The 65-year-old, who had reached his term limit, looks back on his tenure and ahead to the future.
CLEARWATER — On Monday Hoyt Hamilton was sworn in to his position as Clearwater City Councilman, taking over Seat 5, which had been occupied by Paul F. Gibson for the last six years.
Gibson, who was first elected in 2007 and then again in 2010, was term-limited this year and unable to run again.
The longtime realtor, who has an accounting degree from Bentley College and spent decades working in financial management positions for large companies, was known for being a staunch supporter of keeping taxes low, reducing government spending and focusing on fiscal responsibility.
After leaving office for the final time last week, Gibson corresponded with the Gazette to give his thoughts on his tenure and what the future holds for himself as well as the city.
What advice would you give to incoming City Councilmembers?
Always try to be the most prepared city councilmember at meetings; make decisions with a long-term view; and explain your rationale to your colleagues to enlist their support. Never let thoughts about re-election interfere with doing the right thing.
What has your time on the City Council meant to you?
My time on the city council proved that one person can make a difference.
What were the good, the bad and the ugly moments or events from your time in office?
The GOOD is that we successively brought our expenses in line with revenues, which was a significant challenge. Our general fund annual operating expenses increased at only a compounded annual rate of 1.6 percent over the past 10 fiscal years, less than the corresponding 2.3 percent inflation rate.
We are very fortunate to have city manager Bill Horne and his very able department heads. And we are also fortunate to have city Attorney Pam Akin and her professional staff to guide us through the legal minefields, which are everywhere.
The BAD is the difficult time I had with the IAFF (International Association of Firefighter) and, to a lesser extent, the CWA (Communications Workers of America), in bringing our labor expenses under control. IAFF and FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) Annual Step and Gross Wage Increases were running 5 percent to 7 percent a year; they were both unreasonable and unsustainable.
The UGLY was my clashes with the city councilmembers while trying to bring out spending under control. I was elected with a clear platform, which was to hold the line on taxes. Not all councilmembers agreed with my position.
What are your plans for the future now that you are out of office?
I will spend more time with my family, particularly my 3 grandchildren who are all under the age of 4 years. And, I will spend more time selling real estate with RE/MAX Action First on Clearwater Beach.
I truly love the profession, which allows me to meet many interesting people from all over the country. I have no plans or thoughts of running for political office in the future, although I do plan to volunteer within our community. I believe in the concept of the citizen legislator and it is time for others to continue building on the city council's successes during my 2 terms.
Future of City
I am bullish on the future of our city. The City of Clearwater survived the Great Recession with an AA- Bond Rating; a 92.2 percent funded Pension Plan; strong General Fund Reserves; expenses in line with revenues and our core services intact.
Clearwater Beach is developing in accordance with Beach by Design. Downtown Clearwater is poised to take off with new residential development, tech businesses expanding (our largest Downtown employer) and the Capitol Theatre in operation.
The success of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, culminating with a new downtown aquarium, will drive yet more additional downtown growth and dramatically expand our tourism base. The Countryside area is doing very well with the fabulous expansion and updating of the Westfield Mall. Planning is underway to recruit new businesses and expand existing businesses along our industrial and U.S. Highway 19 North corridors. We have had several recent successes, to include a General Electric subsidiary and Marine Max.
It may seem that I am overly financially focused. However, the services demanded by the citizens are either funded by economic development to expand our tax base or higher taxes. And we all know how the citizens feel about higher taxes.