1. Pasco

Port Richey's new mayor hopes to restore city's image

OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times  Port Richey Mayoral candidates Scott Tremblay, left, and Gregory Smithwick talk on election day. Tremblay won the election by eight votes.
OCTAVIO JONES | Times Port Richey Mayoral candidates Scott Tremblay, left, and Gregory Smithwick talk on election day. Tremblay won the election by eight votes.
Published Jun. 24, 2019

They are men, and they have Port Richey addresses. That nearly ends the similarities between jailed former Port Richey mayor Dale Massad and mayor-elect Scott Tremblay.

Tremblay, a former prosecutor with the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office and now a private defense attorney at his own firm, was elected Tuesday to replace Massad after a five-person race for the seat. Tremblay won by eight votes. His swearing-in ceremony is Monday at Port Richey City Hall.

Massad, whom witnesses told investigators smoked crack cocaine nightly, is on the receiving end of charges of practicing medicine without a license and attempted murder. Officials say the former doctor and mayor fired a gun while deputies were serving a warrant on him in February.

Massad also faces a charge of conspiring to obstruct justice after he and acting mayor Terry Rowe later were taped on a jailhouse phone call talking about a Port Richey police officer involved in the investigation. Rowe was arrested on multiple charges, including obstruction of justice, and was released from jail on bond. Clearly, Tremblay enters office with a shadow of former-mayor chaos over the city, but with an optimistic outlook.

"I'm just a happy, positive person," Tremblay said. "I enjoy my work. I enjoy my family."

At his office Wednesday next to the West Pasco Judicial Center in New Port Richey, Tremblay welcomed a revolving door of journalists, eager to lay out his plans for the city of about 3,000.

Tremblay said he never planned to run for mayor but was disappointed after watching the fall of Massad and Rowe. Port Richey is a beautiful area, he said, where people with blue collar wages can afford to live on the water.

"I thought it was really unfair to the general public within Port Richey to have that stigma attached, based on those actions," he said.

Tremblay lives in a house on the bayou with his wife and 7-year-old son. They love to sit on the dock, fish and swim. In his increasingly rare free time, Tremblay plays soccer with friends.

He wants to stick to the city's budget and avoid raising taxes, but improve infrastructure. He hopes to create a road extension from Richey Drive to Old Post Road near the Walmart off U.S. 19. He also wants to reduce flooding in neighborhoods near the coast. And he wants to use British Petroleum settlement money from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to dredge one or two of the city's canals. Port Richey has been trying for decades to dredge 20-some canals.

Former Port Richey mayor and former Pasco County commissioner Michael Cox called Tremblay a bright, good guy he hopes can restore the city's integrity. Cox met Tremblay through the Rotary club and has known him for a few years.

"I've always thought Massad to be an embarrassment to the city," Cox said, and Tremblay can take a fresh look at everything Port Richey is doing.

Tremblay ran for a Pasco County judge seat in 2016, but lost to incumbent Debra Roberts. Despite the loss, he said it was perfect preparation for his mayoral campaign. It got him out in the community talking to people.

"It was the best experience of my life," Tremblay said, although he also learned lessons from it.

Tremblay accepted campaign donations from former New Port Richey businessman Nicholas Borgesano, who later pleaded guilty to federal health care fraud charges. Tremblay said if he had known about Borgesano's transgressions, he wouldn't have taken the money. He said he gave a portion of the $7,000 to the Humane Society of Pasco County and Habitat for Humanity of Pasco County.

Greg Armstrong, outgoing chairman of the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce, ran Roberts' judicial reelection campaign against Tremblay, but the two remained friends, Armstrong said. And he supported Tremblay in this election.

"He's going to make a good mayor," Armstrong said. "He's got the smarts and the people skills."

Bill Colombo, who served on the City Council for seven years, was runner-up in the mayoral race. Colombo didn't know Tremblay before the election, and pointed out that he doesn't have any city government experience.

"I will withhold judgement and hope for the best," Colombo said.

Trembley's term ends in 2020. He's contemplating another run, but isn't rushing into a re-election campaign. "If I'm a good fit for the city, and the people like my job performance, then I would run again," Tremblay said. "If I'm not a good fit for the city, I'd step aside and hope someone would run and do a better job."

Contact Sarah Verschoor at Follow @SarahVerschoor.