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Mayor calls it quits in South Pasadena

Mayor Barbara Gilberg announced her resignation Wednesday after the election of Joe Catalfamo and Dottie Wade to the City Commission.

"My reason for leaving really has nothing to do with the people (elected), it has to do with the direction," the city may take, said Gilberg, whose resignation goes into effect Friday morning.

Friday morning, the commission will begin the process of selecting a new mayor.

She said the decision to step down was not emotional or sudden.

"The two incoming commissioners in their campaign made it very clear that they favor the expansion of commercial interests (and) reducing the requirements of the redevelopment laws. I think it's appropriate that someone who is more in tune with what that commission wants to do should sit in that seat."

Currently, the city has a three-story height limit for all new construction, has green-space requirements for buildings and imposes step-down zoning (buffers between commercial and residential areas), Gilberg said.

The city is home to about 6,000 people, many of whom are elderly. Some of the losing candidates' platforms concentrated on keeping down business redevelopment in order to maintain acceptable traffic levels and promote pedestrian safety.

Tuesday night, 1,768 voters went to the polls and elected Catalfamo, a retired chief of customer service for the Defense Logistics Agency for the Department of Defense in Alexandria, Va., and Wade, a real estate agent. Catalfamo won with 23.67 percent of the vote. Wade had 24.41 percent.

Those results surprised Gilberg.

"In the past, the winners were ones who espoused careful growth and careful redevelopment," she said.

This would have been the last year of Gilberg's three-year term. She has served as mayor since 1986 and said she was voted in by residents who were upset about encroachment of business on residential property.

Earlier this year, she dropped out of competition for a Pinellas County Commission seat after Commissioner Charles Rainey joined the race.

She said it would not have been a level playing field to run against him because he has more campaign funds.

Among other things, Gilberg is a former president of the Suncoast League of Municipalities, former president of the Pinellas County Mayors' Council and served two terms as Pinellas Planning Council chair.

She also wrote a book, Boaters Guide to Docking & Dining on Florida's West Coast, published in 1986.

Gilberg said she does not have plans to do anything after her resignation.

"I am not by my nature a politician. Maybe I'll update my book," she said.

Mayor Bob McEwen of Indian Shores and president of the Pinellas County Council of Mayors, said he was shocked when he heard Gilberg had stepped down from office.

"She's been a very active and effective leader," McEwen said. "I know that Barbara is not what I would call a quitter. I hope that she has a future that is being considered now."

Cliff Donley, who lost his bid for a second City Commission term Tuesday night, empathized with Gilberg.

"With the results of (Tuesday's) election, I could see for her a year of total and complete frustration," Donley said. "I think this may very well mark the end of the city as we know it. We now have three real estate people on the commission who will try to make property available to developers to use at its highest and best use."

Commissioner Al Edmiston is a licensed real estate agent. Catalfamo recently resigned from a part-time sales broker position.

Wednesday, Catalfamo was unanimously voted vice mayor by the commission, including Gilberg.

About Gilberg's resignation, Catalfamo said, "I heard some people say that she probably wouldn't stay. But it was a surprise to me."

At 9 a.m. Friday at City Hall, the four remaining commissioners will hold a meeting to begin the selection of a new mayor.

City Clerk Diane Orloff said that the only requirements for being appointed to the post are being a registered voter and a South Pasadena resident.

Also Wednesday, M. Diane Hodson resigned from the city Code Enforcement Board and Maureen Peterson resigned from the Mayor's Advisory Committee.