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LARGO // Eight vie for 3 commission seats

Three incumbents and five challengers are seeking three seats on the Largo commission.

Jim Miles, who holds Seat 3, has served for 15 years; Jean Halvorsen, who occupies Seat 4, has served for 12. Pat Burke, who holds Seat 1, has served since November.

Their challengers think it's time for new faces and fresh ideas.

"I think Mr. Miles is a fine man," said Ken Crisp, one of Miles' two challengers for Seat 3. "He's done a pretty decent job. But it's time for a change."

Crisp said he favors term limits for commissioners and would serve only two terms.

Leon Floyd, Miles' other opponent, said Largo's tendency to re-elect sitting commissioners causes apathy among voters, which is shown in the low turnout for city elections.

"I'd like to see a lot more people involved in their government," Floyd said.

This year is the first time since the mid-1980s that Miles has faced an opponent.

Miles believes there is a reason for that.

While he has been in office, the tax rate has remained one of the lowest in the state while improvements, such as Largo Central Park, are evident. Over the years, Miles said, he has been responsive to residents.

Halvorsen, in office almost as long as Miles, in most elections has drawn a challenger. This year, she faces Phil Jones.

He too favors term limits and said he would serve only two terms.

Jones said he thinks the city is on the right track and would work to keep taxes low and the level of services high.

"I support the current plan for a downtown (stormwater) drainage system and the redevelopment of the West Bay Drive corridor," Jones said.

Halvorsen supports the drainage plan and downtown redevelopment. She opposed Winn-Dixie's building a large grocery on environmentally sensitive land on East Bay Drive and makes no apologies for her vote.

"I'm an environmentalist," she said in a campaign speech this week.

In the race for Seat 1, Burke's two opponents consider her a novice, as they are.

Joe Jones said he will try to establish an intern program so that residents can learn more about the commission's everyday work. He promises to devote full time to the job.

Charles Graul says he would put his computer and communication skills to work for the city if voters choose him:

"Many of us have access to our local officials by phone and in person. The computer and television are two other options that are being worked on now. I would hope to make these options more of a presence."

Burke acknowledges she still is learning to be an effective commissioner. She said she has enjoyed being a part of decisionmaking and will concentrate her efforts on the development of the east side of Largo Central Park and on the redevelopment of downtown.

The races

Largo voters will go to the polls Tuesday to elect three commissioners. In the race for Seat 1, the candidates are Pat Burke, Joe Jones and Charles Graul. The winner will serve the remaining two years of a former commissioner's term. In the race for Seat 3, the candidates are Ken Crisp, Leon Floyd and Jim Miles. For Seat 4, the candidates are Phil Jones and Jean Halvorsen.

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Except for Seat 1, winners will serve three-year terms. Monthly salaries are about $600 each. All seats are elected citywide.

The referendum

Those casting ballots will be asked to decide if voters, and not the commissioners, should decide on future pay raises for the mayor and commissioners. A "yes" vote would automatically increase the mayor's salary from $900 a month to $1,250 and commission salaries from $600 a month to $1,000. Benefits also would increase for elected officials, from $2,600 to $6,000 annually. It also would give residents the right to decide, every five years, on any future raises. A "no" vote would leave commission salaries where they are, and leave it up to the commission to decide on raises.

THE CANDIDATES FOR SEAT 1

Pat Burke

AGE: 54

She is the incumbent commissioner. She was appointed in November to fill the seat when a former commissioner resigned. Burke has been a Largo resident 22 years. A former city activist, Burke was president of Partners N' Progress and has been on the city's Economic Development Board, Planning Board and the Technical Advisory Board for Largo Central Park. She works as a government liaison for Time Warner Communications. Burke is a graduate of Windsor Central High School in Windsor, N.Y. She lives at 472 Fifth Ave. SE. She is divorced and has one adult son.

ASSETS: her home and land in Dixie County

LIABILITIES: none listed

SOURCE OF INCOME: salary

Joe Jones

AGE: 51

He has lived in Largo for three years. He is an Air Force veteran who has worked as an investigator for the U.S. Treasury Department, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the state of Connecticut. He has a high school equivalency certificate, which he acquired while in the service in Germany. Jones has never run for public office. Currently, he works as a consultant, specializing in fraud issues. He lives at 12802 128th Lane. Jones, who is engaged, has no children.

ASSETS: his home

LIABILITIES: mortgage

SOURCE OF INCOME: Social Security disability payments, a pension from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Charles Graul

AGE: 51

He has lived in Largo for four years and is an Air Force veteran. Graul is a microcomputer specialist who works for the city of Dunedin. He is a graduate of Fort Lauderdale High School and Fort Lauderdale Technical College. Graul is active in his neighborhood association, Keene Park. He has never run for public office. Graul and his wife, Kay, live at 521 Brookfield Drive. He has four children.

ASSETS: his home

LIABILITIES: an equity loan on his home

SOURCE OF INCOME: his salary

THE CANDIDATES FOR SEAT 3

Ken Crisp

AGE: 58

He has lived in Largo for 22 years. He is a Navy veteran. Crisp owns Crisp Electric at 1470 S Missouri Ave. in Clearwater. He is a master electrician who graduated from two trade schools in Chicago. Crisp has never run for political office but was a regional director for Pat Buchanan's presidential bid. He and his wife, Jeanette, live at 980 16th Ave. SW. He has two grown sons.

ASSETS: building on Missouri Avenue and his home

LIABILITIES: mortgages

SOURCE OF INCOME: his business

Leon Floyd

AGE: 64

He was born and raised in Largo. He is a 1950 graduate of Largo High School and has an associate's degree in business from the University of Georgia. He is a business consultant. Floyd served in the Georgia Legislature for eight years beginning in 1968. He retired from IBM and served in the Korean War. Floyd lives with his mother at 1028 10th Ave. N. He is divorced and has a grown daughter.

ASSETS: stocks, bonds and land in Decatur, Ga.

LIABILITIES: none listed

SOURCE OF INCOME: pension and Social Security

Jim Miles

AGE: 76

A retired Army colonel, he is a veteran of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. Miles has lived in Largo for 21 years and has served on the Largo commission for 15 years. As a Largo commissioner, Miles has represented the city on the county road board since 1982 and on the state road board advisory council since 1984. He is a graduate of Erie Academy High School in Erie, Pa., and the University of Nebraska in Omaha. Miles and his wife, Carol, live at 12811 Mia Circle. He has six adult children.

ASSETS: municipal bonds, his home

LIABILITIES: none listed

SOURCE OF INCOME: military pension, bonds

THE CANDIDATES FOR SEAT 4

Phil Jones

AGE: 46

He was born and raised in Largo. He is a 1969 graduate of Largo High School. Jones ran for a commission seat two years ago, losing to Marty Shelby. Since then, he has served on the city's Public Works Advisory Board. For 15 years he owned an automotive machine shop. Now he sells machinery parts for several manufacturers. Jones and his wife, Peggy, live at 1115 13th Ave. NW. He has two grown children.

ASSETS: his home

LIABILITIES: mortgage and a loan on a motor home

SOURCE OF INCOME: his job

Jean Halvorsen

AGE: 66

She has lived in Largo for 21 years. She has been on the commission for 12 years and represents Largo on several regional boards. Halvorsen is a graduate of Stoughton High School in Wisconsin and is a retired stenographer. She is a widow who lives at Palm Hill Country Club, a mobile home park off Seminole Boulevard. She is active in mobile home owners organizations.

ASSETS: her home, stock

LIABILITIES: none listed

SOURCE OF INCOME: Social Security

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