CLEARWATER - The resignation of Councilmember Hoyt Hamilton at the end of this month has aroused a lot of interest among Clearwater citizens in occupying his seat on an interim basis. A total of twelve applications have been received by the city for the position, with the evaluation and selection process having begun during Monday's Council work session.
The applicants include Alex Plisko Jr., Dennis Roper, Frank Dame, Gerry Lee, Gloria Bailey, JB Johnson, Ken Humphreys, Larry Lytle, Lynda Stone, Bob Clarke, Sondra Kerr and Mark Abdo.
The Council has invited each of the applicants to make a brief presentation during a Council work session. This past Monday, Abdo, Bailey, Clark, Dame and Johnson introduced themselves.
Mark Abdo has been a resident of Clearwater since 1967. Abdo is currently employed as a Recreation Program Manager by the City of Largo. In his application, Abdo stressed his experience working with boards and communities as an Executive Director of the Long Center and as a board member of the Greater Clearwater Chamber of Commerce. Asked by Councilmember Bill Jonson what his priorities would be as Interim Councilmember, Abdo said "understanding issues", "listening a lot", and "doing a lot of research."
Gloria Bailey has been a Clearwater resident for 59 years, and is employed by Pinellas County Schools as a Behavior Specialist. She listed a variety of work experience on her application, including actress, dancer and lifeguard. Bailey is one of several applicants who participated in Clearwater's Citizen's Academy, an experience she said motivated her to apply. Councilmember John Doran asked her to identify the most valuable contribution she could make if appointed; Bailey said, as a black woman, representing her community.
Two applicants are former City Commissioners. Bob Clark served as a Commissioner from 1995 to 2001, is a 50-year resident of the city, and is the owner of Clearwater Printing, Inc. Clark points to his six years of service as a City Commissioner and numerous leadership roles as qualifications for the seat. Responding to Councilmember Jonson's question about priorities, Clark said, "I don't think I would bring priorities. I don't have an agenda." Clark added that he would bring experience and consensus building if appointed.
JB Johnson also served as a Clearwater Commissioner from 1995 to 2001, is retired and has been a Clearwater resident for 42 years. In addition to his service as a Commissioner, Johnson has been a member of Clearwater's Planning and Zoning Board, Development Code Adjustment Board, Airport Advisory Board, a graduate of Clearwater's Citizens Academy, and is currently a member of the Community Development Board. During his presentation on Monday, Johnson said that he supports the proposed extension of the Penny For Pinellas Sales tax, but said that the Council must be honest about the project list and "stick to it." He also supported the proposed downtown boat slips, but said that the project should be financially self-supporting. Johnson agreed to resign his seat on the Community Development Board if selected.
Frank Dame has been a resident of Clearwater since 2001, and in those five years has become President of the Island Estates Civic Association, graduated from the Clearwater Citizen's Academy, been a member of the Pinellas County Boating Access Task Force, and is currently a member of Clearwater's Marine Advisory Board and a member of the board of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. During Monday's introduction, Dame summarized three critical issues he would face as an Interim Councilmember. In addition to the city budget, he cited the Penny For Pinellas extension, which he supports, and Clearwater's downtown boat slips. Dame said that he supports the boat slips both to provide additional water access in the city, and to create a reason for people to come downtown, serving more than just the 129 boat owners who will rent the slips.
The Council will interview the remaining seven applicants during their November 13th work session. A decision will be made during a special Council meeting on December 12th, with the Interim Council Member sworn-in at the start of the December 14th regular Council meeting. He or she will serve until March 2007, when Clearwater's voters will elect a candidate to serve the remaining 1-year of Hamilton's term.
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