1. Florida Politics

Races are set for Pasco's city elections

Published Feb. 20, 2013

Zephyrhills has a new mayor, and two Port Richey City Council members have secured new terms — all without facing an election.

The qualifying deadline for this spring's municipal elections passed at noon Tuesday with some incumbents coasting to re-election and other seats drawing challengers.

Daniel Burgess, who stepped down from the Zephyrhills City Council nearly five years ago to go to law school, returned to public service Tuesday by clinching the mayor's seat. No one else filed for the remaining year of the term vacated by Steve Van Gorden, who resigned in December amid allegations of sexual harassment.

"As a mayor, I feel like you can serve to benefit the town greatly by being an advocate, and as a lawyer that's what I do," said Burgess, 26, who works for Hudgins Law Firm in Zephyrhills and serves as a judge advocate general in the U.S. Army Reserves. "The mayor's role is extremely vital, to promote and benefit our town, to make it the great town it can be."

Burgess, who was first elected in 2005 as Zephyrhills' youngest council member, will find a familiar face on the board: His uncle, Ken Burgess, is a council member.

"The beauty of a small town, isn't it?" the younger Burgess said, chuckling. He noted that the mayor is a ceremonial post without a vote, so he wouldn't have a conflict working alongside kin.

Zephyrhills council member Charlie Proctor, who was first elected in 2011, secured a second term without opposition. Two of his colleagues will face challengers in the April 9 election: Former council member Manny Funes has filed to run against council member Lance Smith; and Rose Hale, owner of Rose's Cafe on Fifth Avenue, will face council president Kenneth Compton.

In Port Richey, Vice Mayor Bill Colombo and council member Steve O'Neill both won new three-year terms without opposition.

"I really feel like we have a lot of momentum and it's exciting," said Colombo, 56, who said he wants to keep the city's financial progress moving forward.

The lack of elections in recent cycles is an interesting turn for a city known for its colorful politics. Last April, O'Neill and fellow council members Nancy Britton and Terry Rowe kept their seats unopposed.

"If you're asking me why no one came forward, I can't put my finger on it," Colombo said Tuesday. "Maybe people think we are doing a good job."

Crowded field in New Port Richey

New Port Richey, by contrast, drew a crowded field of seven candidates for two open seats. Council member Bob Langford, who initially said he wouldn't seek another term, threw his hat in the ring. So did former council member Ginny Miller and five newcomers.

Miller — a longtime teacher at Gulf Middle School — previously served on the council for nine years until resigning in 2008 to run unsuccessfully for Pasco County Commission. She returned to the council in 2009 and decided not to run for re-election last April.

Chopper Davis, 65, former owner of Jilly's downtown bar, is also known for organizing charity benefits and his past work for the Center for Independence, which provides services to people who are developmentally disabled.

He said he filed to run on the encouragement of city residents.

Michael Malterer, 24, a Penske Truck Leasing operations manager, is running on a platform to spur downtown redevelopment and do away with the city's red-light cameras operation.

Rose Mohr, 65, is an owner of The Market Off Main, a produce market and deli on Lincoln Drive, just off Main Street. She is also co-chair of the city's environmental committee and recently advocated for the passage of a community garden ordinance.

Jeffrey Starkey (no relation to the Starkey family known for development, parks and politics in Pasco) is a 38-year-old insurance agent who is running for office because of his concern over crime in the city.

Jonathan Tietz, 24, is a recent University of Florida graduate working as a freelance videographer.

He too said he is concerned about crime and wants to see a beefed up police department budget.

Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe decided not to seek re-election. The top two vote-getters will win seats in the April 9 election.

St. Leo has races, others don't

The town of St. Leo has two contested seats. Robert Inslee will challenge Mayor William Hamilton for seat 4.

Commissioner Robert Courtney drew three opponents in the race for seat 2: Greg Smith, Sean VanGuilder and James Wells.

The two city commissioners up for re-election in San Antonio — Mayor Tim Newlon and Commissioner Mark Anderson — won new terms Tuesday without opposition.

Dade City does not have any commission seats up for election this year.

Times staff writer Bridget Hall Grumet contributed to this report.


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