more green space and to protect natural areas like Alligator Lake.
Huff acknowledges that "if you get a reputation as a tree-hugger, people start to worry about you." But she said her "maternal feelings" for the city are an advantage, and she wants to ensure that more wildlife is not destroyed.
Rupp said that he admires both candidates but that his law enforcement and legislative experience in New York place him ahead of his opponents. Rupp ran for the commission in 1990 and was defeated by former Commissioner George Costage.
He also attracted attention by forming a group called PRIDE, or People's Responsibility in Deciding Elections. Rupp placed a half-page ad in the Clearwater Times asking for the recall of then-newly elected Commissioners Kathleen Bambery and Linda Adkins, and Costage. He was angry at the trio for voting against hiring Wayne Logan as city manager. The state Elections Commission later filed a complaint against Rupp, saying PRIDE failed to register as a political group. The complaint eventually was dismissed.
At a recent candidates forum, Rupp said he was upset by rumors that bad health would prevent him from serving on the commission. Rupp sustained a back injury in the line of duty. He said it is treated with steroid injections and would not hamper his ability to serve on the commission. Rupp even has proposed spending one day a week at City Hall to field questions from residents if he is elected.
Rupp said he does not agree with plans to move overhead utilities from Main Street to Second Street in redevelopment efforts. He thinks downtown needs something that will attract people, like the downtowns in Dunedin and Tarpon Springs.
All three agree with the City Commission decision to fire the contractor for the new library project.
Fran G. Barnhisel
BACKGROUND: Barnhisel lives with her dentist husband, Wayne Barnhisel, at 30 Hickory Lane. Barnhisel has lived in Safety Harbor for almost 14 years. She is a Bradenton native who never has held public office. Barnhisel graduated from Manatee High School and the St. Petersburg Junior College School of Nursing in St. Petersburg in 1974. She graduated in 1986 with honors from St. Petersburg Junior College, receiving an associate of arts degree. Barnhisel is a member of the Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Partnership. She also volunteers with the local Kiwanis Club. Barnhisel has been the community services chairwoman since 1992 and is a reading tutor at Safety Harbor Elementary School. Barnhisel also is a mentor for the Doorways Program. She has three grown sons and a 7-year-old daughter who attends Safety Harbor Elementary School.
ASSETS: Home, business.
INCOME: Dentist office, stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit.
Sandra "Sandy" Huff
BACKGROUND: Huff lives with her husband, William, and several ducks, chickens, turkeys and geese at 3530 Fairview Lane. Huff was born in Miami and received an undergraduate degree in education from the University of Florida. She also holds a master's degree in communications from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Huff has held jobs ranging from building contractor to fish farmer. She was a yeoman in the U.S. Navy Reserve. Currently, she is a freelance photojournalist with articles that have been published in the Times, the Tropical Breeze and the Saturday Evening Post, among other publications. Huff is an avid sailor and has been a member of the Windlasses sailing club since 1983. She also is a member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association, has been a troop leader for the Girl Scouts and teaches creative writing for the city. Huff has three children and a grandchild.
ASSETS: Home, lot at Gulf Harbor.
INCOME: Freelance writing, husband's salary as a radiation physicist.
William "Bill" Rupp
BACKGROUND: Rupp and his wife of 42 years, Margaret, live at 3104 Glenwood Court in the Baywoods II subdivision. Rupp was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and lived on Long Island, N.Y., for many years. He lived in Clearwater before moving to Safety Harbor. Rupp graduated from the New York City Department of Correction Academy, the New York State Parkway Police Academy and an FBI course. He was director of the New York City Police Athletic League and in 1972 he was invited to the White House to meet President Richard Nixon for his police work. Locally, Rupp was chairman of the Safety Harbor Kiwanis Drug-Free Schools program. He no longer is a member of the Kiwanis. Rupp also was president of the Inverness Condominium Association in Clearwater and was vice president of the Baywoods II Homeowners Association. Rupp is a member of the city's Code Enforcement Board. He has a son.
ASSETS: Home, condominium in Clearwater.
INCOME: New York State and Local Police and Fire Retirement System, Social Security, investments.
City Commissioners are elected at large for three-year terms. Candidates can choose the seat for which they want to run.
In addition to the mayor-commissioner, there are four seats on the commission. Three of these seats are up for election. The top vote-getter in each race will be elected.
Commissioners are paid $4,800 a year.
Precinct 620: Rigsby Recreation Center, 605 2nd St. N
Precinct 621: Espiritu Santo Catholic Church, 2405 Philippe Parkway.
Precinct 622: California Federal (Northwood Oaks), 2519 McMullen-Booth Road.
Precinct 623: Fire Station No. 2, 3095 McMullen-Booth Road.