BELLEAIR BEACH -- Belleair Beach voters have the choice for mayor in Tuesday's election between a veteran politician and a newcomer seeking elective office as the city enters a totally new era of government.
Bert Cutler, a present member of the City Commission, and Rudy Davis, who has been active in city affairs for the past several years but has never held office, square off with the mayor's title as prize.
The day after the March 8 election, Belleair Beach begins a manager-council form of government, with Reid Silverboard, the new city manager already in place.
Under the new system, the mayor will be the presiding officer of the council and will vote. Formerly, the mayor was the executive authority of the city and although the mayor attended council meetings, did not vote.
The new mayor will join Councilmembers Lynn Rives, Stan Sofer, Donna Durante, Jeff Coulson and Marvin Behm on the legislative body.
Cutler has held public office in eight of the last 12 years and is now finishing his third consecutive term as a council member.
Davis was instrumental in bringing the referendum question of a manager-council form of government to the ballot a year ago after the council refused to entertain the notion.
Cutler distinguishes himself from his opponent by citing what he calls "a basic difference in philosophy."
He says, "we have put everything on hold awaiting the city manager. I think the people should decide the agenda in the city. I recognize the new manager, Reid Silverboard, is very professional, but the people, through their elected officials mus set the agenda."
Davis, on the other hand, is elated at the prospect of a city manager to give direction to the city. "I want to stop making city employees political pawns."
He also says he would like to bring a spirit of harmony to the city which often displays bitter rivalries.
"Reid Silverboard is well experienced and we are lucky to have him," Davis says. Silverboard has years of experience and a key element in his working in Belleair Beach is because his wife is the city manager in nearby Treasure Island.
As to city managers, Cutler points out, "they come and go. The average time for a manager in given city is five years. So as good as Mr. Silverboard might be, there is always the chance that he could move, particularly if his wife should move."
Davis says he thinks Silverboard can bring some cohesiveness to the city management and decide what direction the city should take.
"He needs to look at things for 90 or 100 days and then give the council a review. "We need an evaluation of where we stand," Davis says, "we are at a crossroads. Things like undergrounding, a new city hall, improving parks and open spaces, Gulf Boulevard crosswalks are all issues."
Davis plans to have a "board of communication" largely directed through the city's new public access channel that is in the works. "This way people will be fully informed on what is going on in the city," he says.
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