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Seminole City Council candidates differ on term limits and new park

SEMINOLE — The three City Council candidates who showed up for a forum agreed Seminole is generally well run, but they have some real differences.

Among those are term limits and the wisdom of creating a waterfront park opposite a county park.

But voters did not hear from all the candidates at the Oct. 2 forum. Three of the six running for the two open seats did not show up. Absent were Thomas J. Christy, making his fifth run at a seat; and two political newcomers, Vincent C. Trovato, who has been ill; and Michael R. Fisher, a businessman who has lived in Seminole for 16 years.

Present at the forum were Bob Matthews, the lone incumbent in the race who, with the exception of eight months in 2006-07, has served on the council since 1990; Roger Edelman, president of the Seminole Chamber of Commerce; and Joe Haynes, a pediatric pharmacist at All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine who served as chairman of the city's Charter Review Board this year.

The three disagreed on the idea of term limits — Seminole has none. Matthews and Edelman did not see the need for them. However, Haynes said he favors them. Once elected, council members should "get their ideas across … get buy-in and go home." He blamed low voter turnout in the city in part on the lack of turnover of elected officials.

Haynes also disagreed with Matthews and Edelman over the creation of a waterfront park on the south side of Park Boulevard across from Lake Seminole Park. Matthews said the main goal of the park is to give residents canoe and boat access to the Cross Bayou Canal. But Haynes said he thought the park was "redundant" because boaters and canoeists have access to the lake from the park across the street.

The three agreed that two of the biggest issues facing Seminole are the redevelopment of Seminole Mall and the choice of a new city manager. A developer has proposed putting a multi-million dollar shopping center on the mall property but wants the city to chip in millions to help with redevelopment. City Manager Frank Edmunds is retiring in August after 20 years on the job.

But the three sharply disagreed on what they considered a third major issue.

Matthews sees overall redevelopment as a major concern in a city that's almost completely developed. Edelman wants to keep the tax rate down. Haynes wants to increase voter engagement and vowed that, if elected, he would come to the City Hall every day after work and "park my butt in the seat. If you want to talk, I'll be here."

Seminole, with about 18,000 residents, has a council-manager form of government. The mayor and six council members are responsible for passing a budget, setting policy for the city and hiring the city manager. Council members serve three-year terms. They earn $5,562 a year. They are elected at large and the two top vote-getters will take office.

Contact Anne Lindberg at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450. Follow @alindbergtimes.

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