Clearwater strong mayor referendum: What you need to know

If passed, the change would take effect in 2020 when City Manager Bill Horne plans to retire.
Clearwater City Hall. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
Clearwater City Hall. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
Published November 5 2018

  •  Changing from Council-Manager to Mayor-Council Government, Designating Mayor as Chief Executive/Administrative Officer: Shall the Clearwater charter be amended as provided in Ordinance 9179-18 to: adopt mayor-council government effective 2020; remove mayor from council; elect by majority vote, not plurality, executive mayor responsible for operations, budget and employees; provide for mayoral runoffs; provide for mayoral ordinance veto and council override; eliminate city manager; establish mayor-appointed city administrator, who will also act as mayor in mayor’s absence; start mayoral term limits; and establish council-directed internal auditor?
  • Translation: Like most cities and towns in Florida, the Clearwater City Council, which includes the mayor, hires a professional city manager to run day to day operations, prepare the budget, hire and fire, and carry out policy set by the Council. Some larger cities, like Tampa and St. Petersburg, have a mayor-council government, where the elected mayor serves a full time role, is not a member of the Council, can negotiate deals on behalf of the city, has veto power over Council ordinances and sets priorities for the city. This referendum asks voters whether they want to change from the council-manager form of government to a “strong” mayor-council form.
  • Supporters say an elected mayor with the ability to talk to developers and council members alike, unrestricted by Florida’s open meetings law, could help awaken Clearwater and put it on the regional stage with Tampa and St Petersburg. The initiative this year was prompted by a small group of businessmen associated with the Clearwater Downtown Partnership.  The Accountable Government PAC backing the change has raised $163,232, mostly from business and development interests inside and outside of Clearwater.
  • Opponents fear putting daily management power in the hands of a politician swayed by campaign contributions, instead of a professional manager, is a dangerous concentration of power. The No Boss Mayor political action committee has raised $66,066 to fight the referendum, about 86 percent of which came from the International City/County Management Association. Mayor George Cretekos and Council member Hoyt Hamilton have been vocal opponents of the change.

Click here to read the Tampa Bay Times voter guide, which will give you a breakdown of many of the 2018 races.

Follow @TroMcManus for the latest on the referendum.