ST. PETE BEACH — Questions from a candidate forum audience last month gave more than a hint of the issues on the minds of city voters.
The issues of most concern ranged from balancing commercial and residential interests to fixing the city's deteriorating infrastructure. In between were how and at what cost to build a new library, persuading Pinellas County to share some of its tax dollars with the city, and whether dogs and cats should be leashed and/or contained.
Each of the candidates on the March 15 ballot — incumbent Terri Finnerty and challenger and former commissioner Lorraine Huhn in District 1, and former Mayor Ward Friszolowski and community activist Deborah Schechner in District 3 — had similar but nuanced answers to these and other issues.
And each pointed to very different personal histories as qualifiers for elective office.
Finnerty cited her "lifetime of experience" as a consultant to help solve city problems, and particularly her role in ending development-related legal battles.
"We found common ground and made a bold decision to replace our city manager," Finnerty said. "Before we had a divided a community and we have been able to bring it together."
Huhn, who previously led a group of hoteliers and pro-redevelopment residents in their efforts to encourage tourist development in the city, said she can help "make things better" in the city, including reversing the "silencing of voices in District 1".
Friszolowski stressed the experience and knowledge gained in his six years as a commissioner and eight years as mayor, as well as his subsequent service on the city's library, historic and planning boards.
"I want to make St. Pete Beach a better place," he said, listing public safety, infrastructure improvements, controlled development and low taxes as among his priorities.
Schechner, who is proud of attending virtually every commission meeting and workshop in recent years, said District 3 residents and businesses "feel disregarded and overlooked."
Among her priorities are finally solving what she describes as severe flooding and other infrastructure issues in her district. She also wants the city to get a share of hotel bed tax revenues collected by the county.Editor's note — This article has been amended to reflect the following correction: St. Pete Beach city commission candidate Ward Friszolowski's name was misspelled in a March 4 article.