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King forgoes another term for job duties

(ran East edition)

Gina King, who burst into local politics as an unknown two years ago, will not seek re-election to the City Council in April.

King, 35, said her job as a project manager with Verizon will soon involve more travel and responsibility.

"I'm going to have way too much on my plate," King said Monday.

The one-term council member won her seat in April 2004 after promising to overturn the renaming of Sixth Avenue for civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She beat widely known Zephyrhills native Lance Smith with about 55 percent of the vote.

And she delivered on her campaign promise, successfully leading the effort to restore the old name during weeks of protests and national media attention.

Since then, she has kept up her appetite for prickly issues. Early in her term, she threatened to try to fire the city manager, then later the city attorney. She criticized working conditions in the Police Department and most recently brought to light a little-known policy that allows council members to participate in the city's group health plan at taxpayer expense.

But she said Monday she thinks the council's work in shaping new growth is its top accomplishment.

"As a whole, the current council has done a good job with that in the past year, and I have faith that they'll continue to improve on that," King said.

She thinks the Sixth Avenue debate is old news.

"I haven't seen or heard any repercussions from that," she said.

And if her new responsibilities at work settle, she said, she will make another run for the council, or aim higher.

She has her eye on Pasco County Commission District 1, the seat held by Ted Schrader that is up in 2008. And she has never been shy about telling people she wants to be Florida's first female governor.

For now, though, her political life is shelved, but with mixed emotions.

"I'm kind of disappointed," she said. "I really loved being on the council."

In the meantime, a candidate filed late Monday to run for King's seat. Luis Lopez, 43, a substance abuse counselor, is the only candidate for the seat so far.

Several other races are on the April 11 ballot. Former council member Celia Graham will face resident James Pouliot for Seat 2, being vacated by Liz Geiger. Council President Cathi Compton is resigning to run for the county School Board; her husband, Kent, has filed to fill her term. And Mayor Cliff McDuffie is seeking re-election. He is so far unopposed.

Candidate qualifying ends at noon today.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at (352) 521-6521 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6521. Her e-mail address is moorhead@sptimes.com.

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