As election qualifying ends, $10 million Madeira Beach complex likely to be main issue

Published Jan. 14, 2014

MADEIRA BEACH — Voters will pick a mayor and fill one of two open commission seats in the city's March 11 municipal election.

District 1 Commissioner Terry Lister will automatically be returned to office since his seat drew no opposition.

Mayor Travis Palladeno, 49, who is seeking a second three-year term as mayor, is being challenged by Victor Cucaro, 77.

District 2 Commissioner Nancy Hodges, 64, who was automatically elected when she ran unopposed two years ago, does have an opponent this time: William Wright, 52.

One issue certain to arise during the election campaign is the $10 million municipal complex the current commission has approved, which will be under construction by the time voters go to the polls.

Palladeno and Hodges are both proud of the commission's decision to build a new City Hall, fire station and recreational complex.

Their opponents are split.

Wright is not opposed to the commission's decision, but criticizes the group for not "communicating" more effectively with voters. He thinks that officials must be frugal in the future to ensure the city remains solvent.

"My main concerns as a candidate would obviously focus on issues affecting District 2," Wright says.

Wright, who describes himself as "independently wealthy," has not previously served on any city boards and is senior vice commander of the VFW Post 4256 in Madeira Beach.

Hodges, who previously served on the city's Planning Board, says she is "excited" about the changes that have occurred in the city since her election in 2012.

"There are still some more changes that need to be made, a lot of projects to be completed. I hope to be a part of that," she said.

It is the mayoral race that could provide voters an opportunity to weigh in on the direction the current commission has taken the city.

Palladeno's challenger is vocal in his opposition to the commission's decision to spend millions of dollars on a new municipal complex.

Cucaro, a native of Argentina and long-time city resident, calls the project a "waste" that he would try to downsize if elected.

"With a very shaky economy, it is a really bad idea to put ourselves into a multimillion complex that we don't need," he said.

Cucaro owns and operates the Integrative Acupuncture Medical Clinic in Madeira Beach. He has never served on a city board.

In sharp contrast, Palladeno says he is "extremely proud" of his role in what he calls the "transformation of Madeira Beach."

In addition to a new municipal complex, Palladeno points to a long list of other accomplishments including acquiring $3.3 million for Gulf Boulevard beautification projects, stormwater rehabilitation and road resurfacing projects, reducing property taxes, raising parking revenues, reconstituting the city's building department, replacing seawalls and beach walkovers, and redeveloping Archibald Park.

Palladeno is owner and operator of Live Wire Fishing Charters, and previously served on the city's Planning Board and the Archibald Park Ad Hoc Committee.