CLEARWATER — After community activist Lina Teixeira lost a five-way race for City Council in March 2020, she grieved in her art studio.
Teixeira shredded her red, white and blue campaign signs and fashioned the pieces into a dress. The drawings of her signature eyeglasses that dotted the yard signs turned into details for the corset and ribboned skirt.
Four weeks later, she was pondering her 2022 campaign.
“I have this compulsion of: If I’m not happy, I have to be part of the solution,” she said.
In her second bid for City Council, which she kicked off last week, Teixeira said her reasons for running have not changed. She still wants to serve in a role in which she could impact policy, a step up from the activism she’s done for nearly a decade as a citizen.
But now, her perspective running in the March 15 election has changed.
Teixeira, 51, said the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need to address what she sees as the top three issues in Clearwater: the city’s over-reliance on tourism, a divided culture between neighborhoods and the impact of the Church of Scientology on downtown.
In 2020, she lost her race for the open Seat 2 to City Council member Mark Bunker, who centered his platform on addressing what he calls fraud and abuse in Scientology. This time, in her race for Seat 5, she is facing another Scientology critic, Aaron Smith-Levin, ensuring that the church and its influence on Clearwater’s downtown redevelopment plans will again be a focus of the election.
Although candidates have until December to file paperwork to run, Smith-Levin and Teixeira are so far the only candidates for Seat 5, which will be vacated by City Council member Hoyt Hamilton due to term limits. All five seats on the council are at-large.
Smith-Levin, 41, has said Scientology is “a criminal organization masquerading as a religion.” Teixeira, who is not a member of Scientology, says as a downtown business owner, she must be pragmatic.
She said it is problematic that about half of the downtown properties purchased by limited liability companies tied to Scientology between 2017 and 2019 still are vacant. The City Council, she said, should push for more answers from Scientology parishioners who control those parcels.
“I think we need to meet with the property owners and have honest conversations and say ‘You are not being a good neighbor, what are your intentions?’” Teixeira said. “And how can we move forward and be a more positive presence?”
Teixeira said she supports exploring policy changes to require ground-floor storefronts on main city arteries like Cleveland Street and Fort Harrison Avenue to have commercial uses.
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“There’s no reason for it to be a charity, a headquarters. (Those uses) could be done on the second level,” Teixeira said.
But Teixeira said Scientology cannot be the only focus of her campaign.
A catchphrase often used in the city is “live, work and play,” but Teixeira said there are too many workers who can’t afford to live in Clearwater “and not enough people who choose to play here.”
“We’re too focused on the service industry,” Teixeira said. “We need to be active . . . in courting high-paying jobs. And we need to be involved in every aspect, from courting them to facilitating the permitting process.”
Teixeira said she wants to help bring more unity among neighborhoods to do away with an “us-versus-them” dynamic. One idea, she said, would involve the city hosting revolving town hall events, which would take place in different neighborhoods every few months, then soliciting feedback from residents.
“There has to be a meeting in the middle between the warp speed that the private sector has to run at to survive and the snail pace of the city,” Teixeira said. “I want the city culture of the city government to be: ‘We are a service industry, treat the citizens like customers.’ ”
Besides advocating for downtown revitalization, Teixeira serves as chief advocate for SAFE, an anti-human trafficking organization that raises awareness in Tampa Bay. In 2020, she produced a music video called “Sail Away (Where I Wanna Go),” with musicians Chris McCarty and Kidd Leow, which celebrates the city.
And following a city-wide litter cleanup this month, she is helping curate art pieces made from the garbage collected to be displayed throughout Clearwater to promote environmental stewardship.
Teixeira said her interest in community service stems from her upbringing. She was born in Montreal to parents who immigrated to Canada from Portugal. She watched her father, a textile factory worker, become a community leader and advocate for worker rights.
Teixeira worked as a nurse for eight years — four in Canada, where she worked in pediatrics, and four in Lakeland, where she and her husband moved in the 1990s.
The couple moved to Pinellas County in 1997 and founded Research Alliance, which conducts clinical trials for pharmaceuticals.
For years, Teixeira created wearable art for local charities and fundraisers. In 2014, her pieces were shown in New York Fashion Week.
Teixeira opened her art studio on Cleveland Street in 2014 and quickly became a downtown activist. She joined the Downtown Clearwater Merchants Association and the Clearwater Downtown Partnership and became a source for residents and merchants navigating city issues.
In 2018, Teixeira opened Pour Yours wine bar on Cleveland Street as a way to encourage other entrepreneurs to take a chance on downtown and fill empty storefronts. She sold the bar in 2020 but continues to run her art studio in One Clearwater Tower.
“Words are powerful, but if you don’t have action behind it, then they become hollow,” Teixeira said. “I’m asking voters to look at all of my accomplishments in the last nine years, and they are diverse.”