By Leo Coughlin
Local elections capture attention five days from now. Contention for seats in Clearwater, Belleair Beach, Indian Rocks Beach.
And, oh yes, Belleair Bluffs.
Ah, but in Belleair Bluffs there is an election with a plot.
Background - A year ago, Dave Shimkus left his City Commission seat in order to challenge Mayor Chris Arbutine. Arbutine prevailed. Shimkus was out of elected office.
Since then, Shimkus has opposed Arbutine, most notably on Belleair Bluffs abandoning its own fire department and contracting with Largo for fire and rescue services.
Some would call it a feud. And people love that. But both Arbutine and Shimkus deny there is any feud (which could be defined, perhaps, as folks being opposed just for the sake of opposition itself) and claim that differences on issues separate them.
Now, with Tuesday's election looming, the plot thickens.
Dave Shimkus is on the election sidelines this year - well, sort of on the sidelines, in the same way that Joe Maddon is on the sidelines with the Rays.
There is a Shimkus on the ballot and the first name is Taylour. She is the wife of Dave.
While this uxorial turn of events does not exactly call up Juan and Evita, one cannot help but recall Ma Ferguson stepping in for husband James in Texas.
(Mrs. Ferguson is remembered by some for her ringing statement - "If English was good enough for Jesus Christ it ought to be good enough for the children of Texas." - Hey, you can't make this stuff up.)
Of more recent vintage (and still a long time ago, at that) was the George and Lurleen Wallace turn in Alabama.
The Fergusons and Wallaces dealt with governorships, which makes them more weighty and famous.
But still, the Shimkus move in the Bluffs is nevertheless fascinating.
And it raises questions which both Dave and Taylour answered fully and with alacrity unlike that hired hand in Largo whose policy it is to stonewall - i.e., no answers.
No, Taylour is not running as a stand-in for him, Shimkus says. She has followed developments in the city for years and made an independent decision to run (let me add parenthetically that Shimkus is an ex-Marine and Marines don't send others to fight their battles).
As for Taylour, she says she is running because she is "upset with the current commission as a whole."
Despite a promise not to raise taxes if the referendum on the fire department was approved, she said that instead the millage rate was raised and every commission member backed that.
"Taxes do not need to go up, especially during these tough economic times. My property took a significant hit in value but taxes in Belleair Bluffs go up?" she said.
One of three people seeking two seats, she says businesses are leaving town and the commission has done nothing to address the problem.
Her opponents are Joe Barkley, elected last year to fill out the remainder of her husband Dave's term, and Hunt Brand, a veteran of Bluffs politics and a former mayor.
Both incumbents stress their experience, but it would seem that only Brand could make a realistic claim to that. Barkley barely has his feet wet and made a gaffe in the eyes of many last year by trying to negotiate separately with Belleair officials on the fire service situation.
Naturally, Dave gives Taylour a ringing endorsement - "She is a very intelligent, honest and driven person. She was a board member of the Junior League, has run the trauma center at a major local hospital and is a great manager and budgeter."
As for Taylour, she says, "I'm not going to make a bunch of phony promises just to get elected, but I will listen to the people because the current commission hasn't."
She wants to use the City Hall/Community Center "for more than business meetings. We should have group fitness classes for our seniors and story time for our children. This is a small town and it is about time we bring the people together."
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