Garvey Heats Up Mayoral Race
by Carl Wagenfohr
CLEARWATER - The last time a candidate for the post of Mayor of the City of Clearwater won with a majority of the votes cast was 1996, when Rita Garvey won reelection by a 2:1 margin over challenger Jim Warner.
The last election Clearwater's citizens had an opportunity to cast a vote for mayor was 1999, when Brian Aungst won a 4-way contest not with a majority of the vote, but with a 40-percent plurality. Garvey was runner-up with 28.5-percent of the vote.
Aungst was re-installed in the mayor's seat in 2002 courtesy of running unopposed.
Opposition again failed to materialize in 2005, when Clearwater's current mayor, Frank Hibbard, ran unchallenged for the post.
Many expected Hibbard to take a second term as Mayor by default in 2008, but former mayor Rita Garvey has decided to offer Clearwater's voters a choice they have not had in nine years.
The dearth of recent election campaigns has motivated Garvey's candidacy; "That's the reason I'm running. I'm frustrated that there have not been actual campaigns in the past, and it was looking like it was going to be another one of those. There's so much frustration out there. We have to raise the issues, and the only way to raise the issues is to have a campaign," she said.
Garvey chose to run for mayor rather than either of the two council seats that are up for election; "The real leader of the whole group is the mayor's seat. The mayor can make things happen by allowing the council members to be part of the decision making and encouraging public input. I think I was good at that," she said. Garvey served as Clearwater's Mayor for 12 years.
Unlike many former elected officials, Garvey has remained active in the community, serving as President of Friends of the Library, President of American Association of University Women, Director of Partners for Self-Sufficiency, President of Community Pride Child Care, and organizer of the book and gift store at the main library.
Other than encouraging public involvement in their city, Garvey is not bringing a personal agenda of issues to the campaign. "I run campaigns on good government, government by the people and for the people. When you get into office, as issues come up you have to have an open mind and be willing to listen to all sides," she said.
One issue Garvey will have to deal with during the campaign is her apparently successful battle with alcoholism, and it's an issue she is prepared to face head-on. "Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic - that much I learned through counseling. Basically, it's just one day at a time; that's what I'm doing. I don't want it to be the main issue, but some people may try to make it the main issue," she said.
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