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Shelby must resign to seek election post

The Largo City Commissioner has until July 21 to announce his resignation. If elected as supervisor of elections, he will have to give up his commission seat Jan. 2.

For City Commissioner Marty Shelby to run for the county's supervisor of elections, he must resign from the commission by July 21, the filing deadline for those interested in the job.

But under state law, Shelby could keep his commission seat until Jan. 2, the day he would be sworn into office, if he won the supervisor's election. The remaining Largo commissioners would pick someone to finish Shelby's term, which ends in March.

Shelby announced Monday that he wanted to replace Dorothy "Dot" Ruggles, Pinellas County's longtime elections commissioner who was dying of breast cancer. The Times carried a story Saturday saying she planned to resign from the job soon.

Ruggles resigned in a letter to Gov. Jeb Bush on Monday evening, and Tuesday she died at her home.

Under state law, city officials elected to county or state office can keep their current jobs until the day they take the reins of their new jobs. Shelby said Wednesday that that's what he plans to do, should he be elected in November.

As elected officials and county government employees mourned Ruggles death Wednesday, Shelby was criticized by the vice chairman of the Pinellas County Democratic Party for announcing he wanted the supervisor's seat while Ruggles was dying.

"I think it's in a little bit of bad taste," said Bob Shirer.

Shelby replied, "I'm disappointed that it's being misunderstood."

Shelby told a Times reporter some associates had asked him a few months ago to consider running for the seat. The commissioner, who made a formal announcement at Monday's Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee meeting, declined to explain why he made public his plans on Monday.

"It's a tragic loss and my thoughts are with her family," Shelby said, referring to Ruggles' death. "To be asked these questions is totally inappropriate."

If Shelby loses the race, he can still run for re-election to the commission. According to the city charter, a candidate must file for office no less than 30 days before the election. Next year's election would take place on the second Tuesday in March.

Judy Dean was the last Largo commissioner to resign before her term expired. She left the commission in Oct. 1996, five months before her term ended to move into another part of the county.

The city asked those interested in her seat to apply for the position. Twenty people applied. Pat Burke was chosen by the remaining commissioners.