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  1. Florida Politics

Incumbent faces challenge from newcomer in Treasure Island election

Published Jan. 13, 2016

TREASURE ISLAND — A political newcomer will square off against a veteran city commissioner in the city's March 15 election.

Commissioner Alan Bildz, who has served six two-year terms since first elected in 2004 to the District 4 seat, will face Ken Keys, owner of a medical supply company.

The other seat up for election, District 2, is uncontested, so City Commissioner Tim Ramsberger will serve his second two-year term. The 53-year-old is the former president of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and works for Andretti Sports Marketing, headquartered in Indianapolis and owned by retired race car driver Michael Andretti.

Keys, 51, said he decided to run for commission when he moved back to Treasure Island in 2014 after being gone for 12 years.

"The different feel of the island inspired me to get into politics," he said. " I feel city government needs a change."

The city's No. 1 problem, Keys said, is the number of lawsuits it has been involved in. He cited a recent lawsuit filed by a government watchdog concerning how the city posts its notices of public meetings.

"That lawsuit asked for less than $500 and the city spent $8,000 fighting it," he claimed. "We instead should be sitting down with a person like this and having a chat" rather than going to court.

Another big problem the city faces, Keys said, is the expense of city-owned bridges and the causeway.

"We need new thoughts and ideas on how to deal with this, " he said. "I'm not in favor of a toll because I think it is punitive to residents and guests."

His company, Therapy Beds Direct, designs trauma beds and sells them to Veterans Affairs hospitals for burn patients and those with spinal cord injuries.

Bildz, a 50-year-old plumber whose district covers Sunset Beach and Gulf Boulevard from the southern boundary to 112th Avenue, could not be reached for comment.

Ramsberger, who has been a Treasure Island resident since 2002, said he was "pleasantly surprised" that he drew no opposition.

"There are still things I want to accomplish for the city," he said. "I want to focus on creating a new home for our city government, a new city center."

He also would like to revisit the idea of getting a cost comparison done of keeping the city's own police department versus having the sheriff's office take over law enforcement.

"There is a groundswell of concern about whether Treasure Island will be affordable in the future," he said. "How do you keep taxes down and still provide a full city government?"

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