CLEARWATER — The race for councilmember seat 4 in the March 11 municipal election has turned into a three-way contest.
Incumbent Councilman Bill Jonson is seeking re-election. His challengers are David Allbritton, CEO of David Allbritton Building Contractor, Inc., who has served on a number of city boards during the past 14 years; and Konrad McCree, Jr., a business analyst for Wellcare Health Plans, Inc., and senior pastor at Simply Kingdom Ministries, a nondenominational church.
All candidates were invited to complete a baseline questionnaire that provides general background information about themselves, their basic views and their opinion of why they’re the best choice for the council seat.
David Allbritton, 63, is a resident of Island Estates. He was born and raised in Clearwater and has raised his family there. Three generations of the Allbrittons have been born at Morton Plant Hospital. He is a 1969 graduate of Clearwater High School. He studied marine biology at North Carolina Wesleyan College before becoming a certified building contractor. He is currently CEO of David Allbritton Building Contractor, Inc. His company received first-place honors in 2009 for a full-house remodel in the $500,000 to $1 million category and a first place for a kitchen remodel in 2010 by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. He and his wife, Maryhelen, have been married for 37 years. They have three children: David Justin, and twins John and Jennifer Cotton. They have one granddaughter, Lauren.
Describe your prior experience.
Clearwater Beach is such a beautiful place, and despite the development and growth it has very nostalgic memories for me. The most exciting thing I remember as a kid was that you went to the beach if you wanted to meet people from all over the world.
I was appointed to the Code Enforcement Board in 2000 and served three years. I was elected to the Downtown Development Board in 2003. I served as chairman for the past eight years and resigned last fall to run for council. I also have served on the advisory board of the Clearwater Downtown Partnership, as a member of the Clearwater Business Task Force Committee and on the Task Force Executive Committee.
What do you love about Clearwater?
I like the sunrises, sunsets, the beach and the harbor. The people are friendly. We have so many beautiful neighborhoods, and they all have their own character.
What do you dislike about Clearwater?
I dislike the one-size-fits-all development code. For instance, development codes that would be good for an urban environment like downtown may not work in the U.S. 19 business corridor. Character district designations would help these different areas flourish.
Why are you the better candidate?
I have a clear vision for Clearwater. I’ve seen Clearwater grow during my lifetime, and I want my children and grandchildren to live, work and play in a vibrant city that they can be proud of. I have a passion to make that happen. I’ve been a business owner for more than 30 years and know how to make prudent business and financial decisions.
What do you consider as the most pressing issue in Clearwater?
The most pressing is our ability to foster and stimulate growth in our dense tax base in areas like downtown and the U.S. 19 corridor. The U.S. 19 corridor at State Road 60 and Countryside are great examples of private, nongovernment growth. It needs to be replicated across the city.
Summarize your top three priorities and how you can affect change in those areas.
1. We need to be a business-friendly city and implement plans to make the Municipal Services Building more customer-friendly, as other cities have done. As a contractor, I see and live at the MSB to apply for building permits. I know how to navigate through the process. If someone tells me no, I know who to escalate the issue to. The average homeowner doesn’t. The process is not easy if you’re not familiar with the process. We don’t want to run developers away from Clearwater — more business friendly — no special favors or special breaks.
2. Encourage business and industry growth which will add money to the city’s coffers. In return, citizens will benefit by improved services and return services that had been taken away during the recession years; for example, at Crest Lake Park — If we want people to use a park, it must have restrooms, and I think the proposed World War II memorial is a great idea. My thought is a park can be designed to eliminate the crime element; plan events, functions and gatherings that draw people, similar to Pier 60 Park. A private firm keeps events going on at Pier 60, which creates high use and helps eliminate the crime element. People love parks, and we have plenty.
3. Public transportation needs to be expanded. Our growth now demands a better public transportation plan. With 2,000 rooms to be built in Clearwater Beach, we need to act now to plan dedicated public transportation options to the beach.
4. Implement character districts that will allow all neighborhoods to flourish. Beach by Design does just that — it defines character districts like hotels on the south end of the island and the residential north end. It’s a good balance between locals and tourists. Transportation to and from the beach is critical — a monorail or light rail, or dedicated bus lane would help. A boat ferry is a great alternative. Even though it was tried 10 years ago, it was a small boat. A bigger-scale ferry boat would help.
Do you think the city spends too much? If so, why?
Like all of us, the city is coming out of a major national recession, but property values are finally on the upturn again. The city has cut many services and perks from its residents in order to try to balance the budget. We have weathered the recession better than most cities; however, property tax values are not the only way to restore the city’s coffers. Strong industry and business are essential. We have a strong tourism industry, and we’re working on building an information technology incubator. But we still need to do more to attract other businesses. Fostering business growth in the U.S. 19 corridor is very important.
Is there anything else that you would like to address?
I am very involved in my community and church. I’m a 51-year member of First United Methodist Church, where I have served on the church council and trustees. I’m also on the board of the Senior Citizens Services, Inc.; vice president of Prospect Towers, Inc.; vice president of the Island Estates Civic Association; and past president of the Clearwater Historical Society.