CLEARWATER - As they played a game of musical chairs on Tuesday January 4, members of the Clearwater City Council seemingly demonstrated All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, the title of a book by Robert Fulghum. In this game, there were no losers, as seats were available for everyone interested in playing.
Councilmember-elect John Doran was sworn into office 2 1/2 months before the start of the full term that he won without opposition. He takes the seat formerly occupied by Mayor-elect Frank Hibbard on the dais, Hibbard moving to the Mayors seat being vacated by Brian Aungst. Councilmember Bill Jonson was appointed Vice Mayor, a title held by Hibbard until he became mayor.
Although a newcomer to elected office, 58-year old Doran is a familiar face in Clearwater's civic, business and political circles. He has resided in Clearwater for 22 years, and been a member, Director or Officer of the Clearwater Beach Association, Clearwater Neighborhoods Coalition, Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Regional Clearwater Chamber of Commerce. Doran is a self-employed attorney, CPA and Real Estate broker.
Doran has also been an appointed member of the Clearwater Beach Task Force, Civil Service Board, Pinellas Assembly, Clearwater Charter Review Committee, and most recently the Clearwater Community Development Board, a position he resigned from to run for his Council seat.
Doran enters the City Council logically replacing Aungst, the other four members remaining the same. Doran said, "I thought Aungst was a good mayor; I think I have a similar philosophy." Doran couldn't recall a single vote cast by Aungst that he differed with, so it seems that the voting trend of the past Council will continue undisturbed by his presence.
The proposed Development Agreement between the City and Dr. Kiran Patel's K&P Clearwater Estate will be on the Council's agenda in February. Doran, as a member of the Community Development Board, voted in favor of the site plan for Patel's proposed resort. That site plan and proposed development agreement has been criticized by City Planning staff, and the Council voted in December to delay their decision rather than reject the agreement. Doran said of the site plan, "I voted in favor of it, and I would do so again if I was still on the CDB." Doran said that he has not yet seen the proposed development agreement, and could express no opinion about the contract that he may be asked to approve in February.
Another controversial issue on the Council's horizon is a likely offer to purchase City Hall by the Opus Corporation, who have a contract to purchase two adjacent parcels on the bluff now owned by Calvary Baptist Church. Doran said that the Council's decision would be whether or not to bring that proposal to a referendum; "It would have to be a package that the public would find acceptable, or it will fail," he said.
Doran has learned at least one lesson from the two failed downtown redevelopment referenda, a lesson that he plans to apply to future downtown initiatives, including the Opus proposal if it happens; "It's got to be straightforward enough so people understand what they're voting on," he said, and added, "I don't know whether simple will pass or not, but I know that complicated won't so I'm more inclined to try simple this time."
Balance will be an operative word during Doran's term. He said that wants to strike a budgetary balance between resident desires and their willingness to pay, provide a balanced and optimized mix of City government services to the public, and to balance the sometimes conflicting desires of residential and commercial property owners, with appropriate buffers and transitions between them.
With a BS in Accounting, an MBA, and a JD all from the University of Indiana, Doran clearly learned some important lessons in later years. But as he occupies public office for the first time, he'd be well advised to recall Fulghum's words in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, "Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody."
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