BELLEAIR - Belleair residents will be casting votes March 13 to elect two new town commissioners. Candidates vying for the positions are incumbent and present Deputy Mayor Steve Fowler, Rae Claire Johnson and Stephanie Oddo.
Belleair's town government is that of an elected mayor and four commissioners who serve as the policy making body for the town. The commission also approves the town's annual budget, which establishes programs and services for the town's residents.
Each commissioner is elected for a two year term on a rotating basis.
Present Commissioner Gary Kattica is unopposed for the mayoral seat.
On Wednesday, March 7 voters will have the opportunity to meet the candidates at the Belleair town hall, 901 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Those attending will be able to submit questions to the candidates. The forum will be moderated by Judy McSwine of the League of Women Voters.
The Gazette asked the individual candidates why Belleair residents should vote for them.
Rae Claire Johnson
We live in a small town and have to be careful on how we spend our money. I would not waste resident's tax dollars battling residents on issues like the hotel, power and police. Instead I would work to maximize every dollar with a strong grasp of the issues, and through cost/benefit analysis, detailed planning and management oversight.
I will continue to listen to the residents and advocate for the things that are important to them like I have done with the hotel, golf course and police department.
If there was a strong financial reason for taking an unpopular stance I would work aggressively to present relevant honest data in a clear and concise manner to foster an understanding for the decisions being made.
I will question legal experts and consultants when their advice appears contrary to the town charter, the comprehensive plan and/or the town ordinances.
I will treat everyone who comes before the commission in a respectful, consistent and fair manner.
If voters want someone with a track record for defending the town, its assets and their wishes they will vote for me.
My husband and I chose Belleair because we love the small town community feel as a nice environment to raise our children. I support our police, keeping all our golf courses and the historic Belleview Biltmore. Infrastructure repair and the hotel's betterment (financial viability and external and internal appearance) should be addressed in this next term.
My community service record is proof that I will work to make Belleair a better place. I have volunteered for all civic events and have been an officer on the Belleair Civic Association Board for 2 years. I also sit on the Town's Historic Preservation Board.
My professional experience and education is invaluable. I earned a Master's Degree from San Diego State University where I completed an internship with the U.S. Dept. of Commerce. I started my career in Washington, D.C. in public relations working with local and federal government and continued working with government when I owned my own business.
I believe a commissioner should be objective and able to listen to resident's criticism. I proved this through my unbiased study on the recent police issue.
In summary, I love Belleair the way it is, but I offer a fresh perspective on how to make it better.
My wife, Molly, and I have lived at 319 Roebling Road North for over 30 years and have raised three children in Belleair. Serving as a commissioner has allowed me to "give back" to our community with my time and talents since our town has been a wonderful place to live and raise our family.
I am an architect and president/director of Fowler Associates, Architects, Inc., a small, successful firm which provides architectural design services for a wide range of clients and projects. Our firm has been in business since 1988 in the same Clearwater location.
One of my major goals is to preserve green space in our town. Recently I was instrumental in acquiring property for our new Wildwood Park. My extensive knowledge of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan will help advise this and future commissions in ways to protect our present open space assets from development. This "Plan" must be strengthened to give us a powerful tool to maintain the ambiance that is Belleair.
My experience on several volunteer boards over the past 20 years and my years on the commission uniquely qualify me to serve. I have problem solving skills developed from my architectural practice and leadership skills as evidenced when I served as 1996 Chair of the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce. Our firm has been honored twice as "Small Business of the Year" in 1999 and 2005.
I am proud to have been a force behind the concept and realization of our new Dimmitt Community Center. As advisor to the Recreation Board, it has been exciting to see residents of all ages enjoy the Center and the varied activities offered there.
The town's tax base has increased revenues which the present commission has earmarked for use in infrastructure improvements. We have also identified and prioritized our most critical needs all the while protecting existing reserves for future short term challenges.
In April 2005 we held our daughter, Beth's, wedding reception at the Belleview Biltmore Hotel. It is my fervent wish that she and her husband are able to celebrate their 5th, 10th and 50th wedding anniversaries at the hotel. I have been in contact with a hotel developer/owner who has restored similar properties in the north and who has expressed serious interest in saving the hotel and golf course.