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INDIAN ROCKS BEACH // Two projects divide hopefuls

Published Jul. 6, 2006

@@, Four candidates with outspoken views give residents clear-cut choices for two commission seats.

Incumbent Francis "Sandy" Sullivan, 57, is vying for a seat against James Palamara, 41, Tony Maisano, 58, and Joanna "Cookie" Kennedy, 36, in Tuesday's election.

Residents are curious about their views on two major issues: a proposed $226,000 project to bury utility lines and a $324,000 effort to renovate the business district, bordered by the Indian Rocks Bridge, Gulf Boulevard and the Intracoastal Waterway. The business district upgrade includes oak and palm trees, benches and irrigation, among other improvements. The commission was to vote Wednesday night on burying the utility lines.

Palamara is a staunch opponent of tax assessments and city funding for both projects. If elected, he said, he would allow residents to vote for such projects by referendum.

A former city commissioner, Palamara said, "My record demonstrates my commitment of serving you with accountability and responsibility."

Kennedy, on the other hand, is in favor of both projects. However, she said she hoped to find an alternative to assessing residents to pay for the utilities project.

The planning and zoning board, on which Kennedy served as chairwoman until recently, initiated the business triangle project. She and Maisano were questioned about a possible conflict of interest; Kennedy owns property and Maisano owns a business in the district. Kennedy said she would not vote if so advised by the city attorney.

"I want you to vote for me because of my honesty and commitment to the city," she said.

Maisano said he saw no conflict, because upgrading the triangle benefits residents as well as business owners.

Maisano and Sullivan were in agreement on the issues. Both said they believed underground utilities would add to the city's aesthetics. But because there seemed to be a lack of support among residents, they said, taxpayers should not be assessed. Both said they were in favor of the business triangle, although Maisano added that he would rally for more public comment and push for a citywide beautification plan to better prioritize projects.

Maisano's goal, he said, would be "to ensure participation and representation of our residents."

Sullivan said his record as a commissioner for the past four years speaks for itself. He did not attend a candidates' forum recently. Of residents, he said, "They already know what I represent and who I am."

In other issues, candidates are divided on the need for a 1,040-foot pier to replace the Big Indian Rocks Beach Pier wiped out in 1985 by Hurricane Elena. Kennedy and Sullivan said rebuilding the pier would be beneficial for the city and they were in favor of the commission's finding ways to fund such a project. Palamara and Maisano, however, said the pier should be put on the back burner until other projects were completed.

Candidates support a 25 mph speed limit in residential areas.

The race

Voters will elect two commissioners when they go to the polls Tuesday. They will choose from Joanna "Cookie" Kennedy, Tony Maisano, James Palamara and Francis "Sandy" Sullivan, the only incumbent. A second seat is left vacant because Commissioner Austin Campbell's term is expiring, and he is not seeking re-election. The two candidates with the most votes will fill the seats.

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Commissioners serve two-year terms and are paid $2,400 a year.


Joanna "Cookie" Kennedy

AGE: 36

She is new to the political scene, although she has been active in city government and served as chairwoman of the planning and zoning board. Kennedy owns Cookie Cutter hair salon. She attended New London Academy of Hair Design in Connecticut and is studying political science at St. Petersburg Junior College. She has been a resident since 1987 and lives with her husband, Greg, at 374 12th Ave. They have one son.

ASSETS: commercial property, individual retirement account

LIABILITIES: mortgages on home

SOURCE OF INCOME: Cookie Cutter hair salon

Tony Maisano

AGE: 58

Maisano, who has never held political office, owns Island Rentals in Indian Rocks Beach and for two years was on the board of directors of the Gulf Beaches Chamber of Commerce. He has a degree in business administration from Polk Community College in Winter Haven and attended the University of Florida in Gainesville. He lives at 1917 Gulf Blvd. and has been a resident for more than three years. Maisano is divorced and has one son.

ASSETS: business, stocks, money market account

LIABILITIES: none listed

SOURCE OF INCOME: Island Rentals, Maisano Realty, Starr Lake Properties

James Palamara

AGE: 41

He served on the commission from 1992 to 1994 and was vice mayor for one year during that time. He has also served on the board of adjustment, the planning and zoning board and the homeowners association. He is a general contractor and owns his own business. He has taken construction courses at St. Petersburg Junior and Hillsborough Community colleges. Along with his wife, Karin, Palamara lives at 102 15th Ave. and has one stepchild. They have been residents for 16 years.

ASSETS: his home, land in Suwannee County and Port Charlotte

LIABILITIES: none listed

SOURCE OF INCOME: general contracting business

Francis "Sandy" Sullivan

AGE: 57

He is the only incumbent, seeking his third term. He has also served as a fire commissioner for the city. Sullivan is a fire inspector for Pinellas Park and has been an Indian Rocks Beach resident since 1985. He has an associate's degree in fire administration from Mott Community College in Michigan and took courses at the University of Cincinnati. Sullivan and his wife, Patti, live at 401 Harbor Drive N. They have four children and four grandchildren.

ASSETS: his home, investment account


SOURCE OF INCOME: city of Pinellas Park