A new mayor, Woody Brown, and a new city commissioner, John Carroll, were automatically elected in Largo when no one filed to run against them, but six candidates are vying for three open commission seats on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Largo voters also will make decisions on eight city charter referendum questions and, like all Pinellas voters, decide whether they want a one-cent sales tax to fund the Greenlight Pinellas transit plan — a plan with tremendous potential for Largo and its residents.
Michael Smith | Seat 1
When Michael Smith was elected to the City Commission in 2011, he quickly established himself as a commissioner who did his homework and wasn't afraid to speak up. He is running for re-election to a four-year term and is being challenged by Bronson "O" Oudshoff.
Oudshoff did not return a Tampa Bay Times questionnaire completed by all other Largo candidates and did not make himself available for an interview with the newspaper's editorial board. According to his campaign website, Oudshoff has lived in Largo for 15 years, is a clinical research coordinator for a local group of urologists, has participated in various forms of ministry in the community and opposes Greenlight Pinellas.
Smith, 33, has spent his life in Pinellas and has worked for the Pinellas County library system for 11 years. Smith says he has learned that he can make more progress on his priorities by being respectful of his city colleagues and working toward consensus. He is Largo's representative on the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and is a strong supporter of the Greenlight plan, which he says will be "a boon for Largo's economy." He wants to continue to work on bringing Largo out of the economic development stall of the recession, budget for more facilities and programs for newly annexed areas and talk about adding police officers.
For Largo City Commission Seat 1, the Times recommends Michael Smith.
Samantha Fenger | Seat 2
Two political newcomers, Samantha Fenger and Daniel Ruffner, are vying to replace Seat 2 Commissioner Robert Murray, who chose not to seek re-election.
Ruffner, 47, is vice president/market leader at Branch Banking & Trust and a member of Largo's Code Enforcement Board. Ruffner says his platform is "all about fiscal responsibility." He wants to hire more police officers and firefighters and raise their pay by at least 4 percent. But he opposes Greenlight, criticizes the city for giving residents larger recycling containers that cost $60 each, and thinks the Largo Public Library and the Cultural Center should support themselves.
Fenger, 35, is better informed, has broader perspectives, and her background as a city planner could be extremely helpful as the City Commission makes land use changes and long-range plans for the era of redevelopment and for the light rail line that will come through Largo if Greenlight passes on Nov. 4.
Fenger spent a decade as a land use planner for Pinellas County and Tampa before moving into jobs in marketing and community relations, most recently for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas. As a volunteer, she has served on the Largo Planning Board and the Community Development Advisory Board. A big priority for Fenger is bringing sustainable growth to Largo in ways that protect the environment. She supports improved mass transit, building mixed-use projects so people can live near where they work, and using modern technology in the delivery of city services.
For Largo City Commission Seat 2, the Times recommends Samantha Fenger.
Harriet Crozier | Seat 5
Harriet Crozier, 70, has been a Largo commissioner for 21 years. She is being challenged by political newcomer Donna Holck, 51. Holck is well-intentioned but is not well-prepared to be a commissioner. While Crozier isn't always as knowledgeable about every issue as we would like, she is the commission's expert on mass transit, which promises to be a big issue in the next few years, regardless of whether Greenlight passes.
Holck was a nail technician for 35 years before she began operating DGH Tax Consultants Inc. with her husband, Gary, seven years ago. Some of their clients were Largo public safety employees, and Holck felt it wasn't right that they hadn't gotten raises in several years. If she is elected, she says she wants to adjust those pay scales and give cost-of-living raises, but she hasn't studied the budget to see where that money would come from. She supports term limits.
Crozier, a retired office manager, serves on the Pinellas Metropolitan Planning Organization, is co-chair of the Project Advisory Committee for Pinellas light rail, and participates in a number of transportation- and growth-related committees. She supports the Greenlight initiative as a first step toward a true urban transit system. The proposed rail line would bring change and economic development to Largo, and she wants to be involved in its planning. Better mass transit also would address another of her concerns: transportation for the elderly who can no longer drive.
For Largo City Commission Seat 5, the Times recommends Harriet Crozier.
Candidates not recommended may submit a response for publication in the Times. Responses should be no more than 200 words and should be emailed to Diane Steinle at email@example.com no later than 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 6.