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New Port Richey voters see familiar candidates

Name recognition won't be much of a problem in this year's city elections.

The April 11 election will see Deputy Mayor Bob Langford challenging Mayor Dan Tipton for the city's top seat. Three council veterans, Council member Matthew McCaffery and former members Tom Finn and Ginny Miller, are competing for two spots on the council. The races are nonpartisan.

The only new name on the ballot will be council candidate Frank Ferreri, an advertising and marketing consultant. Ferreri, 59, previously worked in advertising sales for the Tampa Tribune and the Suncoast News and was general manager of radio station WLVU from 1986 to 1998.

"I just want to give back to the community that's been good to me and do what I can to continue New Port Richey growing, to keep the quaintness but to also watch it grow," Ferreri said.

With several major downtown projects in the works - including the $30-million Main Street Landing, plans for another complex with condos and shops overlooking Orange Lake, the conversion of the historic Hacienda Hotel into a lyceum and the streetscaping plans for Railroad Square on Nebraska Avenue - it's no surprise all of the candidates are buzzing about redevelopment.

Mayor Dan Tipton, who was first elected in 2004, supports those efforts but doesn't want to limit the council's focus to downtown.

"Even though we've got a lot of development in the downtown business district, I want to get out to the rest of the city as far as the areas that need help," Tipton, 53, owner of a home renovation business, told the Times earlier this month.

He will be challenged by Deputy Mayor Bob Langford, an audio engineering consultant who was first elected in 2003, making him the most senior member of the board. Langford, 63, has said he "could provide greater leadership and more responsible leadership."

In order to run for a two-year term as mayor, Langford must resign from his current seat effective April 11. That opening and the race for council member Matthew McCaffery's seat means there are two council seats up for grabs.

The top vote-getter will get a two-year term, while the No. 2 candidate will get the remaining year of Langford's term. Council members will then pick a new deputy mayor from their ranks.

McCaffery, a 24-year-old Iraq war veteran first elected two years ago, wants to press forward with annexations that increase the city's tax base and look into starting a city-run ambulance service instead of relying on Pasco County paramedics.

He faces a challenge from Ferreri and former council members Finn and Miller, who were forced out by term limits last year. Council members can serve up to three consecutive two-year terms, but once they're out of office, they can run again.

Finn, a 50-year-old sign shop owner, and Miller, a 47-year-old math teacher at Gulf Middle School, both say they want to delve back into the city's redevelopment efforts.

Finn has suggested programs to plant more trees, offer grants to help people move out of mobile homes and provide more money to transform rental properties into single-family homes. Miller wants to look into providing more affordable housing for government workers and seeking partnerships with Port Richey.

Bridget Hall Grumet covers New Port Richey. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is bhall@sppimes.com.

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