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2 with deep city roots vie for Seat 2

Charles Harper has watched Largo grow from a small agricultural town to a city of 70,000. Now he hopes to shape the next growth spurt.

Harper, 57, a director of systems operation for Florida Power, announced Tuesday that he plans to run for Seat 2 on the Largo City Commission in March.

Incumbent Mary Laurance, a family and consumer science teacher at Seminole High School who has served on the commission since 1999, also will run for the seat.

The election will be March 5, 2002.

Laurance, 40, said she is satisfied with her record on the commission and welcomes the competition.

"We are proud of what we've done," said Laurance. "And we are ready to fight the good fight."

Laurance, a Largo native, recently voted against a 10 percent pay raise for commissioners ($1,001) and is the sole commission voice opposing a teen curfew, which will likely become law Nov. 20. She has routinely voted against increasing taxes, she said.

She said she intends to make the revitalization of Bay Drive the focus of her next term. Her vision is to bring more business to the downtown Largo area and make it a destination for people.

"I want to see that come full circle," she said, "so people can come down and spend the day in Largo."

Harper said if he is elected, he hopes to tighten the city's finances. He also wishes to make Largo a more friendly environment for its senior citizens. He offered no specific platform.

"Largo is a special place for me," he said. "I've lived her since I was 8 years old."

Harper graduated from Largo Senior High and has lived in the area since 1952.

"The only time I've ever been away was when I was in the Navy," said Harper.

He has worked for Florida Power the past 31 years and has been in his current position the past five years. He serves as chairman of Largo's Finance Advisory Board and has served as a volunteer Little League administrator for six of the 23 years he has been involved with area youth sports.

He touts his management skills and experience with budgets. He cites the development of Clearwater-Largo Road and downtown renovations as examples of progress, and said he would push for more improvement throughout the city.

Michael Sandler can be reached at 445-4174 or sandlersptimes.com.

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