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Why we mayors of Pinellas beach towns want to stay independent | Column
Each town has its own distinct personality, and that personality is determined by the people who live there.
 
Redington Shores is one of the small towns in Pinellas County that offer a slower-paced lifestyle, low crime rates and a sense of pride.
Redington Shores is one of the small towns in Pinellas County that offer a slower-paced lifestyle, low crime rates and a sense of pride. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published Sept. 6, 2023

Living in a small beach town is a wonderful experience. Residents experience a slower-paced lifestyle, low crime rates and a sense of pride in their community. Our residents know their neighbors from walking their streets, serving together on various boards and coming together for special events, thus fostering a small-town feel in the midst of the most densely populated county in Florida.

Bill Queen
Bill Queen [ Provided ]
Dave Gattis
Dave Gattis [ Provided ]
MaryBeth Henderson
MaryBeth Henderson [ Provided ]
David Will
David Will [ Provided ]

Why are there so many small beach towns and what makes each town different? The diversity is based on many factors, including aesthetics, rules and regulations, businesses and a vision for the future. The composition of each town may differ in density, building height, setbacks and local ordinances. These differences were dictated by the people of each town and the vision for the future provided by the current residents. Some towns are mainly residential, some heavily commercial and some a mix of both. Some have many rules and some have less. When looking for the right fit, residents can choose the right environment for them.

Many beach towns use interlocal agreements and services provided by neighboring towns for many things, such as law enforcement, fire and rescue, library and building services, thereby lowering costs. Most have partnered with Pinellas County for water and sewer. These beach towns have much lower tax rates than larger cities while providing comparable services.

Town halls are located nearby and bring easy access for its residents to have one-on-one meetings with local officials to answer questions and assist in problem-solving. Residents can call or walk into their Town Hall, speak with staff and, in most instances, have the answer they are looking for in a matter of minutes. Local elected officials are neighbors and familiar faces to the residents. They are elected by the citizens and, when opinions differ, also replaced by the citizens.

Not all small towns have frequent changeovers of officials and staff. Some towns have officials who have been elected for terms exceeding 20 years. Many also have employees who have retired after 25 to 30 years and current employees on the same path. Having a smaller staff allows the municipality to offer salaries and benefits that attract and retain top-quality employees while in a more intimate atmosphere, where they know and rely on all their co-workers. Finding qualified officials is not generally an issue small towns face as residents volunteer, not for personal gain or high salaries, but due to the love of their community and wish for it to prosper.

If the criteria is the size of the city, based on population, who makes the decision on the threshold of that criteria? Why not eliminate all municipalities and have one city of Pinellas? The answer is because each town has its own distinct personality, and that personality is determined by the people who live there. If consolidation or elimination of towns were a consideration, the decision should be determined by the local residents, not Tallahassee bureaucrats. The best government is the government closest to the people. The officials put the needs of the town first because they live here too. These are not fiefdoms. They are neighborhoods loved by their residents. And there will be no quit in our towns.

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Bill Queen is mayor of North Redington Beach. Dave Gattis is mayor of Belleair Beach. MaryBeth Henderson is mayor of Redington Shores. David Will is mayor of Redington Beach.