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  1. Opinion

Times recommends: Citro, Dingfelder, Rhodes for Tampa City Council

Tampa voters will decide runoffs for three city council seats. Even under Tampa's strong-mayor form of government, the council plays a key role in shaping the budget, setting the city's priorities and ensuring the neighborhoods are represented at City Hall. Council races are nonpartisan. Members are elected to four-year terms and paid $46,238 per year. District seats 1 and 3 are elected citywide. Mail ballots have been sent, early voting begins April 14 and Election Day is April 23.

Joseph Citro

District 1 (Citywide)

Joseph Citro has spent 16 years serving the city in a variety of capacities. His experience, knowledge of local government and grasp of the issues make him the best fit for this citywide district.

Citro, 60, has a long record of community service since moving to the area in 1974. His work on various city boards — overseeing the city charter, code enforcement, civil service and other core government functions — reflects Citro's interest in the orderly function of local government. He has a deep understanding of Tampa's many different neighborhoods and the challenges facing the city. His collegial nature and history at City Hall would immediately make him an effective council member.

Citro, who finished first among five candidates in the March election with more than 31 percent of the vote, would make shoring up the city budget his top priority. He would focus on the basics, shifting more resources to code enforcement and permitting, which is smart given the city's construction growth in recent years. He supports new mass transit projects and greater collaboration with nonprofits to expand affordable housing. Citro has a solid grasp of what issues and authority fall within council's purview. He is open, accessible and level headed.

Walter L. Smith II, 46, a middle school science teacher, is an engaging candidate who would focus on job development, affordable housing and public infrastructure. Smith wants to create stronger alliances between employers, unions and educational institutions to better train an evolving workforce. He wants to make critical public works projects more resilient to the impacts of climate change and maximize densities in the urban core to make for more efficient land development.

This race marks Citro's fourth attempt to win a council seat, reflecting his determination to serve the city in a higher capacity. His well-rounded perspective and practical nature make him the better choice. For Tampa City Council District 1, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Joseph Citro.

John Dingfelder

District 3 (Citywide)

John Dingfelder fell just short of winning this four-way race outright in March, reflecting the comfort that voters have in returning him to city council. Dingfelder has served this community well in a variety of capacities, and his experience and sensible agenda would be an asset at City Hall.

Dingfelder, 62, served on council from 2003 to 2010 before leaving due to term limits. He was a strong neighborhood advocate who supported managed growth, mass transit and quality of life concerns, from better sidewalks and street lighting to the preservation of the city's tree canopy. Dingfelder has deep ties to the neighborhood groups and an innate sense of balance, two key attributes for any representative of a citywide seat. He supports mixed-use development but is sensitive to the impacts that businesses can have on residential areas. As with any effective council member, he is a good listener with a wide range of contacts. His institutional history would also help create a strong working relationship between a new council and the next mayor.

Stephen Lytle, 37, a corporate human relations manager, has a deep knowledge of city issues and strong civic connections. He promises to focus on neighborhood issues - safer streets, better infrastructure and stronger community advocacy at City Hall. Lytle has a solid grasp of the budget. He supports expanding mass transit, the city's wastewater reuse plan and stronger community policing. Lytle's sense of urgency would likely make council a wellspring of ideas.

Dingfelder, though, has the same forward-looking agenda and a strong record of accomplishment. His work as an assistant public defender, school teacher and Tampa civil rights leader gives him a richer perspective of this community's needs. He has long been a defender of key institutions, from local environmental programs to Tampa General Hospital. Dingfelder is thoughtful, accessible and committed to open government, and he understandings the leadership role Tampa must play in the region. For Tampa City Council District 3, the Tampa Bay Times recommends John Dingfelder.

Jeffrey L. Rhodes

District 5 (East Tampa)

This race drew a crowded primary as the five candidates grappled over job development, race relations and gentrification in the urban core. Jeffrey L. Rhodes, who finished first with more than 30 percent of the vote, is a known civic leader whose vision, agenda and temperament make him the best suited to succeed term-limited Frank Reddick. His business experience, community activism and respectful nature stand to make him a commanding voice on council.

Rhodes, 56, is a Tampa native and co-owner of Ray Williams Funeral Home, one of the oldest in the city. He has long been active in civic and business groups, from the Mayor's African American Advisory Council to the board of the Tampa Organization of Black Affairs. Rhodes has helped organize voter registration and outreach drives, including Souls to the Polls, a voter turnout event. He also has been active in neighborhood and local organizations, including a board assisting with the redevelopment of West Tampa.

Rhodes' experience in business and civic affairs gives him a solid background and a serious agenda. He wants to strengthen public-private partnerships to make affordable housing more available. Rhodes wants Tampa police to adopt a more community-oriented approach, with increased visibility by street officers and more routine interaction with residents. He would look to expand entry level job training programs, opportunities for first-time home buyers and assistance to small business. Rhodes is sensitive to concerns in predominantly black east Tampa that the growing popularity of urban living could displace established African-American households, many of whom are struggling already with higher rents and property values.

Orlando Gudes, 51, a retired Tampa police officer, has solid ideas for strengthening neighborhoods, and his work with youth sports gives him a strong connection to many at-risk youth. He, too, promises to focus on jobs, housing and code enforcement as tools for breaking the concentration of poverty in the district.

Rhodes, though, has the fullest blend of civic, business and government experience. He is more specific in identifying the district's needs and the steps he would take to make the district a more livable, vibrant community. He is a team builder whose council service would be the next natural step of his commitment to Tampa. For Tampa City Council District 5, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Jeffrey L. Rhodes.

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