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Growth leads city candidate agendas

Both incumbent Clearwater city commissioners up for re-election in March have decided to seek another term.

Commissioners Bob Clark and J.B. Johnson said Thursday that they would run. A challenger for Johnson already has stepped forward.

Bill Kirbas, a Clearwater Beach resident who has run unsuccessfully for the commission twice, said Thursday that he would run against Johnson.

Fran Briskman, who lives on Island Estates and is the secretary for the Coalition of Clearwater Homeowner Associations, said she was considering a run against Johnson but is undecided.

Candidates have until Jan. 23 to qualify for the March 10 election to the commission.

Clark, 51, who lives in Island Estates, said he wanted to run again so he could help implement redevelopment plans downtown, at the beach, in North Greenwood and on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard.

"There's so much on the horizon," said Clark, who owns Clearwater Printing.

Johnson, 75, who lives in the Del Oro Groves neighborhood, said he wanted to be in office to encourage the city to build a new Clearwater Memorial Causeway, a main library building and a beach parking garage, and to improve downtown.

He said he had helped bring back trust and cooperation to the commission and finished troubled construction projects, such as the Municipal Services Building and the Harborview Center.

Clark and Johnson are serving their first terms on the five-member commission.

Kirbas, 70, a financial adviser for American Express, ran against Clark in 1995 and Commissioner Karen Seel in 1996. He founded Jolley Trolley Corp. and serves on the city Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

"I want Clearwater to be the best city in Florida," he said, "and not an imitation of St. Petersburg and Tampa."

In Clearwater, any candidate can run for any seat. Kirbas said he decided to run against Johnson because he opposes him on a number of issues.

Kirbas said he did not think the city should stop its plans to build a new Clearwater Memorial Causeway bridge.

He said he would support waiting until the bridge needs to be repaired and then have the state pay for the replacement.

He also said he wants to keep the billboard ordinances strong, preserve the environment and increase the number of people who serve on city advisory boards.

_ Clearwater reporter Anita Kumar can be reached at 445-4160 by telephone or at by e-mail.