After a two-year hiatus, Republican Barbara Sheen Todd will return to the Pinellas County Commission with a strong sign of approval from voters who remember her from her 14 years as a commissioner.
In Tuesday's District 2 commission primary, she led Steve Watts, the next highest vote-getter, by a 2-to-1 ratio. Mary Rainey, the ex-wife of the incumbent District 2 commissioner, ran a distant third.
By getting more than 50 percent of the vote in the Republican primary, Todd avoided a runoff. And, because there is no Democratic opposition, she will take office in mid-November.
That's when her former colleague, County Commissioner Charles Rainey, will retire from the position he has held for almost 30 years.
"I think the most exciting thing about it is to be part of what I consider a very exciting team of county commissioners," said Todd.
Though commissioners are elected countywide, they must live in specific districts. District 2 generally covers St. Petersburg west of U.S. 19 and south of Park Boulevard, including beach communities from Madeira Beach south.
Todd, 54, served on the County Commission until 1994, when she resigned to run for lieutenant governor alongside gubernatorial candidate Jim Smith. He lost in the Republican primary to Jeb Bush.
Watts, 53, was born in St. Petersburg and practices law in Clearwater. He has been mayor of Belleair since 1995, after serving as town commissioner for two years.
"I'll be back a second time," said Watts. "You don't do this kind of work and then just let it go."
Rainey, 53, was married to Commissioner Charles Rainey for 19 years before they divorced in 1992. She works as a real estate agent and ran her own travel agency from 1980 to 1994.
"I had fun," Rainey said. "I learned a lot. I can't believe Barbara won without a runoff."