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Former Safety Harbor leader rejoins board

Published Aug. 24, 2005

There would be no time to learn about the Sunshine Law, planning and zoning or how the commission works.

Commissioners needed someone who could hit the ground running.

So on Monday, they appointed former city Commissioner Fran Barnhisel to the City Commission. She replaces Neil Brickfield, who resigned last year to run for Pinellas County Commission. Barnhisel will serve until the March 8 election when voters elect a new commissioner to a one-year term.

"It's such a short period of time," said Barnhisel, a registered nurse. "And it's a lot to learn. I sit on the planning and zoning board. I know the inner workings of government. I'm happy to serve the city."

Because the term encompasses only four meetings before the election, commissioners were looking for someone who had previous experience on the commission.

"Fran is someone who doesn't have to go through that orientation process," said Mayor Pam Corbino. "She already is a planning and zoning member."

Vice Mayor Keith Zayac agreed. He said he preferred someone who was not interested in running for the seat in March.

"For four meetings, two things made sense," he said. "Bringing someone with past experience on the commission _ I thought it would be best to go with someone who had experience and knowledge in the city."

Barnhisel, who served on the commission from 1994 to 1997, has lived in Safety Harbor for 24 years. She is a member of the Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce and the Safety Harbor Kiwanis Club. She said she has no plans to run for the seat.

She was chosen out of 15 applicants. Commissioners interviewed the candidates separately before making their final decision at Monday's meeting. Candidates had to be registered voters and residents for at least a year.

A few of the applicants were candidates for Robin Borland's seat. Borland resigned in July to work as a legislative assistant for state Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor. Her term would have been up in March.

Barnhisel, who works in her husband's dental office on Main Street, did not apply for Borland's seat.

Debbie White was chosen out of 18 candidates to replace Borland.

The four commissioners on Monday all agreed on Barnhisel.

Barnhisel, who was not at the meeting, said she was thrilled to hear the news.

"Over 20 years living here, I know this city in and out," she said. "I'll do my best for the citizens of Safety Harbor."