New County Commissioners Take Oath of Office
By Bill Lopez
Photos by Bill Lopez
CLEARWATER - The Clearwater Courthouse assembly chamber was standing room only Tuesday for the swearing-in ceremony for new Pinellas County commissioners elected on November 4.
Reelected were Karen Williams Seel, District 5, and Kenneth T. Welch, District 7, while Nancy Bostock, District 3, and Neil Brickfield, both Republicans, come to the commission for the first time to represent the local area. The new commissioners are considered fiscal and social conservatives and their election maintains a Republican majority on the commission that has held since 1951.
Brickfield, former Safety Harbor city commissioner, said after the ceremony that he would keep his pledge to help improve the economy and public safety for the citizens of Pinellas County. The county's $2.2 billion budget that comes principally from property taxes is now under severe pressure with the economy in decline. Brickfield said the budget was reduced by 10% last year and by 8% for the current year that just began in October. For the coming year, 2010, he sees the need to trim even more from the budget. He said, "This is the major challenge before the commission requiring that commissioners look under every rock to find ways to save money."
Bostock, former school board member, reiterated the financial challenge faced by the county and pledged to keep the services that are essential while working to balance the budget. She said that even if revenues were neutral, the county would still need to strive for more efficiency. She said the commission must take a hard look at every branch of county government to achieve more efficiency. Partnerships with all the municipalities are one way to be more effective in providing services, she added.
She foresees no reduction in the number of Sheriff's deputies since the officers on the street are essential to public safety.
The swearing-in ceremony was followed by the public meeting of the Board of County Commissioners during which time officers were elected. Calvin D. Harris from District 2, who served as Vice-Chairman during the last term, was elected Chairman and Karen Williams Seel from District 5 was elected as Vice-Chairman. Robert S. LaSala, takes over as the new County Administrator, to manage the business of county government and report to the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners.
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