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Zephyrhills council gets a new look

Published Feb. 22, 2006

(ran East edition)

The city government will have a largely new look after April's election, and it might have some new ways of running things.

The five-member City Council will have three new faces, but voters will have the chance to choose only one of them.

Former council member Celia Graham faces political newcomer James Pouliot. Graham, 45, first ran for council in 2002 but lost. She won a seat the following year and served two years. She ran for re-election in 2005 but lost her seat to then 18-year-old Danny Burgess.

Pouliot, 63, has not held public office. He frequently attends council meetings and speaks during public comment periods.

Three candidates are unopposed. Kent Compton, 41, will assume the council seat of his wife, Cathi, who is resigning to run for the School Board. He will complete her term, which ends in April 2007. Mayor Cliff McDuffie, 71, will begin his third term.

And after council member Gina King announced she will not run again, resident Luis Lopez stepped up.

Lopez, 43, is retired from the Air Force and works as a substance abuse counselor. He has lived in Zephyrhills for three years.

A native of Puerto Rico, Lopez becomes the city's first minority council member.

His platform, he said, is "giving a voice to everybody."

"It would be beneficial to the City Council to have a minority voice," he said.

Lopez is married with three children, 21, 17 and 16.

Also on the ballot are a slew of proposed amendments to the city charter, which dictates how the government operates.

The changes will appear in the form of 16 questions covering issues such as citizen petitions, city manager duties and the hiring and firing of top city officials. Several proposals ask voters to delete sections of the charter, which has not been amended in more than a decade, that are out of date with state law.

One proposal establishes the intent of the city to provide police and fire service, and another spells out the rules for contact between council members and city staff.

Voters also will be asked to approve a provision saying the charter should be formally reviewed every five years.

Each council member, as well as the mayor, receives a $4,800 annual honorarium to serve on the council during a two-year term. They also are offered city-subsidized health insurance for themselves and their families.

City elections are nonpartisan and are scheduled for April 11.