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.
The following is McCree's response:
Konrad McCree, Jr., 29, moved to Clearwater in 1984. A former resident of Clearview Lake Estates subdivision, he currently resides in the eastern part of Clearwater. He received his bachelor's degree in health service administration and a master's degree in ministry. He works as a business analyst for the enrollment department at WellCare Health Plans, Inc. He also serves as senior pastor at Simply Kingdom Ministries, a nondenominational, grassroots church in Clearwater. He's married to the former Nikki Jefferson, a nursing student in Tampa, and has three children.
My first involvement with the city began while I was a student at Clearwater High School. I was one of the youngest people to regularly attend city council meetings. Currently, I serve on the North Greenwood Neighborhood Coalition and the Upper Pinellas Ministerial Alliance. I am a Pinellas County schools mentor, United Way volunteer, and a member of the NAACP and the Urban Initiative for Greenlight Pinellas.
What do you love about Clearwater?
What I love most about Clearwater is opportunity! I believe residents and visitors alike have unparalleled opportunities to enjoy peaceful walks on some of the best beaches in the country or attend events like the annual Jazz Festival, all within easy commutes from anywhere in the city. I love the authenticity of Clearwater.
What do you dislike about Clearwater?
With all I love about Clearwater, it's a little hard to find something I dislike. One thing in particular that I am not a fan of is the red-light cameras. I believe they are distractions and unnecessary streams of income more than lifesaving tactics. While I do understand the severity and potential damage running red lights cause, I do not believe that a camera at an intersection is the solution to the problem.
Why are you the better candidate?
Why am I the better candidate? This is a loaded question. I have great respect and admiration for Councilman Bill Jonson. I believe that the regular working people of Clearwater are tired of status-quo politicians. I believe the people are ready for normal, everyday working citizens to represent them. Further, I believe it is my duty as a citizen to represent the city that I love and live in.
What do you consider the most pressing issue in Clearwater?
I believe the most pressing issue in Clearwater is the rising flood insurance. While I realize this is a federal issue, I believe that all aspects of government, local, state, and federal, need to work together. I believe gone are the days where we simply depend on the higher-ups. We need to collaboratively work together to aggressively tackle this issue immediately.
Summarize your top three priorities and how you can affect change in those areas.
My three top priorities, not necessarily in order of priority, are:
• Creating an even stronger alliance between other municipal governments and county government. I believe there is much to gain from stronger alliances.
• Helping create a plan that actually works in the redevelopment of downtown and other vacant business areas within the city.
• True constituency service. This is a priority I definitely take seriously. As an elected official — elected by the people and for the people — all that I do as a city councilman will be for the people, and not for personal gain or advancement.
Do you think the city spends too much? If so, why?
Do I believe the city spends too much? As a general economics rule, as costs arise, spending arises. I am pretty neutral on this question. Do I believe costs can be cut? Most definitely. Do I believe things like the city's Parks and Recreation Department should be among the cuts? Absolutely not! Reserves are created so that necessary monies are in place when needed. As a city councilman, I will be conservative when it comes to budgeting and will ensure that my vote is not just what the majority says, but is a vote for what I believe the people actually want when it comes to budget.
Is there anything else you'd like to address?
I am in favor of the November 2014 referendum on raising the sales tax to build a light-rail system and put more buses on the road. Mass transit for people who live in areas like Clearwater has a very negative connotation. I believe that creating an infrastructure like the referendum proposes is a win-win situation.
Benefits include, but are certainly not limited to: jobs will be created; true gridlocks in traffic will be avoided; business will flock to the area and will be able to employ people from other areas; increased revenue for the city (perhaps there will be no need to dip into the reserve account); and quality of life will improve.
Many people were against the Penny for Pinellas a little over a decade ago, but look now at its benefits.
I believe I am a catalyst for change and improvement for the city. I believe it is time for fresh and innovative ideas and processes so that we can help Clearwater transition into a new day!