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Retain 2 incumbents, add youthful newcomer

New Port Richey is on a roll.

Within weeks the city is expected to close a deal to acquire 80 acres of undeveloped property along the banks of the Pithlachascotee River that should enhance quality of life for local residents and provide wonderful recreational and educational opportunities for generations to come.

The new band shell in Sims Park is a handsome improvement to the city's riverfront. The attractive new face of downtown is taking form as the final phase of the city's Streetscape project advances along Main Street. Progress on a reclaimed water system continues, along with work on a much needed drainage project in flood-prone Jasmine Heights.

New Port Richey has seen so much progress in a few short years without emptying the city's cash reserve or boosting municipal property taxes. Thanks to the vision and intelligence of its elected leadership and the competence of its professional management, the city is in excellent shape and getting better.

When voters go to the polls April 8 to elect three City Council members, it should be to preserve this progress and sustain good government. We strongly recommend incumbents Heather Fiorentino and Ted Thomas as well as newcomer Scott Bryant.

Fiorentino, a public school teacher who was named Pasco County teacher of the year in 1993, began her involvement in New Port Richey politics nearly 20 years ago as a 19-year-old volunteer for her father's mayoral campaign. She is as familiar with New Port Richey residents and their concerns as anyone on the council.

Since her own election in 1993, Fiorentino has been careful and deliberate almost to a fault. At times she is criticized for concentrating too much on minutiae at the expense of larger policy issues. But her attention to detail demonstrates commitment. Besides, she does raise valid questions that might go unasked by a more image-conscious council member.

Thomas, an insurance agent, is a former member of the board of the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce who now serves on the board of Leadership Pasco.

Since he was first elected to the City Council in April 1992, he has exercised caution and sound judgment. He is an advocate of managed growth and a supporter of public parks who, like Fiorentino, is a superior candidate by virtue of experience and knowledge of city government.

Council member Wendy Brenner also is an experienced council member who deserves to be re-elected, except that she is required to step down by the city charter, which allows no member to serve more than three consecutive terms.

Bryant is the best choice to replace her. Though young and inexperienced, he is bright, energetic and motivated. An Army veteran and a senior pre-med student at the University of South Florida, Bryant possesses an admirable resolve to work hard and sacrifice for success. Anyone who doubts that he is up to the job at the age of 26 need look no farther than the office of state Rep. Debra Prewitt, who began her own successful public career on the New Port Richey City Council before her 30th birthday.

The other two challengers in this race, Frank Janczlik and Ron Ryner, make extremely poor candidates.

Janczlik, a perennial candidate in Pasco County, has earned a well-deserved reputation as a gadfly. He frequently attends public meetings but usually makes comments that are either irrelevant or simply incomprehensible. His election to the City Council would hinder good government in New Port Richey.

The same is true of Ryner. When he ran for mayor of New Port Richey in 1994, he told the Times that he had squandered a personal fortune, had been penalized by the IRS for unpaid taxes and lost three properties in Pasco County through foreclosure. Some of Ryner's former bosses in Maryland told the Times that Ryner had been fired from positions with the Potomac Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Maryland Society of Architects.

Ryner contends this information is irrelevant to his candidacy. That alone should be enough to concern voters. Combine it with his especially caustic, negative political style, and he makes an extremely poor candidate.

Job description

New Port Richey City Council members are elected to two-year terms. They are each paid an annual salary of $3,600. This year's candidates are incumbents Heather Fiorentino and Ted Thomas, along with Scott Bryant, Frank Janczlik and Ron Ryner.

Candidate replies

Candidates not recommended by the Times may submit an answer not to exceed 300 words. Responses must be received at the Times' Port Richey office no later than noon Tuesday to be considered for publication.

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