Jim Archer won a hard-fought battle to keep his City Commission seat in a substantial victory Tuesday over flag store owner Peter Nehr.
Archer won 56 percent of the vote; Nehr had almost 39 percent. Hair salon owner Joseph Pisani placed third with 4 percent of the vote, and self-employed writer and inventor Norm Augustinus came in fourth with slightly more than 1 percent.
"The place went wild. My wife just broke down and started crying," Archer said from his noisy victory party at the Tarpon Springs Yacht Club. "I got a lot of support. I feel real good about it. I'm looking forward to the next three years."
Archer, 69, is a former professional baseball pitcher who has served one term on the commission.
Nehr, 49, had kind words for Archer and said he'll run in the next commission race.
"We gave it a good fight, had a lot of good supporters. I wish Mr. Archer all the best. It was a very good fight. We both did real well," he said. "I'm not going away. We'll be around for the next election."
Voters also made it clear they did not want the city's two-term limit for commissioners and the mayor to be repealed. More than 72 percent of voters opposed the repeal.
Only one issue on the ballot _ whether the city should buy a small piece of property on Spring Boulevard _ passed Tuesday.
In addition to term limits, the other issues that failed were: whether the City Commission could vote to buy or sell property instead of going to a voter referendum, whether at least a 4-1 vote of the City Commission should be required to hire or fire a city manager, whether leases of more than five years and contracts could be approved by at least a 4-1 commission vote instead of a referendum and whether nonresidents could serve on some city boards.
About 23 percent of the city's 14,089 registered voters came to the polls Tuesday. In last year's election for mayor and two commission seats, almost 34 percent of voters cast their ballots.
The defeat of the question regarding buying and selling land could make the city's downtown redevelopment plans more difficult to carry out, Archer said. That's because having to go to a referendum for sales and purchases will take longer than if the commission could approve such transactions, he said. But the defeat of the issue doesn't mean redevelopment won't happen, he said.
"I'd love to have that flexibility," he said. "I do think it'll affect (redevelopment). I don't think it'll stop it."
An opponent of the referendum items pointed out that the voters defeated five of the six issues in spite of mailings from the city that advocated a yes vote.
"The citizens have spoken loudly and clearly that they want to maintain control" instead of allowing the commission to make certain decisions, said Michael Mattia, the chairman of a political group called the Friends Advising Citizens on the Charter of Tarpon Springs, which was formed to opposed referendum questions 1 through 5.
The race for commissioner came down to Nehr and Archer, who along with their supporters held signs and waved at passing cars outside polling places Tuesday.
Voters had mixed opinions about the candidates and the referendum issues. Many said they were against the proposed change to term limits.
Those who voted for Archer said he has been a good commissioner in the past three years and deserved another term in office.
"I think if someone is in there and is doing a good job, you should re-elect them," said Mary Stewart, a retired Hallmark store owner.
Nehr supporters talked about the need for a change.
"I think we should have new blood," said Anne Gubala, a retired Kmart employee who voted for Nehr. "I like the new ideas" and his positions on the referendum issues, she said.
Nikitas Kazouris, a retired bridge painter, voted for Jim Archer and against the first five referendum issues. He said the city was trying to take decision-making control away from residents with the issues on the ballot.
Norman Crews, a retired nurse, pharmacist and hospital administrator, said he voted yes on all the referendum issues except term limits.
"I think they're reasonable," he said of the proposed charter changes.
Archer and David Archie, a former commissioner who won re-election this year when nobody entered the race against him, will be sworn in during a City Commission meeting at 6:30 p.m. March 26.
_ Katherine Gazella can be reached at (727) 445-4182 or gazellasptimes.com.
Tarpon Springs election results (all precincts counted)
COMMISSION SEAT 1
Jim Archer 1,785 (56%)
Norm Augustinus 39 (1%)
Peter Nehr 1,229 (39%)
Joseph Pisani 126 (4%)
1. Allow City Commission to buy or sell property by a 4-1 vote instead of going to a referendum:
Yes 891 (28%)
No 2,270 (72%)
2. Require at least a 4-1 City Commission vote to hire or fire city manager:
Yes 1,317 (42%)
No 1,828 (58%)
3. Eliminate the two-term limit for the mayor and commission:
Yes 872 (28%)
No 2,280 (72%)
4. Allow City Commission by a vote of at least 4-1 to approve leases of more than five years and contracts without going to a referendum:
Yes 1,125 (36%)
No 2,010 (64%)
5. Allow non-city residents who are active in the community to serve on some city boards:
Yes 779 (25%)
No 2,374 (75%)
6. Allow the city to buy a vacant lot at Spring Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive:
Yes 2,058 (66%)
No 1,068 (34%)