LARGO - Frank Hibbard, Clearwater's mayor, has grabbed the headlines on a proposition that is very much alive with a private group of powerful citizens in Largo.
Hibbard proposes a strong mayor form of government for his city, ditching the city manager idea, and putting the executive power back in the hands of the people with an elected official.
He is speaking as a man already holding office and probably has gone to the bottom of Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne's "favorite guy" list.
Those advocating the same change in government for Largo do not hold office, but they are a group of prominent and powerful citizens who prefer to remain anonymous at this point.
Included in the group is a powerful local businessman, a couple of former elected officials, at least one private citizen influential in public opinion and a lawyer active in civic affairs.
As is the case with Clearwater, the city manager in Largo runs day to day operations, hires and fires, submits the budget, puts together the capital improvement plan.
Largo's CM, Steve Stanton, has accumulated overweening power in his city and while he putatively serves at the City Commission's pleasure and carries out commission policies, the system in Largo has become so laggard that Stanton has become a one-man show and has contrived to make the commission subject to his direction.
Nothing illegal or unlawful in that, but with a combination of trust, laziness, ignorance and a "let George do it" attitude, Stanton has neatly filled the vacuum and he reigns supreme.
The problem with that is that a series of unsatisfactory incidents have cropped up and there is no governor on Stanton. Many feel he has too much power under the city Charter and currently under fire is the relationship of the city attorney to the manager and strong criticism of the way legal affairs are conducted.
The private group desiring a change in Largo has already come out strongly for an independent internal auditor who would act as the eyes and ears of the commission.
The Largo commission's role has become so subordinated that even as a legislative body the group never proposes legislation, sets virtually no policy.
These elements of government are exercised by Stanton so the situation puts the commission in the role of a rubber stamp only for those projects pushed by the manager that succeed.
As to policy, Stanton's assuming that top role was seen in the preparations for the Martin Luther King holiday this week.
The approach taken was a departure from the usual solemn and commemorative service to a more festive event.
This was the creation of Stanton and city staff with some members of the commission knowing nothing about the holiday event until it was a fait accomplit.
A question, of course, at least in Largo is whether there is a man or woman experienced enough to assume the duties and all that go with them in a strong mayor form of government.
A look at the lineup of the current City Commission would find that kind of talent sadly lacking.
But no doubt there is in the city some personality who has the brains and drive to be a vigorous and successful mayor able to exercise the levers of power.
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