CLEARWATER — The race for councilmember seat 5 in the March 11 municipal election has turned into a two-way contest.
The contest for Seat 5, currently held by term-limited Vice Mayor Paul Gibson, will be a two-person race. Local businessman Hoyt Hamilton, co-owner of the Palm Pavilion restaurant and Palm Pavilion Inn, and military veteran Jon Paul Rosa are vying for the seat.
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.
Hoyt Hamilton, 55, is a resident of Coachman Ridge subdivision and grew up in Clearwater and Clearwater Beach. He is a 1976 graduate of Clearwater High School. He received a bachelor's degree in industrial management from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1980. Hamilton, whose family owns the Palm Pavilion and Palm Pavilion Inn on Clearwater Beach, has been married to his wife, Sheryl, for 31 years. They have two grown sons, Drew and Brad, and are expecting their first two grandchildren this spring. The restaurant will mark its 50th anniversary this year.
Describe your prior experience.
I decided to run again due to overwhelming support and encouragement from friends and business associates. In light of the current successes being enjoyed in Clearwater, and having been part of the city council that laid the foundation for much of this success, I am excited by the opportunity to return and continue to move Clearwater forward. Providing a safe, healthy environment for families and businesses alike has always been the blueprint in my decision process.
I am proud of the contributions that I have made to our city over the years, everything from coaching Little League Baseball with my sons to various positions on numerous boards in our region.
I served on the Clearwater City Council from 1999-2006. I am currently on the board for the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce, Clearwater for Youth, Religious Community Services, and the Pinellas Chapter of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.
I previously served on the board of the Leadership Tampa Bay American Public Gas Association's Public Gas Policy Council, Pinellas Planning Council, Pinellas County Tourist Development Council, Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce and Tampa Bay Hospitality Alliance. In addition, I served as the past chair for the Pinellas Hotel Motel Association (now the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association); past president of the Tampa Bay Georgia Tech Alumni Club; and twice served as the past president of the Clearwater Beach Rotary Club. I was a Little League Baseball coach and Clearwater High School Basketball Coach and Hall of Fame Inductee (1993).
What do you love about Clearwater?
I love that we truly do live in what most people consider to be a wonderful location that offers a very diverse variety of things to do and quality venues in which to enjoy life!
What do you dislike about Clearwater?
I don't dislike as much as I am disappointed in the pace of downtown revival. This has been a decades-long process that hopefully can be achieved.
There's no silver bullet. We've searched for 40 years. Some say (the Church of) Scientology was the deciding factor, but I believe it was the day Sunshine Mall opened. It was built on the corner of Missouri and Druid sometime around 1966-67. I was in elementary school back then. It was the area's first indoor air-conditioned mall; people could shop indoors instead of sweating downtown, and from then the sprawl continued.
Why are you the better candidate?
When you are able to compare my community involvement and business experience against that of my opponent, it will be clear that I am far more qualified to represent the people of Clearwater.
What do you consider as the most pressing issue?
Because Clearwater is a “built-out” city, we must be attentive to redevelopment opportunities of older properties. A healthy and inviting business climate will create increased revenues that in turn lead to a better community.
Summarize your top three priorities and how you can affect change in those areas.
1. Safe, healthy neighborhoods. Provide the necessary resources to public safety measures. I will make sure in the budget process that the necessary funding level will provide for safety. People need to know they can feel safe in the neighborhoods and comfortable at home.
2. Create a healthy business climate that increases city revenues through job creation and business development. Developments aren't always homegrown. If an investor is considering Clearwater and Birmingham, Ala., we have to ensure the city's processes encourage investment and make it easy for the investor to navigate through our processes.
3. The redevelopment and revitalization of Coachman Park will stimulate downtown growth. It will create an environment of inclusion and excitement amongst our residents and visitors. I believe the Clearwater Marine Aquarium initiative combined with the revitalization of Coachman Park will bring more people to downtown. Like the Capitol Theatre, it's a start. Then, hopefully, private property owners will see value and renovate. If not, find a developer that will and just cash out.
Do you think the city spends too much? If so, why?
While using reserves to balance the budget is never the desired path, I can understand this use given the past economic conditions. Having previously served on the council, I am confident when I say that Clearwater works hard to only spend what is necessary and to save money whenever possible. That being said, I was on council when we were able to increase reserves, and we are hopefully getting back to that level.