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TAX COLLECTOR // Petty collects another term

Republican W. Fred Petty easily kept his post as tax collector, winning by a landslide over one opponent who accused him of discrimination and another who was a newcomer to countywide politics.

Because the Democrats did not field a candidate, Petty's primary win over Gerald Castellanos and Arthur Werner ensured his job.

"I feel great," said Petty, 66. "Campaigning is a serious business. You don't just do it to even the score."

Castellanos, 41, was Petty's assistant from 1992 to 1994 and his campaign manager when Petty defeated O. Sanford Jasper four years ago. But their relationship soured and Castellanos filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging Petty discriminated against him. The county settled with him in 1994 for $110,500.

Castellanos said the public deserved an alternative to "turmoil."

"That didn't matter to the voters as much as I thought it would," he said.

Petty said discrimination complaints against him were "old news."

Werner, 66, who owns an art gallery in Largo, said he ran to help tax collector employees.

But he said a lack of money and name recognition stifled his chances.

"I came in about two months ago completely unknown. I'm a people person, not really a politician," Werner said.

The wide margin of victory signaled that Petty was able to gauge the peoples' needs, Castellanos said. "We congratulate him on that."